Arteta is facing a headache ahead of the Premier League’s return
Mikel Arteta is facing a major problem he would have happily taken in the past couple of seasons.
That is trying to juggle and balance a squad facing an increased fixture list because of the return of Champions League football to the Emirates.
They face PSV Eindhoven next Wednesday, huge demands in the Premier League – starting with a trip to Everton on Sunday – and also the Carabao Cup, starting with a tie against Brentford later in the month.
But Arsenal now have a very different and bigger squad with deeper quality because last season they had numerous times when kids were on the bench and it looked thin. Now, even with Thomas Partey injured and Jurrien Timber out long term, they have options and choices to make across the pitch.
That is exactly what Arteta was looking for when he bought last summer – adaptable players who can fill different positions for different challenges in the season. Declan Rice can play as a holding midfielder, play further forward or indeed operate as a box-to-box player.
Then you have Jorginho who has vast experience and quality and is a Champions League winner so he knows what it takes. Also, Arteta has experimented and looked at different systems to make sure players are ready later in the campaign so they can change roles and do different things in the season.
Ben White can play right back, right or left sided centre half. Jakub Kiwior is smaller, compact and tenacious who has played left back or on the left of defence. When William Saliba got injured in last season’s run-in they really struggled without him because there was no natural replacement and no Plan B.
Brazil defender Gabriel started the season on the bench but will play more regularly. Takehiro Tomiyasu is versatile and will play across the defence. Meanwhile, Arsenal do have issues at left back as Oleksandr Zinchenko is often injured and Kieran Tierney is out on loan.
Equally, Arsenal rely so heavily on Bukayo Saka. What on earth happens if he gets injured? Now they Leandro Trossard or Reiss Nelson as competitor, cover and back up. Martin Odegaard has been in superb form this season while Kai Havertz has struggled to adapt but will surely find his feet. His quality is not in question.
Then Fabio Vieira is also showing more regular flashes of his potential which has only made it even more difficult for Emile Smith Rowe to get game time. David Raya was a surprise summer signing because Arsenal already have Aaron Ramsdale who is an outstanding keeper.