What a fantastic way to round off the week! Less than 72 hours after earning a dramatic, hard-fought victory over Benfica in the Europa League, Arsenal once again employed their tremendous reserves of character at the weekend, fighting back from 1-0 down to beat Leicester 3-1 and climb back into the top half of the Premier League table.
Although Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off was the Gunners’ fourth game in just 11 days, Mikel Arteta still raised plenty of eyebrows across north London by naming a much-changed lineup for the trip to the east midlands, with the inclusions of Pablo Marí, Nicolas Pepe and the eternally-disappointing Willian drawing the most furore.
Considering the uphill task we face in nailing down a top six finish this term, along with the currently depleted options at the Foxes’ disposal, it appeared that a perhaps overly-cautious Arteta had already given up the ghost in the league and was instead intent on using the competition to give opportunities to those with points to prove.
Bearing this in mind, the knives would have been out for him when Arsenal’s slow start led to the concession of an early goal (yet again) thanks to some questionable defending (yet again). However, the unlikely figures of Pepe and Willian led a superb response, with the club-record signing winning a penalty and netting his fourth goal in seven league starts, while the former Chelsea man defied statistics and public opinion by recording two assists and being a constant menace throughout the match.
Mikel Arteta’s selection gamble pays off for Arsenal, and we can expect to see it again later this season
With Pepe and Willian producing inspired displays, and Marí recovering brilliantly after his shaky start, it is fair to say Arteta’s big gamble paid off spectacularly, and we can expect to see more of it going forward. Speaking after the game, the boss suggested rotation is essential in protecting players during this congested season, but insisted that everyone in his squad deserves to play.
These words highlight the additional challenges clubs are contending with this campaign, but it seems like the manager has faith in each member of his squad and will be encouraged by their commendable efforts on Sunday.
NEXT: 4 talking points from Leicester win
As we continue to battle on two fronts over the coming weeks, the need for rotation will become increasingly pertinent and it may be the difference between us achieving European success or not. Yes, this means that sometimes the manager will have to make unpopular decisions, but you need a squad to win trophies and Arteta has shown that he is prepared to use his.