Monday, April 22, 2024

Arteta on squad fitness and duty of fringe players to be ready

After Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Manchester City, Arsenal go again on Wednesday evening when relegation-threatened Luton Town visit Emirates Stadium.

A win would temporarily return the Gunners to the top of the table and keep up the pressure on Liverpool who face Sheffield United at Anfield on Thursday.

Given the short turnaround, manager Mikel Arteta has to decide how to rotate his squad without upsetting the balance of a side who’ve been on a brilliant run of form since mid-January.

The boss started with positive updates on wingers Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. The former was substituted by the latter in the closing stages at the Etihad and it appears both came through unscathed despite recent injury issues.

“Yes, he is fine,” said Arteta when asked about Saka. “Obviously we haven’t trained, just recovered. We’ll have a short session today to prepare the game and we’ll see whether he’s in the best condition to start or not.”

On whether Martinelli could play from the start, he continued: “He is [available] because he was available to play against a really tough opponent three days ago so he certainly is today.

“Again, we will train today and see the state of every player and make the right decision tomorrow.”

Amazingly, the Gunners have a near-clean bill of health – only Jurrien Timber remains sidelined – as the season enters the business end. The likes of Thomas Partey, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Gabriel Jesus all played a part at the weekend, while Oleksandr Zinchenko was on the bench.

Asked if having a full squad available to play will be the key to success, Arteta said: “Yes, we have discussed that and pushing each other and be available to contribute in any way to help us win the game and perform consistently at the level that we need to. We’re going to need everybody.”

With so many players to choose from and every game potentially season-defining, Arteta made clear that it’s important to focus the minds of every squad player on being able to make an impact, even if they are only called upon for short cameos. 

“That’s certainly something really important. They really need to feel it and the best way to feel it is to play minutes. When they don’t have the capacity to show what they are doing [in games], they have to show it in training.

“We have to be close to them and we have to convince them to keep doing it and to earn the right to play.”

He added: “When you play and you haven’t played, [you think] it’s my first game. But it’s our obligation and our duty to be prepared and to play any minutes in any moment.

“You see a lot of moments, an example is Reiss [Nelson against Bournemouth last season]. His best moment for Arsenal, he played a few minutes and he made a huge impact and it was one of the best days of his life as an Arsenal player.

“Nobody remembers if he started or if he was off the bench and a lot of examples are like this in world football and the history of this sport.

“Sometimes you just need a second to change the history of a football club, and you need 100 minutes to play football.

“It’s easy to see that, it’s a fact. It’s not something that I’m inventing.”

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Arteta Tots

Really hoping ESR gets more playing time in this run in. Time to earn the winners medal!!


We all hope so, but MA playing his preferred players mean ESR would disappear into obscurity very soon – realistically.

(Remember even AW had his own set of favoured players. )

Cliff Bastin

Unfortunately the fact that he wasn’t subbed on against Sheffield is a bad sign for him.

Guardian of the Arse

No. Most of the substitutions that game were about giving players back from injury a bit of time, which was absolutely essential. Another (Cedric) was about relieving a player who needed some time off (Benjamin White). The only sub where you could make the case is with Leo. But he came on for Declan (who needed a break) and he is a more secure possession player than ESR (no dig on ESR here, he is more electric). Plus, Leo had been playing well for the team and was a bit hard done to not even be starting, so you have… Read more »


Yes, we NEED people like him and Vieira to step up at this time.

For Luton MY PREFERRED line up would be:


Tomi — Saliba — Gabriel — Zinny

Ode — Partey — ESR

Jesus — Kai — Martinelli

Think Kiwior and Rice need the rest considering how many minutes they both put in for their National teams last week. Saka too, just because Arteta spoke about fatigue on Sunday.

Luton are no pushover, but I believe that’s a good enough line up to get the job done.

Cannon and ball and arsen’all

Personally I’d rest havertz and play Jesus at 9 – KH has put a lot in and needs a break – the rest I agree with. I would love to see ESR – I really hope he stays with us at least another season. I can see Nelson and Nketiah moving this summer as they need games – so does ESR and there is a sense of dread in me that he may leave for that reason – I can accept the other two moving on as I think they would benefit and the time is right for both parties… Read more »


Reiss will stay as he just signed a new contract last summer and made it clear he loves Arsenal and he basically said: “why would I leave my boyhood club when they’re getting better and better?”

Nketiah should go but his wages probably make it a bit more difficult now.

Sadly, ESR probably should go too. That or a loan. He needs minutes, he won’t get them in the first team, so what choice does he have? Vieira is ahead of him centrally, so is Trossard on the left. So he’s basically 3rd choice…

Cannon and ball and arsen’all

I can’t argue with anything you’re saying – and I agree that there’s a reasonable chance Reiss Nelson stays – but I think we offered that contract on the basis that he’d get game time if Saka got injured (potentially that could mean a big role, or as it turns out Saka remains fit and it means a minor role). Nelson, Nketiah and ESR are worthy of first team roles somewhere – because of Saka I don’t see Reiss being first team, Eddie doesn’t fit what we need from a 9 during large periods – but ESR has so many… Read more »


Yeah, agree with the Kai sentiment. Same for our skipper. Was thinking if we get a lead and double it before the 60th minute, we can give them their deserved rest.

Cannon and ball and arsen’all

Problem is the Luton away game is still pretty fresh in the mind – I expect us to go near to first team strong and make changes when we can afford to – too much at stake to rest on our laurels… As MA in this position you’d be thinking I’d sooner take players off when the game is safe than bring rested players on in intense situations to change he the game… There’s no doubt a balance between the two situations that can be found – and the managers fate rests upon such decisions… We have an impressive young… Read more »


Clean bill of health = LANS !!!

Lets hope for adequate load balancing and squad rotation in the remaining 14 games.


Arteta is a state-full load balancer with node affinity; meaning he has a set choice of players unless someone is injured or physically wasted in football terms. 🙂

The Beast

Your comments seem tinged with resentment. As though you’re clinging to a long forgotten grudge. Wonder what it could be 🤔


Lol, Akanji’s Tears! I am slowly becoming a bigger fan of the press conferences, because they bring a new surprise drink each time. Love it.


I had to scroll back up and check this potent career-altering drink 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂


Best drink yet! 🤣


Come on the Arsenal i am so happy with the determination shown at the Etihad. I am just so happy to be back in serious contention with a team of hungry players playing with passion. To be in the UCL and Prem still with a chance of winning is what being a fan is all about and all credit to Mikel.

Man Manny

The show of grit and determination on Sunday with virtually a clean bill of health gives me confidence against Bayern Munich next week.
We can beat them at the Emirates and shut them out at the Allianz Arena.


looking forward to going back to scoring 5-0s; Hope rests Odegaard


Was relieved to see Martinelli get some time playing. Was concerned that his injury was worse than we were being told. Think he is very important for the rest of the season.

A Different George

On Sunday, we saw some of the depth of this squad compared to the past. Gabriel Jesus isn’t a fringe player, of course, but he has barely played for months and hardly at all on the wing this season. Without a fit Martinelli and perhaps concerned by Trossard’s recovery pace against City, Arteta was able to choose “the best defensive forward in the world,” as Guardiola called hm. And he did a brilliant defensive job, marking a great player (Bernardo Silva) into near irrelevance while protecting Kiwior.

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