It’s a nice problem to have — but it’s a headache that Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta would rather not have if at all possible. We’re talking about his team selection for the last remaining game of the Premier League season when the Gunners host relegation-threatened Watford at the Emirates Stadium this Sunday.
Arteta’s issue is that he must try to keep his best players fit and free from injury ahead of the FA Cup final the following Saturday when the north London outfit take on London rivals Chelsea in the showdown at Wembley Stadium; it will be the first ever such showpiece that will be played without any fans in the ground because of the continued safety measures in place to contend with the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the Spanish coach must also respect the integrity of the league and play a side that is considered strong enough to try to win the contest so that Aston Villa and Bournemouth, the other two teams who can still be demoted, have a fair crack of the whip.
The game could even see the re-emergence of players not seen in the famous red and white shirts for a while; those players being German playmaker Mesut Ozil as well as young French midfielder Mattéo Guendouzi. Both have been out of contention — the former since the return of the game after the initial shutdown caused by of the coronavirus crisis. But if the Gunners gaffer were to play both of his stars in a side against the Hornets it would keep two players fresh, potentially Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka, for the cup final and also leave him free of accusations of playing a weakened team and thus being accused of harming the integrity of the sport.
Arteta, who has seen his side beat Champions Liverpool and second-placed Manchester City in a week before losing to lowly Aston Villa in a dismal 1-0 defeat at Villa Park on Tuesday, has said both are fit and available. The decision is his and the resolution of the issue remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the club have confirmed that starlet Bukayo Saka, aged just 18, will wear the No.7 shirt next season. Saka, who could play international football for either England or Nigeria, has recently signed a new, extended contract at the club, said to be a four-year contract. The teen, who broke into the side after coming through the club’s youth ranks, got into the team at left-back. But he has now established himself playing a lot further forward under the Arsenal manager. Big things are expected of the nippy winger with exceptionally quick feet, hence the length of the deal he has penned.