Mikel Arteta tells every Arsenal player to be a hero in title race with changes expected
Mikel Arteta has told his Arsenal players that any one of them can become a hero in the title run-in, as they embark on a busy month in their bid to stay ahead of Manchester City.
Arsenal face Everton at Emirates Stadium tonight in the first of six games in 18 days before the March international break.
Arteta has favoured a core group of players this season, but has admitted he will be forced to rotate as the fixture list intensifies.
The Gunners are two points clear of City at the top of the Premier League, but can extend their lead to five points with victory in their game in hand tonight.
Asked about the potential need for anyone in the squad to step up and perform, Arteta said: "They know that and that doesn't change throughout the whole season.
"But, obviously, when now we have the fixtures that we have in the next few weeks, they know that is going to happen. And for me, everybody looks fit and ready to play.
"The fact is we have options now — we have players coming back from injury giving us alternatives, which is going to be crucial. Players can't maintain the same level for 10 months — it's just impossible.
"We need to change, and we have to generate alternatives and be more unpredictable for opponents sometimes as well. We have those options now."
Arsenal were beaten by Everton at Goodison Park last month, as Sean Dyche guided the Toffees to a 1-0 win in his first game in charge. That defeat came during a run of four games without a win for the Gunners, who have got their title charge back on track since then.
Arteta's side have won their past two matches, and right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu insists they learned a lesson on Merseyside.
"We learned a lot of things, the biggest one was we ran less than them," said Tomiyasu. "After the game, Mikel told us we had to run extra hard, so, first of all, we have to run more than them. Then we have to compete, and we have to focus on the basics.
"That game they changed the manager and it was his first game for them, so now we know what they want to do. They like to fight, they like to run and they want to put the ball in the box a lot, so we have to defend our box. We have to prepare right and be ready for the fight, because we have to take three points."
Tomiyasu is one player pushing to come into the team tonight, and if Arteta decides not to make changes against Everton, he should against Bournemouth on Saturday.
Thomas Partey is fit again and came off the bench in Saturday's 1-0 win at Leicester. The midfielder will not be rushed back into the starting XI, though, given Jorginho's form.
Emile Smith Rowe is another player hoping to see more action following his return to fitness. He has missed most of the season after undergoing groin surgery in September, but he and January signing Jakub Kiwior played for the Under-23s on Monday.
"It was great to see them on the field because we are going to need them in the next couple of games," said Arteta.