Mikel Arteta gave a detailed explanation of why Mesut Ozil is barely playing for Arsenal after their 2-0 win over Leicester in the Carabao Cup.
Ozil has not featured much under Arteta, and wasn’t even on the bench as some of Arsenal’s fringe players sealed progression to the next round.
Arteta said after the game how pleased he was with the attitude shown by players at either end of the age spectrum.
“I’m really happy with the performance, first of all the attitude and the way we approached the game mentally,” he said.
“The senior players took the lead straight away and I could see that they came here to win the game and after we’re so happy with all our young players, the way they’re developing and the way they played.”
This could have been an opportunity for Ozil to send a reminder of what he can do, but he was not among Arteta’s selection.
The German midfielder hasn’t played for the club since March, but Arteta insists he is not the only one in a difficult situation.
He said: “I’m really happy with the performance here, how difficult they’re making things for the coaching staff to select the squad.
“The team is evolving, you can see the level they are achieving. This is where we are at the moment.
“We want to evolve more and play better and compete better. We need to keep maintaining that.
“We are picking the players that we believe are the best for each game. You can see we keep training, it’s what we’re trying to do.
“You can see that the players we are changing, we are using, it’s very difficult every week not for Mesut but for some other players as well to make the squad. Every week we try to pick the right players.
“It’s difficult for others as well that aren’t involved in the Premier League and didn’t play tonight either. We have a squad of 26, 27 players at the moment and we can’t give playing time to all of them.
“Of course I understand and I respect your questions but I have to try to do my job as fair as possible. I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition.”
Another absentee was Lucas Torreira, who has been heavily linked with a move to Atletico Madrid.
But Arteta denied that a potential transfer was the reason he left the midfielder out.
“I’m not making decisions because players might leave or stay,” he said. “It’s just for the players that we see every day in the best possible condition to compete and win football matches.”
Asked further about a potential Atletico transfer, Arteta added: “I cannot discuss any internal matters.”
ARTETA IMPRESSED WITH NELSON
One player who did step up when called upon was Reiss Nelson, who had one of Arsenal’s best chances of the first half and lasted until the 72nd minute.
Arteta confirmed how happy he was with Nelson’s performance, but refused to say whether he would be letting him leave on loan.
“He played really well. He had a really good performance.
“He wasn’t in the squad for the last two Premier League games because of the competition we have up front. Everybody needs to fight for their places.
“We don’t discuss the things that are happening behind closed doors. He played tonight and he played really well.”
The win for Arsenal could set up a clash with Liverpool in the next round, presuming the Premier League champions beat Lincoln City.
Arsenal are already due to travel to Anfield on Monday night for their next league game, and now face the prospect of having to do it twice in a week.
However, Arteta is concentrating on one game at a time.
“You can imagine, probably the toughest place to go in Europe or the world. That’s the fixtures, we have to go there.
“Let’s go first on Monday, let’s prepare well and see how it goes.”