Mikel Arteta admits it’s not easy leaving so many players at home for Premier League matchdays but he’s well aware that having a big squad may be vital this season given the current climate.
Premier League clubs rejected the opportunity to retain the five substitution rule that came into play post-lockdown last season and squads for domestic games are subsequently capped at 18 players.
Despite it being difficult to leave out players – something he faces doing every few days with 17 senior non-homegrown players on the books and a host of youngsters at his disposal – the boss knows a Covid-19 breakout in the camp would quickly ravage his options.
“Yes, we have a big squad,” he told Arsenal Digital ahead of Sunday’s game with Leicester City.
“I think most of the teams do have this season because I think we have to bear in mind with the coronavirus situation that things can change really quickly and you have to be able to have the numbers to compete in the different competitions.
“With the Premier League rules allowing you to just take 18 players, it’s a headache and it hurts to all the time leave four or five players out of the squad as well. So we have to try to manage that as good as we can.”
It’s still unclear who is and isn’t available for selection when the Foxes come to town. Having missed last night’s Europa League win over Rapid Vienna, Dani Ceballos and Willian are doubts. The Gunners will also be without Rob Holding.
“We have to assess a few players today,” said Arteta on Friday. “We have some knocks and niggles from last night which is normal and after a long flight as well. Let’s see how everybody is today.”
On Willian and Ceballos, he added: “They haven’t trained with us yet, so we’ll have to see how they react in the next couple of days.”
Arteta is expecting a tough game with Leicester; a team he’s already faced a couple of times since July. The Gunners drew 1-1 at the Emirates in the league towards the tail-end of last season and beat the Rodgers’ men 2-0 at the King Power in September in the League Cup.
“They’re a really difficult team,” said the boss.
“I think Brendan and his team have done a great job. They dramatically changed the philosophy and the way of playing, since they arrived and I think they had an incredible season last season.
“This season, ups and downs, like almost every team in the Premier League and some incredible results, like when they played against City.
“They can adapt and play different ways and sometimes they are really dominant, sometimes they can defend with a low block but overall they’re a really, really good team.”