Mikel Arteta has defended his decision to rotate his squad after Arsenal could only secure a 1-1 draw with Fulham.
Keen to rest tired legs, the Spaniard made five changes from the lineup that started against Slavia Prague on Thursday and still saw a key player pick up a potential long-term injury, as well as a disjointed performance.
Alex Lacazette appeared to pull his hamstring with 20 minutes remaining and even though his replacement, Eddie Nketiah, went on to grab a stoppage-time equaliser, the boss was clearly frustrated.
“There are different reasons for that,” he said when asked why he made so many changes.
“One of them is because some of the players haven’t recovered yet from Thursday night, they have played so many minutes and it was a big risk to play them.
“Some of them because they deserved an opportunity, but we cannot change 10 players all the time.
“We took some decisions, like with Laca to play in the game, because he felt good, and he still got injured. It’s always a balance. If you rest them, [you’re asked] why do you rest them? If you don’t, [you’re asked] why do you play them again?”
As things stand, it’s too early to know how long Arsenal will have to go without Lacazette. It’s certainly a concern given the Gunners are also without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who is recovering from malaria.
“We’ll have to see,” said Arteta when quizzed on the Frenchman’s injury. “We’ll have the scan, probably on Tuesday, to see the extent of the injury and the timeline for it. But I don’t know.
“I cannot tell if it’s going to be a week, two weeks, five weeks or six weeks.
“He felt something in his hamstring and we don’t know the extent of it. We are all disappointed because we all know the moment that Laca was on.”
If Arteta’s star pair isn’t fit, then Nketiah will be waiting in the wings. The boss was pleased that the England under-21 international, who has been rarely used since the turn of the year, made an instant impact with his poacher’s strike.
“He always offers his best and today he scored a goal and he had another two important chances,” said Arteta. “He’s always a threat in front of goal.”
He added: “Obviously every player needs minutes and Eddie’s been fighting all the time to get more minutes than what he was getting this season.
“It’s good that when he has opportunities to show his attitude and his quality, that he’s done it.”