While Mikel Arteta continues to tinker with his squad, Arsenal fans continue to try to second-guess the head coach with regards to his player preference.
Arteta will once again shuffle his pack for the visit of Olympiakos to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday and he will do so bearing in mind that the Gunners hold a slender 1-0 lead in the second leg of the last 32 Europa League game following the victory in Greece last week. The second-tier European competition retains some glister given that lifting the trophy aloft come May will guarantee the winners a spot in next season’s Champions League. In other words, he can’t put out a team that is too weak and could end up blowing the chance to progress.
One of the players who has found it difficult to secure a place in the starting line-up of late is Lucas Torreira. The two main theories doing the rounds among those with a keen eye on all things Arsenal are that Arteta doesn’t rate the terrier-like Uruguayan schemer and he will ship him out in the summer. Or that he knows full well how he operates and is instead giving Dani Ceballos a run to see how he copes at the heart of the midfield alongside Granit Xhaka.
It can be argued that both of these theories have some merit but the first would mean that Arteta is being ever so bold because in playing who he considers to be the weaker of the two in vital matches he is potentially sacrificing this season’s ambition in terms of success. The latter of the two theories has come about because Ceballos is only on loan for the remainder off the season from Real Madrid. The coach has to decide whether or not the ball-playing maestro is what he is looking for in his midfield; and this will in turn shape his thinking as to whether or not he decides to try to sign him on a permanent deal in the summer.
There is a case, of course, that these days more than ever the game is all about the depth you can boast in terms of squad strength. Those who like his bite, industry and spirit would argue that every top-flight squad needs a Torreira. Indeed, he has been used of late by Arteta to add some steel to the midfield to help see games out, with the flair of Ceballos sacrificed for the fight of the former Sampdoria ace.
He did this in the final stages of the 3-2 victory over Everton and it helped Arsenal gain a vital three points. Ceballos had a decent game, too. The selection headache is one that Arteta won’t mind having, that’s for sure. Watching on, you can’t help but think that the astute Arteta is looking ahead to next season already – and if that means less success this, then so be it. Just a theory…