Mikel Arteta hails attitude of Arsenal’s fringe players after Leeds win amid questions over Bernd Leno role

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Mikel Arteta hails attitude of Arsenal’s fringe players after Leeds win amid questions over Bernd Leno role
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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says he is delighted with the way his fringe players are “knocking on the door” and “not trying to find excuses” for a lack of playing time.

Arteta is expected to recall the bulk of his first team for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Leicester, having rested the likes of Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel, Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the Carabao Cup win over Leeds in midweek.

With no European football this season, that competition has presented Arteta with his only real chance for wholesale rotation, meaning the Spaniard has found it difficult to share minutes around the squad.

“What I’m really pleased with is that players are knocking on the door with the right attitude to play and that’s giving us options,” Arteta said.

“I don’t see anybody trying to find excuses when they’re not playing or trying to blame somebody else when they’re not playing.

“They’re just trying to put in the best possible work in training and then talk on the pitch. Talking outside the pitch is easy because you can always find excuses and blame everybody else.

“When you have the opportunity [on the pitch] it’s the moment to talk and show that you can do it and I really liked, in many examples, what the players have done when they’ve been in those positions.”

Eddie Nketiah was on the scoresheet against Marcelo Bielsa’s side on Tuesday night, but the young forward, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has not even made the bench in the Premier League this season.

Arteta said earlier this week he wants to keep the academy graduate at the club, and was once again full of praise for the 22-year-old, though did not confirm whether he would be involved for the trip to the King Power Stadium.

“He’s another one that is constantly pushing and every time he gets a chance he takes it,” Arteta said. “Obviously, there are other players in those positions, the same with other players that haven’t had many minutes.

“We have to manage that situation and rewards players when they deserve it.”

Goalkeeper Bernd Leno is another who finds himself in a similar position, having lost the No1 shirt to summer signing Ramsdale.

 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

When asked whether Leno, who kept a clean sheet against Leeds, would be content with a role as No2 for the remainder of the season, Arteta added: “I think he competed really well the other day and showed his level. That’s what he’s here for.

“When he gets to play he needs to do it at the best level and when he’s not, he needs to support his team-mates like everybody else.”

Arteta is waiting to check on the fitness of a number of players who have been struck by a stomach bug in the camp, including defender Ben White, who was forced off with the illness during the Leeds clash.

“There’ve been a few of them unable to train and we picked up some knocks against Leeds as well but hopefully today we’ll have some news,” Arteta said.

“[White] hasn’t trained yet so we’ll have to wait and see how he’s feeling today.”

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