Mikel Arteta: Football needs to be very careful with player workloads

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has joined Marcelo Bielsa in expressing concern over the fixture calendar and insisted football needs to be careful over the load being put on players.

Leeds boss Bielsa admitted earlier this week to having “serious doubts” over the future of the sport at the elite level due to the amount of games being played.

Arsenal will play eight times in December, beginning at Manchester United on Thursday, and Arteta says there is reason to be cautious about overworking players.

“I think we all have been taking very seriously the conversations the managers have had in recent months and years with all the regulators,” Arteta said.

“Financially football is going through a moment where it is difficult to have 25 to 30 players in a squad but if you don’t, you are just loading players all the time so we have to be very careful.

“I think the product in this country is magnificent still, but we have to maintain it and there are certain things in my opinion that have to be reviewed.

“At the moment it doesn’t look (like regulators are listening) because every time we are talking or discussing something, it is to do more and more and more. But at some stage hopefully we don’t start to make changes when things are in a worse place because that would take a while to put right.”

Mikel Arteta could need to rotate his squad to get through this month's fixtures
Mikel Arteta could need to rotate his squad to get through this month’s fixtures (John Walton/PA)

The upcoming demands will no doubt see Arteta rotate at certain points this month but he has options at his disposal.

Gabriel Martinelli scored off the bench during Saturday’s win over Newcastle while there is fierce competition across the squad, which is needed given the way the Spaniard wants his side to play.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang encapsulated the way Arsenal press during a moment in the second half which earned the applause of his manager, who backed him to return to the scoresheet soon after going four games without a goal.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been told the goals will come
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been told the goals will come (John Walton/PA)

Arteta added: “That is a non-negotiable. The way we want to play, our front players have to be putting the pressure on the ball every single time.

“That moment changes the momentum of the game a little bit because a few minutes later we score the goal, again in another high-press situation where we have regained the ball and been set in the final third, so that is what I demand.

“To put the ball in the net or not is sometimes a consequence of millimetres or seconds and Auba has the capacity to do it, he hasn’t lost that capacity.

“What he cannot lose is the rest. He cannot be thinking, ‘I will not do a little bit of that (pressing) now to score more goals’. It doesn’t work like that. It works for me in the opposite way around because he had four opportunities to put the ball in the net.”