Morning all.

Do you have the feeling Arsenal are at a make or break stage in the season? I know that sounds drastic considering we’ve lost just once in the League and once in the Europa League, but results aside, Arsenal aren’t playing particularly well for a full ninety minutes. Not for one minute do I expect Mikel Arteta’s teams to be playing at 100 mph for an entire game but in my opinion, all that was good, hasn’t been quite as good for the last few matches. We all know the officials royally cocked up in our game against Southampton but even so, we should have been able to stop them from equalising with the quality we have in the side.

Is the Europa League and fatigue the problem, or have we just hit a tough spot? Or is it just a case of the squad not being deep enough as far as player quality and strength goes or just bad squad management by Mikel Arteta?

I don’t know the answer but if the Arsenal board’s expectations of Mikel Arteta at the beginning of season was top four and a real go at winning the Europa Cup, then what choice has the manager had but to play a number of the ‘first team players’ in Europe? I’m sure if we’d have put the results to bed much earlier in certain fixtures, his substitutions might have been very different but as it’s turned out, that’s not really been possible.

Unless a manager has 30 top class players in his squad (allowing for substitutes), when rotation is required, a number of ‘first team players’ are going to have to play twice a week. Mikel Arteta barely has 15 top notch players in his squad right now and two of those are injured. As is Mo Elneny and he’s been a big miss in Europe. Had he been fit, I very much doubt Thomas Partey would have been called upon. Emile Smith Rowe would have probably been in the team instead of Granit Xhaka too. Perhaps against Zurich, we’ll see Cedric Soares back in action which would mean a rest for either Kieran Tierney or Takehiro Tomiyasu. Marquinhos, who did well in the away fixture, should also return giving Bukayo Saka a much needed breather.

The Arsenal board knew Thomas Partey is fragile in the summer, they knew Mo Elneny was going to be out for a long time before the transfer window closed and they also knew neither Eddie Nketiah or Gabriel Jesus would give us a plan b in the box. They couldn’t foresee Oleksandr Zinchenko picking up an injury though and let’s be honest, he’s been sorely missed.

Rotation can come at a cost either at the time or afterwards in my opinion. Rest all the ‘first team players’ in Europe and it’s unlikely we’d have already qualified for the knockout stage, play more of the so called fringe players in the League and I doubt we’d be top of the table.

Football for clubs in Europe is a bit of a catch 22 really. The earlier in a game a handsome lead can be achieved, the earlier the manager can make his five changes but to achieve that, he needs his best players on the pitch. Believe it or not though, the opposition are always going to put up a fight, especially here in England where no game is easy anymore. Not even against clubs sitting in the relegation places as Liverpool found out last weekend.

Going back to the question about fatigue, rotation etc etc, perhaps the answer is simple. Mikel Arteta just doesn’t have the depth in his squad to cope with two competitions we want to succeed in. He has numbers, just not perhaps the quality or the experience.

See you in the comments.