Mikel Arteta will resist the urge to rest his first-teamer players in the Europa League as Arsenal look to close on a first Premier League crown in 19 years, despite admitting the fact that a new Thursday-to-Sunday schedule will change how he manages his team.
Arsenal are out of both domestic cup competitions, which has allowed them to concentrate on the Premier League, where they hold a two-point lead over champions Manchester City and have a game in hand heading into this weekend.
They also lead their primary competitors for the trophy by a game, but they are aware of how challenging it will be to win their first Premier League title since 2004.
The revelation that Sporting Lisbon will be Arsenal’s opponent in the Europa League’s round of 16 on Friday means that things are about to get considerably tougher for the Gunners.
A deep run in UEFA’s second-tier competition could hinder Arsenal’s hopes of staying clear off Man City, with Gunners faithful eager to win the league for the first time since the “Invincibles” season of 2003-04.
The difficult Thursday-Sunday fixture turnarounds will be back for the Sporting ties, but Arteta won’t forgo the European tournament in order to improve his prospects in the domestic league.
While the manager said Arsenal would have the opportunity to rotate, he has vowed to not leave key men at home for European clashes.
Mikel Arteta comments on fighting for every title
“We will try to pick, all the time, the team we believe is the best to win on the day,” the Gunners boss said in his press conference on Friday.
“Because if you do something different people will say: ‘Why did you pick this team and we didn’t win in the Europa League?’
“You’re never going to win that battle. We’re going to pick the players that are in the best possible condition, because it’s really important to win the game to be in a better condition to win the next one.”
Arteta acknowledged that his approach to training would need to change starting next month.
But the Spaniard has insisted that he wouldn’t pitch a weaker team against Sporting, whom they play on March 9 and March 16 before matches against Fulham and Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
The 40-year-old said: “We’re going to have much less time to train and recover. I’m sure we’re going to have to share many more minutes around the squad, which is great because we’re going to have to give opportunities to everyone.”
Arteta has typically preferred to stick with a same lineup, using a selective group of players for Premier League games.
The only thing that has changed is injuries, with Eddie Nketiah replacing Gabriel Jesus since the World Cup and Jorginho lately filling in for Thomas Partey.