Ask any Arsenal fan what Mikel Arteta's biggest weakness is, and the chances are they'll say squad rotation. The Spaniard has done some remarkable things in north London, but questions still exist over his ability to shuffle his pack.
There has certainly been a strong case for this in the past. As Arsenal found themselves outside of Europe for the first time in 25 years two seasons ago, Arteta used a small group to create momentum towards a push for the top four. Between the end of January and the start of April he made just one change to his starting XI. While this propelled the Gunners up the table, it also meant that when Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey suffered season-ending injuries, their replacements came in cold and struggled to maintain the level.
It was a similar case last season where Arsenal steamed themselves into an unexpected title race during the early part of the season. Prior to the World Cup break in November, eight players had started all of the Gunners opening 15 games. Again though, when the time came to rely on the squad players towards the end of the season when William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu suffered injuries, their replacements struggled to cope, and Arsenal's title hopes went up in smoke. This time, Arteta cannot afford to repeat the mistake.
For the first time in six years Arsenal are back in the Champions League. Whereas before when they were in the Europa League or not in European competition at all, Arteta could afford to have separate starting XIs, he now needs to keep an entire squad of 25 players engaged. The doubts are certainly there over his ability to do that, but early signs suggest he should be just fine.
Prior to the January window last season Gabriel Martinelli had playedRead on football.london