Mikel Arteta was forced to once again answer questions over Mesut Ozil, after his exclusion from Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Leicester in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.
The third-round clash at the King Power Stadium saw the Gunners secure passage to the next round of the competition after a relatively comfortable victory for Arteta’s men.
The Spaniard made seven changes from Saturday’s win over West Ham yet still had the quality to outgun Brendan Rodgers’ side, the Foxes having named a completely different starting XI to their weekend win against Burnley.
Arsenal took the lead early in the second half after good work from Nicolas Pepe brought about an unfortunate own goal for veteran defender Christian Fuchs, before Eddie Nketiah showcased his predatory instincts to seal the tie late on after some excellent play from Hector Bellerin in the box.
With the away side making it three wins from three so far this season, manager Arteta was delighted with the display and praised his senior figures in particular for their ruthless attitude.
“I am really happy with the performance,” he said at his press conference. “First of all with the attitude and the way we approached the game mentally.
“The senior players took the lead straight away and I could see that they came here to win the game, and afterwards with the young players and the way they are developing and the way they played again tonight.”
One senior star who was once again notably absent from the matchday squad – despite the number of changes made – was former Germany international Ozil, although Arteta remained evasive when asked questions about his high profile star, insisting he was simply picking the players who were ‘best for each game’.
“I am really happy with the performance of the players here, how difficult they are making things for the coaching staff to select the squad,” said Arteta.
“The team is evolving and you can see the level they are achieving, so this is where we are at at the moment. We want to evolve more, play better and compete better, so we need to keep maintaining that trend.
“We are picking the players that we believe are the best for each game and as you can see, we keep changing, so this is what we are trying to do.”
Ozil – the clubs highest-earning player – has been a constant source of conversation over the last few seasons due to his lack of game time as questions remain over his current situation, yet Arteta said that having such a large playing squad made it difficult for everyone to be involved.
“It is difficult for others as well who weren’t involved in the Premier League and they didn’t play tonight either. We have a squad of 26, 27 players at the moment and we cannot give all of them playing time.”
The win sees Arsenal progress to the fourth round of the competition, where they could come up against Liverpool for a second time in a week, the two sides already set to meet on Monday night in the Premier League – a game that the former Manchester City assistant was keen to focus on first and foremost.
“You can imagine, it is probably the toughest place to go in Europe or the world,” admitted the former midfielder. “But those are the fixtures, let’s go there first on Monday, prepare well and see how it goes.”