When Arsenal journeyed to the south coast to face Brighton in the last league outing before the international break there were no points awarded for predicting the starting lineup.
Mikel Arteta has reshaped his squad with numerous players making for the exit doors and fresh faces arriving in their stead. The manager now has his team.
Thus when the situation arises that the 11 players on the pitch are all-but set in stone and not subject to change, those on the peripheries and even the bench can be forgotten about.
But football is a squad game. It’s impossible to last an entire season without rotation, even if there is no European football for Arsenal to contend with and even if they get knocked out of the domestic competitions earlier than desired.
4 players who still have a big role to play for Arsenal despite not being first team regulars under Mikel Arteta in the Premier League
It’s said how you finish matches is more important than how you start them. This is so often true. In-game changes can swing matches into your favour just as they can provide extra steel to see games out. You almost always need three substitutes.
Nevertheless, there are some figures at Arsenal that even after seven matches of the season are in some peoples’ minds being left behind: where are the minutes going to come from? Should they even be on the bench?
Across an entire league season there will be time for near enough everyone. Injuries strike, form dips and especially in the hectic periods, such as Christmas, it’s unhealthy and unwise not to share the minutes out across the team. Besides, you don’t have to play loads to make a deciding impact.
Everyone has a role to play, just like these four.
1. Nuno Tavares
For as long as Arsenal are involved in cup competitions, Nuno Tavares will be around to take up the left-back slot. Already featuring in both EFL Cup matches this season, he is still in with a chance of retaining his place over Kieran Tierney when Leeds head to the Emirates Stadium at the end of October.
Given the magnitude of the round of 16 game coupled with Arteta’s preference to field strong sides in the hunt for silverware, Tavares might miss out, although with two games either side in four-day intervals he will be feeling confident.
Beyond just the cup matches, the impending Christmas schedule could see him grab a couple of starts.
Tierney is not having the best start to the season either. It’s tough to admit for a player so adored and consistent, but he is struggling for form at the minute. While not being dropped per se, Arteta may feel taking him out of the firing line for a game or two could see him gain something resembling to rest to recuperate fitness. And, he’s hardly got the cleanest injury record.
Tavares being effective as a wing-back or even as a left-winger also opens up more possibilities when the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang jet off to AFCON in January.