Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says there are a number of players “knocking on the door” for a more regular role as he tries to find the best way to manage his squad.
Speaking at a press conference, Arteta was keen to shift the focus away from two incidents that could have disrupted their preparation for the return from the international break.
The club have been investigating Willian travelling to Dubai, to ensure he did not break any coronavirus rules. Also, there were rumours of a fight between David Luiz and Dani Ceballos in training – even though the latter denied it.
Arteta has now also played down the reports, insisting Ceballos and Luiz still get on.
He said: “Nothing [happened]. The training is very competitive and issues happened a lot of times, those things get resolved immediately within the team and not much to say.
“There is no problem between the two.”
As for the Willian incident, he explained: “I had a conversation with him and explained what I was expecting. There are a lot of personal factors at the moment from our side, we need to be their shoes.
“A lot of players are having different issues like any public person out there. Sometimes they’re making decisions based on the needs, different moments or what people are expecting from them.
“Whether they’re right or wrong that’s something we have to discuss but it’s been dealt in the right way and let’s move on.”
Arteta will be keen to return all his attention to action on the pitch. Arsenal’s next game is against Leeds on Sunday.
The manager has some important selection decisions to make, especially with Thomas Partey being out with injury. He is hoping to have the midfielder back soon, though.
“We knew it was a significant injury,” he said. “He’s done very well and he’s working very hard, he wants to be available.
“Hopefully we can get him back soon but it’s an area where we need to be careful and we need to be protective with the player.”
One midfielder who is available for selection is Joe Willock. The youngster has not played much in the Premier League this season, but Arteta has commended his attitude.
“I mentioned with Joe that I’ve been really impressed with the way he’s handled the situation of not having much game time in the Premier League.
“The reflection of that is the way he’s played in the Europa League when he had the minutes or the Carabao Cup. He has a chance like everybody else.”
Arteta also opened the door to Eddie Nketiah, who scored twice for England Under-21s against Albania in midweek.
The Arsenal boss said of the striker: “Another one is fighting and knocking on the door every day. I really like his mentality.
“He scored two and he comes to the training ground and said ‘I should have scored four’. That’s the type of ambition and hunger you want from players.”
Another English youngster who has had a few more opportunities is Bukayo Saka. The left-back featured for his senior national team during the international break.
Arteta admits that Saka played more than he would have liked, but the circumstances were unavoidable. Even so, he will have to double check on the left-back’s fitness.
“I have to see him today how he’s looking and how he’s feeling. He’s a 19-year-old kid who’s played a lot of football in the past few months.
“I understand from Gareth [Southgate]’s point of view he had the injury of [Ben] Chilwell. He probably didn’t plan to give him that many minutes but the circumstances forced him to do it.
“From my side it’s not ideal but if I’m in Gareth’s shoes I’d probably have done the same. It is what it is. Let’s try to get him fit and recovered and see how he is for Sunday.”
Arteta also hopes to have Pablo Mari available again soon, with the defender making his comeback from a surgery.
“He’s looking really good in training. Obviously he had a difficult surgery, he had a screw and sometimes you can react in an unexpected way inside, it was causing some inflammation in the joint all the time and his ankle was swelling.”
Arteta supports extra subs rule
One of the biggest topics of debate in the Premier League recently has been the decision not to continue with allowing five substitutions per match.
Already, injuries seem to be on the rise, and many managers have called for the Premier League to follow other major European divisions by increasing the number of changes they can make.
Arteta has now thrown his support behind the cause, having already admitted it can be hard to manage a big squad.
“I’m all for it to extend the numbers and the squad,” he said. “We have a big squad for different reasons.
“We have to leave several players at home and let’s try to help them. Meaning at home means at home.
“Even mentally for them to feel involved you are two days without the squad and your team-mates. Let’s make them involved at least with what we’re trying to do here.
“I think there are easy decisions. Let’s hope we can change it.”
Elsewhere this week, Pep Guardiola extended his contract as Manchester City. It was under Guardiola that Arteta cut his teeth as a coach, and he said he was happy for his former mentor.
“I’m very pleased for him because he’s never been so long at a football club. The fact he’s extended means he’s extremely happy there and feels valued, he has the chemistry with the owners, fans and he feels it’s the best place for him to continue his career, so congratulations.
“Knowing him and his ambitions means he wants to win every competition every year. Europe is a massive thing and he really wants to move the club there. Long-term that was one of the things he wanted to achieve and I’m sure that’ll be the focal point.”