Mikel Arteta may have to be careful with his team selection when Arsenal host Newcastle United in their first Premier League fixture of the new year on Tuesday night
Bukayo Saka has joined William Saliba as the two Arsenal players in immediate danger of missing the North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur later this month.
The England international has been ever-present for the Gunners in the Premier League this season, starting all 16 matches, but the threat of suspension could hand manager Mikel Arteta a team selection dilemma going into Tuesday night’s clash at home to Newcastle United.
As confirmed by the FA in their ‘Information for Players on Disciplinary Procedures’ 2022-23 season guide at the beginning of the campaign, any player who accumulates five bookings before the cut-off point of 19 matches will have to serve an automatic one-match ban.
And after being cautioned in the second half of the Gunners’ 4-2 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on New Year’s Eve, Saka is now on four yellow cards for the season. As a result, if booked against the Magpies he would miss the trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 12 days later.
With that said, the 21-year-old will not be alone in needing to be careful if he features on Tuesday as Saliba is the other Arsenal player – currently available for selection – that is in the same boat. The Frenchman has been on four yellow cards since the 1-0 win over Leeds United in October so has been playing on the edge ever since.
Looking past Spurs and the Premier League’s ruling that ‘yellow cards are not carried over to the EFL Cup or FA Cup’ with the game against Manchester United on the horizon, the Arsenal manager may want to have words with his players, advising them to watch their step with regards to tackling and dissent.
With 16 games of the Premier League season gone, Saliba, Saka and the rest of Arteta’s squad have another three gameweeks to avoid a suspension. Of course, as the campaign paused for just over a month for the World Cup, it won’t be until after the Man United fixture on January 22 that the Gunners reach the aforementioned cut-off point.
The next Arsenal players with the most yellow cards across the squad are Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes on three so they have to watch their step. Whilst another booking against Newcastle wouldn’t rule either out of the Spurs clash – unless they are sent off – if either is booked in each of the next two games they would be suspended for the big game against Man United.
Then there’s Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and captain Martin Odegaard on two. Meanwhile, Gabriel Martinelli, Takehiro Tomiyasu and are all on one yellow card, so should be able to relax over the next few weeks.
Gabriel Jesus has also been booked four times in the Premier League this season, but the fact the Brazil international has already been ruled out for possibly up to three months after undergoing knee surgery, by the time he returns to action he will no longer be a suspension risk.