Mikel Arteta has no regrets over wielding the axe with player exits in January despite current injury crisis… but Arsenal manager reveals his plans to beef his squad back up next season
- Mikel Arteta has defended the decision to slash the size of his first-team squad
- The Arsenal boss allowed several players to leave in the January transfer window
- Injuries to key players Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey have led to questions
- Arteta said he is aiming to increase the size of his squad ahead of next season
Mikel Arteta has defended the decision to slash the size of his squad but also revealed his plans to beef it back up again next season.
Injuries to Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey, plus the goals drying up again, have opened Arteta up to scrutiny after he let a string of players leave in January without any new additions.
Five senior players were among the departures — Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac — plus emerging striker Folarin Balogun. But Arteta insists he has no regrets.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (above) has defended the decision to slash the size of his squad
Arteta allowed several players to leave in January, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (left)
‘They were players that we did not really use,’ he said. ‘And you put them in the context now, I don’t know how much they would have played.
‘You don’t know, I don’t know. We made a decision on what we believed was the right thing to do for the club, then for the players who were asking for the opportunity to play football because they didn’t have any minutes in several months.’
Those exits have left Arteta with a squad of 18 senior players plus three goalkeepers, sufficient this season but not next year when they hope to be back in Europe. Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah and Mohamed Elneny are out of contract this summer, and a number of players are set to return from loans.
Injuries to Thomas Partey (left) and Kieran Tierney (right) have left the Gunners a little short
Arteta said: ‘Both competitions (the Champions League and Europa League) require a much larger squad because the number of games you play is much bigger, so I don’t think it makes a lot of difference (which competition they qualify for).
‘If you can afford it and we don’t have to do the turnaround in the squad that we’ve had to do, if you ask me what I want it’s 22 outfield players and three goalkeepers.’
Following Monday’s 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, Arteta issued a rallying cry to his players as they aim to bounce back against Brighton today, telling them: ‘Embrace the challenge. Monday is gone. It hurt but we have to react now.’