Mikel Arteta says he needs to find a way to make every player in his squad feel part of his project; even those who haven’t made the cut for his Premier League and Uefa squads.
Arsenal ended the transfer window with 19 non-homegrown players on their books and subsequently had to cut two names from the roster for the Europa League group stages.
Arteta decided that Mesut Ozil, who hasn’t played since March, and Sokratis, who came close to a departure this summer, would have to sit things out. William Saliba was also excluded, but not because his hand was forced.
Next week, the Spaniard will go through the same process when he confirms the squad for the Premier League. The German and Greek are again facing disappointment.
While Arteta doesn’t doubt the duo’s professionalism, he admits he has a challenge on his hands maintaining their motivation and making them feel properly involved.
“It is a really difficult decision for me to make because to leave players out of the squad at that level, where they know they cannot get involved, is really tough,” said Arteta on Thursday.
“I don’t like it at all, but the decision had to be made because we have an excess of foreign players. Unfortunately, we had to make that decision.”
Asked how he’ll keep Ozil and Sokratis working hard on a day-to-day basis, he added: “This is the hardest thing. I don’t doubt about the professionalism of the players, I already spoke to them and told them that.
“As I’ve said before, it was a very difficult conversation. The last thing you want is to be cut just because of a restriction in the roster [on numbers]. You want to give them the opportunity that if they do well to have the opportunity to play and help us on the pitch.
“This is the issue we have. We knew that before the transfer window, we tried to resolve that, we tried to get some players opportunities elsewhere. We weren’t able to do that and now it’s just to keep them motivated, to make them still feel part of what we do and give them support.
“When they know they are not playing and not going to be playing week in, week out, it’s a really tough thing.”