There is no doubt that Arsenal looked like a completely different side yesterday with the younsters Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, and Emile Smith Rowe in the starting line-up. The changes were partly forced upon Mikel Arteta due to Covid-19 protocols, but it completely transformed the attitude and enthusiasm in the side.
Chelsea didn’t really get into the game until 20 minutes from the end, and Martin Keown believes this was because Arteta decided to take a couple of our young stars off, hopefully to protect them with games still coming upo thick and fast in the coming week. Keown said in his column in the Mail: “Arteta must stick with this approach. There was a simplicity to it. The back four were solid and the two wide men were cutting inside and causing problems for Chelsea.”
Smith Rowe was removed after 65 minutes, and Martinelli after 71. That was when Arsenal endured their most difficult period of the match. Their work-rate dropped. Martinelli’s closing down was missed.
Arteta knows he has to manage the energy levels of his young players, given how demanding the Christmas schedule is.
But the good news for the Arsenal manager is they were able to see out the win and he can turn to these kids again. They brought something special to the team.
He is right of course, as the youngsters energy is not bottomless and it would be better to limit their game time so we can carry on getting the best out of them, especially as Martinelli and Smith-Rowe have only recently returned from long injury lay-offs.
As much as we don’t want to see our best players being substituted, Arteta has to find a sensible balance to keep them all fit and fresh…