Arteta: Performance of rotated players is not a coincidence


Mikel Arteta says Arsenal’s performance at Leicester didn’t come as a surprise even though he rotated heavily after a busy week.

Eyebrows were raised when the Gunners’ teamsheet listed six changes from the side that started against Benfica on Thursday, however, the selected XI, which was packed full of experience, made light work of a tricky encounter even after going behind in the early stages.

Goals from David Luiz, Alex Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe secured a 3-1 win at the King Power; the Gunners first away victory against a top-three side since we beat Manchester City at the Etihad in 2015.

“Probably people will think that it was a gamble but I see them train every day and they are playing because they deserve to play,” said Arteta.

“When they deserve to play, I think players have to feel supported and valued. The only way to do it is to play them.

“In football, anything can happen but I think the performance levels they’ve shown is not a coincidence, it’s the way they’ve prepared themselves and how they’ve prepared themselves every day.”

It wasn’t just the victory, but the style of the victory that kept the boss purring. “For me it’s not only about that, it’s how we play against an opponent of top quality.

“It’s about composing ourselves, trying to be Arsenal all the time – it doesn’t matter who we play against, it’s about having the courage to do it against top-quality players. I’m proud of the win but more about the way we’ve done it.”

While Arsenal continue to labour in mid-table, the club’s form since Christmas at least highlights an upturn in fortunes. After a very tricky first third of the season, Arteta can see things are getting better even if remains wary of the silly lapses in concentration that continue to make life difficult.

“Every game is going to be different. What we’ve done today [Sunday] is not going to have a knock-on effect on the next Premier League game, but I think the team is clearly improving and is taking a direction that I like.

“Then all the time I say the same thing, about the constancy. We are still giving things to the opponent. We did it against Benfica, we did it against Benfica at home, we’ve done it today against a more dangerous team in short transitions, and that’s something that we have to eradicate to give ourselves the best possible chance.

“Everything I see, attitude-wise, what we are creating as a group, and then the way we are playing within our model, it looks much closer to what we want.”

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Eddy F

Well if ESR is out for a few weeks then 1 of Pepe, Willian or Lacazette will have a significant role to play. Yesterday shows they can all offer something if they work hard.

Maybe even keep 2 of them in the team vs. Burnley.
Play our best team against Olympiacos to try and get the tie finished in the first leg and keep them there for Spurs.
Then the rotated team can finish off the Europa league.


Just beat Burnley and Tottenham. Not too much to ask.
Great win but we need to move up the table


Well, Sp*rs have just had a very decisive win against Burnley so it will prove a useful “compare and contrast” game for us. We just (“just”) have to keep the momentum going from the last two games and not go back to the start/stop phases we’ve had twice this season already.. We need 6th place for an automatic EL qualifying position. Although we’re not many points off that, it’s proved to be almost impossible to move from mid-table so far. That increased level of consistency, together with some bad luck for other teams, means it’s still possible but, as you… Read more »


Burnley should be fine, less convinced about Spurs but should be entertaining nonetheless. A couple more tricky ones (West Ham and Pool) afterwards, but following that we’ve got a cracking run in during which we should accumulate a fair few points. Sheffield Utd Fulham Everton (massively overhyped in my opinion) Newcastle West Brom Chelsea (tough to beat but not currently likely to steamroller us) Palace Brighton We’re currently in a pretty strong position injury-wise; if we can keep Partey fit and get certain players firing again (our CBs’ form currently worries me a little, be great to get Gabriel back… Read more »


Best case scenario, the old guard start performing and Arteta has a selection head ache between the hungry young players and the experience pros.

Worst case, William and some of the other oldies go back to their usual crap, but Arteta persists with them, using this Leicester performance to justify their selection.

There is of course a middle case scenario, but who cares about that in the age of internet polarism?


Sensible comments, we have played well at times this season then done stupid stuff at other times. I was thinking of trying to avoid watching us play for a lot of the rest of the season given recent results but beating Leicester was a good step forward, though they are weakened at the moment. We look to have a good squad now that Pepe, Cedric and Willian have improved.

Mari impresses me at the back (most of the time) and Tierney always strengthens us. I’d keep them playing regularly.


I think my ideal defensive partnership is Holding and Gabriel, though it’s marginal. Just something about how G moves the ball quicker and his decision making. I think the red card really knocked his confidence though, and the stupid Covid thing over Xmas. So Mari is definitely not a bad shout.

Steve Vallins

It’s MA first appointment as a manager he’s learning on the job with no years of experience , he’s got to learn how to lose and move forward which he’s in the middle of .
There’s been no learning curve , straight in the deep end with one of the most successful clubs in the world , he’s going in the right direction to be a great manager for Arsenal with as always a few bumps along the way .


You’re right about MA. With hindsight (always a help) I think it probably would have been better for the club to go with an experienced manager – someone like Ancelotti who is now doing good work at Everton – quite a similar club to us in some ways, “big” with great traditions but one that’s fallen behind the very top teams in the PL. We are where we are though and it’s a very steep “on the job” training for MA and I don’t envy him. Overall, he’s getting more things right now, although not everything of course. I don’t… Read more »

Vic Lin

What a great performance. We controlled the whole game and see who’s on the bench, Auba, Bellerin, Saka, Partey, Odegaard, Holding, Martinelli. COYG


It can’t be a coincidence that the uptick in performances and results has come after moving on Özil, Kolasinac and Mustafi (Google Schalke for evidence).
Arteta has begun to dig out the rot that has infested this club for years and the first green shoots of healthy growth are beginning to show.


I don’t hear anymore mentions of insider leaks since that trio departed, coincidence or what?


That’s rubbish as they hardly played this year and Ozil hadn’t done so since last year. If anything the stubborn stance on him left us weaker when he could’ve done a job which the team needed in the early part of the season. We only really ‘replaced’ him with Smith-rowe when our hand was forced. We did need to move him on but to not use him in the interim was costly. A nice bit of revisionism there but not the truth.

Spanish Gooner

It’s not so much about their performances as their impact on squad morale/mentality. Many managers spoke about how difficult it is to manage players who are outside the squad, and Özil and Mustafi (Sokratis has always seemed a true professional) seemed determined to undermine Arteta whenever possible, so getting them away from the team is a huge positive imo

Rising Dough

There’s a bit of vitriol, associating Grymelock’s named players with the word “rot”. But insofar as their presence contributed to an unhealthy atmosphere in the locker room, and impossible player management challenges, there is something to Grymelock’s post.

Other players were shipped out as well, and that also helped the situation. It’s perfectly understandable that anyone in their (Ozil/Kolasinac/Mustafi’s) situation would be unhappy, there has been no corroborating evidence the named players overtly sought to undermine the club. They’re gone; time to stop beating that horse.

El Mintero

Not revisionist at all. Ozil was and had been for years, shit. Non existent when given a start and a trolling, pain in the ass when not. We’re well shot of that chancer.

Oh and looks like his “dream” move back to turkey is playing out as expected…


Couldn’t be happier for him. 🙂


I don’t think it’s 100% conclusive, but there’s an element of truth here in my opinion. Everyone at the club knew that some players were not contributing (albeit for a number of reasons). That would, surely, have had a negative impact across the squad. I’m not sure how much the departure of certain players would have translated directly to an improvement in performances/results but it can’t have done any harm, can it?

A Different George

Schalke were deep in the relegation zone before Mustafi arrived; he has apparently played well for them. On a different post on this blog, I blamed Mustafi for the early goal we gave up to Leicester. I forgot about Ozil and Kolasinac, who obviously were equally culpable.


Revisionism at its finest 😂I think the stubborn stance on Ozil when we could of used him is more damning in my opinion and maybe we wouldn’t be in the position we are in now where we trying to claw back the ground we decided to chuck away.He didn’t become bad over night, he still has the ability to unlock a defence. Ofc it’s going to be difficult to manage 3 players that aren’t getting game time.


Encouraging look at the PL table since Xmas:
Though there have been some frustrating results and performances, we rank 3rd.


Thanks for that visual. It has felt like we are doing a lot better than our league position.
What is very encouraging is the depth of the squad now. This has been an exhausting, injury hit season for most teams. But we have been able to rest players and still get a result. I do not know where we will finish, but I would not be surprised if it was above Leicester.


Though I’m fairly positive in the direction the team’s headed, that to me just demonstrates how incredibly inconsistent everyone is, rather than any great strength of ours.
To be third in what is essentially the form table despite averaging less than 2 points per game is pretty incredible.


Yeah, the inconsistency, bar Man C, is remarkable. This is an exceptional season in so many ways. Even though inconsistent, all big 6 teams are still involved in Europe (with the three CL teams all in strong positions from their first ties to progress to the quarterfinals). This indicates that that they aren’t any worse this year compared to the rest of Europe. With such a truncated season, perhaps it’s an even bigger advantage than ever to not be in Europe and have to always play two games/week, as evidenced by West Ham, Villa, and Everton’s strong positions in the… Read more »


John, really interesting stat. Thank you for sharing this. I just posted about feeling something is brewing with this team. I think this is evidence. There is a command in games that we haven’t seen for some time. The rough spots are still there but based on what’s emerging on the pitch I’m growing more and more confident Arteta will smooth them all out. The surprise about the Leicester win is that it wasn’t a total surprise. Positive expectations have been missing at this club for years, but they are starting to come back now—green shoots!
COYF (Tierney!)


Very pleasantly surprised by the result and more importantly the manner of winning.
We have looked so lazy in previous matches – almost to the point of feeling they had to just turn up and a win would be theirs!
Injuries and management of them is a concern but a win and a win against a top six side – I will take that – some tricky fixtures coming up!

Al Gilmore

I’ve seen an upward trajectory in the football we are playing and the cohesion among the team. But we have shot ourselves in the foot in terms of results due to individual errors and the results taint our view of whether there is progress or not. But I think there has been. Yesterday was an example of when we got both result + performance but for my money the first 40mins away to Wolves was as good as I have seen us play in many months…but then we shoot ourselves in the foot. We still have a long way to… Read more »

Me from Here

Conspiracy Theory Alert:
If you notice, Willian’s upturn coincided with Lampard’s sack at Chelsea. Willian was never a bad player, he was just following an order from Lampard to disrupt Arsenal. Willian is now free of Lampard, he will perform well going forward.
End of Conspiracy


Interesting theory. Unfortunately let down by the fact that if Chelski players actually followed orders from Lampard he wouldn’t have been sacked.

Me from Here

Common fellow Gunner. That’s why it’s a conspiracy theory plus Willian is more loyal to Lampard than current Chelsea players.

A Different George

Oh, you’re so naive. Only ex-players followed orders from Lampard. Now, do you understand?


Did anyone see Nicolas? Rumour is he came on. He gave that quick signal, you know lads, John Cena like, Ya can’t see me Maaaan!!! Oooops he scores! Luiz says who is that masked man? They call him……. Pepe. Lol. Love to you all.


Burnley have a midweek game against Leicester

Then we’re the early kick off on Saturday, which should give us a big advantage

i’d be tempted to go with a similar lineup, we can’t play the same starting lineup every 3-4 days

We’re going to have to trust our squad players

Maybe bring Ceballos in for Burnley though, it’s the type of opposition he usually shines against, particularly if there’s a few tired legs out there


Now you see him… now you don’t. Pepe. Shadow

Naked Cygan

I am glad Arteta finally decided to rest some key players. Burnley plays again on Wednesday and they play us first thing on Saturday. We should rest our key players and not risk anyone for the away trip to Olympiacos. I am very happy for Willian and Pepe. Hope they get another chance against a tired Burnley team to boost their confidence. ESR, Saka, Tierney, Leno, and Auba should not be risked!!


We soon have 2x Olympiacos, spuds and west scam coming up, and we really need to win all 4 of them. Our success with rotation will be critical


Technically, we don’t need to win both matches against Oly. All we need is a better result in one match than in the other.

Naked Cygan

Technically, we can draw both games and win on penalties.


If he can squeeze the performance out of these players, then all power to him. Hopefully he is getting better grip of management now and able to instill and translate what he deems necessary in theory into practise. Working out clever tactics one thing but getting players to perform a whole different thing altogether. It will only strengthen us if we can get the best out of ALL our players. What I saw yesterday was encouraging but of course needs to be replicated consistently. 1) We were positive and pushed forward with intent to play into spaces up field quicker.… Read more »


“…and the way we are playing within our model…” The Chelsea match on Boxing Day—that’s when “the model” began to appear. The consistent 4-2-3-1, the improved movement from the wings, creativity in the middle (thank you ESR), solidity at the back, and a collective spirit on the pitch. Something is brewing that we can believe in. A team is beginning to emerge from the rubble of the last several years.