Mikel Arteta facing trust issue as Arsenal look to get Premier League title bid back up and running

Mikel Arteta facing trust issue as Arsenal look to get Premier League title bid back up and running

Midnight was turning into the early hours of Thursday morning by the time Arsenal finally left the Allianz Arena after their painful Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Such is the hectic nature of their schedule right now, that even then Mikel Arteta’s mind was already turning towards Saturday's game at Wolves.

Arsenal’s Champions League run is over, but the title race is not. The Gunners are two points behind Manchester City with six games to go and victory at Molineux would send them top.

Crucially, it is the first of two matches Arteta’s side have before City play again in the Premier League, because Pep Guardiola’s side face Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals.

Arsenal have the rare chance to apply some pressure to City by opening up a four-point gap with two victories, but the concern is whether they have enough fuel in the tank to do so.

Defeat to Bayern Munich came on the back of a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa last Sunday that handed City control of the title race.

In both those games, Arsenal showed signs of fatigue and that was particularly the case towards the end of Wednesday’s loss in Munich.

With the final kick of the game, Bukayo Saka tried to swing in a corner but it could not beat the first man. It was a tired effort and one that only adds to fears the winger is running on fumes.

He is not alone, though, Martin Odegaard had his ankle heavily strapped for the game with Bayern, while Ben White has had to do similar with his knee recently.

It all leaves Arteta with a dilemma for his team selection - does he patch up the XI he used in Munich or freshen things up?

Arsenal have had no time to recover from the loss to Bayern. After leaving the Allianz Arena in the early hours of Thursday morning, they went back to their hotel to sleep before undergoing a recovery session in Munich.

The squad flew back to London on Thursday night and were training on Friday for what would be their one proper session before facing Wolves.

Despite that, history tells us that Arteta is likely to keep changes to a minimum for the game.

Saka is one of many Arsenal players who look out on their feet (AFP via Getty Images)
Saka is one of many Arsenal players who look out on their feet (AFP via Getty Images)

Eight of Wednesday night’s starting XI have played over 3,000 minutes in all competitions this season. Those figures exclude stoppage-time and are already more than either of the previous two campaigns, with six League games still to play.

Gabriel Martinelli could yet add a ninth name to this season’s list, while White, Gabriel, Odegaard and Saka have all hit that threshold in each of the last three years for totals in excess of 10,000 minutes.

Arteta clearly has his core group that he trusts and his selection could underlined that if he sticks with them.

Jurrien Timber is the only member of the squad currently out injured, but Arteta has showed a reluctance to use the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Fabio Vieira and Thomas Partey.

It points towards a lack of confidence in them and means Arsenal could have plenty of work to do in the transfer market this summer.

To compete with City, the Gunners need to rotate better and it is no surprise their worst runs have come when the schedule has become compact.

There is a worrying trend too of the team tailing off at the end of campaigns under Arteta. Last season, they beat Leeds on April 1 - but drew their next three games and then lost to eventual champions City as they finished five points behind.

The year before that, consecutive League defeats to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton in April contributed to Arsenal missing out on Champions League qualification.

This season, they head to Wolves needing to end a three-game winless run. Fail to do so, and their title charge could be over.