Mikel Arteta says he’ll be keeping a close eye on his players in every training session as Arsenal gear up for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on 1 August.
When he arrived at the club in December, the Spaniard acknowledged the need to be ‘ruthless’ as a head coach and knows full well that he’s going to end up leaving some disappointed players on the bench or out of the squad altogether when we head to Wembley.
Will Emi Martinez keep his place if Bernd Leno is fit? Who might replace Shkodran Mustafi if his hamstring doesn’t mend? Might the experience of Lacazette be preferred to the youthfulness of Nketiah? There are potential selection headaches all over the pitch.
The boss has 12 days and two important Premier League matches to weigh things. up.
Asked ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Villa about who might get the nod, Arteta said: “Obviously, the feeling you are left with by a player today, tomorrow and the next day is what is valuable for the coach, not what they’ve done a week or two weeks ago.
“They have to try to earn it in every training session and every time they are on the football pitch.
“Obviously, you can sense the hunger and everybody wants to be involved and playing minutes. We’ll have to manage that to get into that position in the best possible condition.”
Of course, as we experienced in the build-up to the 2017 FA Cup final, best-laid plans can be thrown into disarray when injuries and suspensions come into play.
On that occasion, Mustafi and Gabriel were ruled out with a concussion and knee injury respectively and Laurent Koscielny got himself sent off in our final Premier League clash. That left us having to field Per Mertesacker and the inexperienced Rob Holding.
As amusing as it would be to field the BFG again, avoiding a repeat of that would be good for our nerves.