Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta admits he is concerned a lack of regular first-team football could be damaging the development of striker Eddie Nketiah.
England U21s’ record goalscorer has not featured for the Gunners since coming off the bench in the final minute of their goalless draw with Manchester United on January 30.
Nketiah, 21, has started just twice in the Premier League all season, scoring once, with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Gabriel Martinelli ahead of him in the pecking order.
Despite the Arsenal academy graduate not making the bench for Sunday’s 3-1 victory at Leicester, Arteta was keen to praise Nketiah’s attitude amid his lack of minutes.
He’s a joy to work with and he deserves minutes and if he doesn’t get it, it’s just my fault
“This is one of the hazards to leave someone like Eddie out of the squad, but at the moment everybody has been fit and we have so many options up front,” Arteta said.
“But it hurts as well because of how Eddie behaves and trains every day and because he’s a player from our academy, but he will have his chance.
“He needs to be patient and he’s showing no signs of lacking attitude or anything like that, it’s the complete opposite.
“He’s a joy to work with and he deserves minutes and if he doesn’t get it, it’s just my fault.”
Arsenal loaned Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles to Newcastle and West Brom during the winter transfer window, but Nketiah, unlike Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, has not had the opportunities to impress.
Asked if a lack of minutes could stunt his development, Arteta replied: “Yes there is because he needs to play and we’ve been wanting to use him a little bit more on some occasions and we didn’t.
“To be fair, when he’s played, he’s played well, but at his age and for what he’s done the last two or three seasons, he needs more minutes.
“It’s something we have to talk about openly and make the right decision.”
Arteta: Europa switch helps Tottenham
Meanwhile, Arteta is unhappy about UEFA’s decision to swap Tottenham’s Europa League ties ahead of a big north London derby.
The local rivals had both been drawn away from home in the round of 16, first leg – but under UEFA rules, two clubs from the same city cannot play on the same day.
That means Spurs will now host Dinamo Zagreb at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on March 11, three days before they head across town to face Arsenal at the Emirates.
Arsenal, as FA Cup holders, were technically prioritised by UEFA – meaning their tie against Olympiacos stays as it was.
But that means the Gunners face a near-3,000 mile round trip to Athens before hosting the derby, and Arteta feels the decision gives Tottenham the edge going into the game.
“It does, but unfortunately it’s not going to change,” he said.
“We can raise our voices and we should do that, because we want to have two teams playing in equal conditions.
“But the decision has been made and that’s it.”