Mikel Arteta defends snubbing underused £35 million Arsenal star | Football

Mikel Arteta has relied heavily on a core group of Arsenal players this season (Picture: Getty)

Mikel Arteta has defended his management of Arsenal’s squad in the wake of costly defeats against Bayern Munich and Aston Villa.

The Gunners were knocked off top spot in the Premier League following a shock home defeat against Villa, while their Champions League dream was crushed in midweek after they lost 1-0 at the Allianz Arena.

Arteta has relied on a core group of players this season with the likes of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Declan Rice as well as centre-half pairing William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes virtual ever presents.

Summer signing Kai Havertz has also featured prominently which has in turn led to fewer opportunities for the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Fabio Vieira.

The Portugal international looked for a more prominent role this term after he shone during the early weeks of the season but he has hardly been given an opportunity since recovering from groin surgery in February.

Smith Rowe, meanwhile, was given the man of the match award in the recent win over Luton Town, his only start since late February, but didn’t feature at all in either leg against Bayern.

Thomas Partey, too, wasn’t used in the second leg against the German giants but Arteta reminded his critics that nobody was complaining about a lack of squad rotation a fortnight ago following a 3-0 win at Brighton which represented one of his side’s most complete displays of the campaign.

Fabio Vieira has hardly featured for Arsenal since his return to full fitness

Fabio Vieira has hardly featured for Arsenal since his return to full fitness (Picture: Getty)

Emile Smith Rowe has again been on the periphery for Arsenal this season

Emile Smith Rowe has again been on the periphery for Arsenal this season (Picture: Getty)

‘It is a possibility. That (question) is always going to come when you lose a game,’ he said when asked if he regretted not using his fringe players more regularly.

‘When we beat Brighton and we had unbelievable week, everyone was talking about us winning the league, nobody asked this question.’

Arsenal have been accused of looking tired in their last two matches, particularly in the second half but Arteta insists that is more a consequence of the hectic nature of the schedule he has been forced to worked to and cited the help their European rivals get from their respective leagues.

He said: ‘When you look at the schedule that Bayern had and we had and the amount of games they play and they can rest 10 players nine days ago it is different.

‘In these leagues they do what they do which is cancel the games or bring them forward to have more rest for the Champions League.

‘We are not doing that and we are putting more and more pressure on ourselves but this is what we have there are no excuses this is the reality.

‘I think if you want to compete in the same competitions you should be able to have the same amount of recovery between games.’

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