Mikel Arteta pulled no punches last night when discussing the fitness issues he’s having to contend with when it comes to picking his teams.
The manager was heavily criticised for making so many changes for the 1-0 defeat to Southampton last Saturday, but made it clear many of those decisions were forced on him due to players being unfit.
Both Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe had to come off in the 3-1 victory, having played their part in the win, and it seems as if the medical staff are doing their best to deal with a range of aches, strains and niggles which are impacting team selection.
“From Saturday, just to make it clear, we had five players who were not available to play,” said Arteta.
“We made seven changes and five of them were because they were not ready to play the game. KT was one of them and Thomas was another, and you could see today that he could not last for 60 minutes, so we have to manage those players, to protect them.
“Sometimes they are not fit but I cannot explain every single day how every player is feeling.”
The Spaniard admitted Partey was ‘struggling’ when he came off, and is hopeful he can recover in time for United on Saturday.
As for Tierney, it didn’t sound overly promising when Arteta was asked about his availability for the weekend.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“He wasn’t available against Southampton in the FA Cup, he was injured. He’s still injured today. Let’s see how he progresses for the game against Man United.”
Let’s keep fingers crossed. There might well be a boost though, as Arsenal are expected to announce the loan signing of Martin Odegaard today.
On his arrival, Arteta said, “I think we are pretty close but it’s not finalised, as I understand.
“I haven’t talked to Edu or the club in the last few hours but we are very positive that we can finalise the deal.”
Whether he’ll be ready to play a part against United remains to be seen, but between now and the end of the season he’ll add some depth to a key area of the pitch.