As we prepare to compete in our third different competition in the space of six days, Mikel Arteta believes that the Carabao Cup tie against Brighton & Hove Albion is just as important as our Premier League and Europa League commitments.
The boss admits that he is going to pick a competitive team for the meeting with Seagulls as we aim to get our hands on the trophy for the third time, using the same balance as he’s shown in the European fixtures recently to help navigate the congested fixture list before the World Cup break.
On his gameplan for Wednesday night, he said: “It is a different competition but the purpose is the same, to play as good as we can, win the game and go into the next round, You know there are no second chances and we’ll take it very seriously.
“We’re going to pick a very competitive team. I think everyone deserves chances, and we’ll make some changes with judgement in relation to the load of the players, but we’ll play to win.
“The ones that haven’t played want to have their chance, and feel that they are contributing to the team. The positive thing is that everybody has played games and everyone has been important. We have two games to go, and the focus has to be there because we know that afterwards we have a big break.”
As we head towards the end of a period that will eventually see us play 15 games in 43 days, culminating in Saturday’s trip to Wolves, Mikel heaped praise on our squad who have been pushed to its limit, but still excelled with us sitting at the summit of the Premier League and finishing top of our Europa League group.
“They’ve dealt with [the fixture list] really well,” he added. “I think we had a really good pre-season and we put the boys in a really good condition to face this fixture congestion, and they have responded extremely well, especially the way we play which is really intense.
“I think we are the team in Europe who has rotated the most, and obviously that has its benefits as well. When you are winning, the energy is better and the mood is better, but the preparation is a bit easier, so overall I think they have coped with it really well.
“When they have been used, they have performed really well. For periods in games in the Premier League and when they have started games in the Europa League and the Premier League, I think they have been really consistent. It’s a joy of a group to work with because they’re really at it every day.”
Sunday’s win at Chelsea saw Mikel take charge of his 150th game for us, matching the same figure he reached during his playing days at Emirates Stadium. “A lot has happened in those two different experiences but this one has been very, very intense,” he reflected.
“The way it started in the middle of the season and then with two years of Covid, and all the things that we had to go through, and now a different phase in the last year or so when football is back to normality and we start to see more what we want from the team.”
Hear more from Mikel by pressing play on the video above
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