Mikel Arteta has suggested he has no plans to rest any of his Arsenal players this week, despite the gruelling round of international fixtures coming up.
The Gunners’ impressive weekend win over north London rivals Tottenham boosted their hopes of European football next season through the Premier League, with the club only seven points adrift of fifth-placed West Ham who they face on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
With a 3-1 lead over Olympiakos ahead of Thursday’s Europa League last-16 second-leg tie at the Emirates, Arteta could be forgiven for rotating his side, with many of his international stars likely to play three games for their national teams the following week.
However, the Arsenal boss is leaving nothing to chance in both the Europa League encounter, where the winner of the tournament qualifies for the Champions League, or against the Hammers at the weekend.
Arteta, who also allayed fears over Bukayo Saka’s fitness after the youngster hobbled off in the win over Spurs, believes national team coaches are the ones who have to adapt for the hectic schedule – not clubs.
“There is still a lot to play for against Olympiakos, the belief they have will make it tough for us,” said Arteta.
“It’s true that we have some players with some significant workloads but our priority is to win the next two games.
“If anything, national teams will have to adapt to what we want – we will not do the opposite way around.
“We are the ones who have to look after our players and who pay the players so if anyone has to adapt, it’s the national teams – not us.”
Arteta moving forward after clearing the air with Aubameyang
Arteta has also held talks with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after dropping the Arsenal captain for Sunday’s north London derby – but says he cannot guarantee the striker will start against Olympiakos.
Aubameyang was axed after breaching pre-match protocol and remained an unused substitute as Arsenal came from behind to beat rivals Tottenham 2-1.
Speaking after the game, Arteta said he had to discipline Aubameyang to sustain the club’s long-term “foundation”.
“Yes,” he replied when asked if everything with Aubameyang had been sorted. “We talked, everything has been resolved in a really positive way. So we move forward.
“Everybody has to obviously perform at the highest level to earn his place in the team and there is no exceptions there.
“We will try and put a really competitive team out to try and win the game.”
Review pod: Why so negative, Spurs? Smith Rowe for Euros?
In the latest Pitch to Post Review show, Jasper Taylor is joined by Sky Sports News reporter Roger Clarke and SkySports.com senior football journalist Gerard Brand to discuss the weekend’s action.
The trio analyse the North London derby and Spurs’ negative approach as well as explore the possibility that Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe could make a late claim for an England Euro 2020 spot.
There’s also top-four chat with the team also trying to understand the format for the new Europa Conference League.
Tim Thornton also brings the latest on Sheffield United and why Chris Wilder left, as well as what it means for the Blades’ future.
The Sky Sports Football podcast will continue to house a range of audio offerings, including the Women’s Football Show, Monday Night Football and Super Sunday.
And don’t forget to subscribe to the Transfer Talk podcast, the Gary Neville podcast, the Sunday Supplement and the EFL podcast.