LONDON • With injuries a cause for concern for many clubs amid the fixture pile-up caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Mikel Arteta has joined the chorus of club managers asking the Premier League to increase the number of substitutes they can use to five to reduce player fatigue.
Earlier last week, clubs in the English Football League (EFL) will now be permitted to make five substitutions in matches.
However, the English top flight remains the only competition that has opted to stick with three substitutes, in contrast to the other “Big Five” European leagues.
Urging the Premier League to show flexibility ahead of today’s game at Leeds, Arteta said: “We have to protect (players) as much as possible, they are the protagonists in this industry.
“We have to modify the rules and make them a little more flexible to give them a better opportunity to be fit, physically and mentally. Let’s just do it, please.”
The Gunners are short of options in midfield for their trip to Elland Road, with Mohamed Elneny currently isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 last week, while £45 million (S$80.4 million) deadline-day signing Thomas Partey has yet to recover from a thigh injury that forced him off against Aston Villa.
On Partey, Arteta said: “We knew it was a significant injury. He’s done very well and he’s working very hard, he wants to be available.
“Hopefully, we can get him back soon, but it’s an area where we need to be careful and we need to be protective with the player.”
There is also concern about fatigue for Bukayo Saka who played three times for England in seven days during the international break.
“I have to see him today, how he’s looking and how he’s feeling. He’s a 19-year-old kid who has played a lot of football in the past few months,” Arteta said.
“I understand from (England manager) Gareth Southgate’s point of view he had the injury of (Ben) Chilwell. He probably didn’t plan to give him that many minutes but the circumstances forced him to do it.”
But injuries and overworked players are not the only concern for Arteta. Willian made an unauthorised trip to Dubai during the break and has since been disciplined.
Under British coronavirus restrictions, international travel is not permitted except for limited purposes such as work or education, but the Brazil forward was pictured on Instagram at the Nusr-Et steakhouse with celebrity owner Nusret Gokce, more commonly known as Salt Bae.
As the United Arab Emirates is not on the UK’s quarantine list, Willian is in contention for the Leeds trip but Arteta said he made it clear his behaviour was not welcome.
“Whatever happens with things we don’t expect, we will try to resolve them internally,” he said.
On reports of a training ground bust-up between David Luiz and Dani Ceballos that left the former bloodied earlier this week, Arteta added he would investigate the source of the leak, warning “there will be consequences”.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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