Mikel Arteta may still be learning the ropes as a rookie manager – but he has already shown he’s not afraid to be tough with his players at Arsenal.
A number of Arsenal players have found themselves out of the side and challenged by their new manager since the former Manchester City coach replaced Unai Emery in the dugout.
We’ve taken a look at six players Arteta has laid down the law to.
While an Arsenal team full of youngsters impressed in a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth in the FA Cup, Maitland-Niles had to settle for a place on the bench and watch on while Sokratis was deployed out of position at right-back.
The England youth international started at full-back in Arteta’s first five matches but, while it is understandable he has fallen behind the returning Hector Bellerin, the sight of Sokratis playing in Bellerin’s absence is damning of where Maitland-Niles stands right now.
“Ainsley needs to put his head down, work hard and show me every day in training he wants it more than anybody else and that he wants to play for this club and fight for his place,” Arteta told football.london.
Martinez did manage to make the starting XI for the clash with Portsmouth, but only after being given a warning of his own from Arteta.
Under Unai Emery, Martinez served as Arsenal’s goalkeeper in the Europa League, only for Arteta to change that policy and start Bernd Leno in both legs of the knockout tie with Olympiakos (which didn’t exactly go too well).
“I like to play the player that I think is in the best condition for that game,” Arteta said. “If it is Emi, it is Emi, And if it’s Bernd, it’s Bernd.”
The Spaniard added: “I don’t make any difference between goalkeepers, full-back, strikers, attacking midfielders. They are all the same. They are part of the squad.
“We try to make the decision based on who we believe is better to win that competition. Players have to respect that, fight and compete between them.”
Guendouzi is considered one of Arsenal’s best prospects and has become a fan favourite for being the all-round b*stard the club has been crying out for.
But that brought the 20-year-old no favourable treatment from Arteta, who dropped him Arsenal’s matchday squad for the 4-0 victory over Newcastle United in February after being unimpressed by the midfielder’s attitude during a training camp in Dubai over the winter break.
“The reason is that players who, in my opinion, are training better, behaving better and are more applied to deliver on the pitch, what we want, are the players selected,” Arteta told beIN Sports after the game.
But the manager showed he is not one to hold grudges; once his point was made, Guendouzi was brought back into the squad.
A number of midfielders have had to prove themselves to Arteta, and Ceballos was reportedly considering his Arsenal future in January after meeting with his new boss to discuss his first-team prospects.
When Arteta replaced Emery as manager, Ceballos was back at parent club Real Madrid receiving treatment for an injury, and has been used sparingly upon his return.
In January, Arteta urged Ceballos to “make things difficult for me and my selection”. His message was simple: “He needs to get back to fitness and fight for his place.” Ceballos’ argument that he was fully fit suggest the two parties had different standards.
When Ceballos finally made his first Premier League appearance since November in the 4-0 victory over Newcastle United, Arteta was delighted with what he saw, saying: “The way he has been training he completely deserves a chance and I’m so glad with his performance.”
Anyone else really like this new, tenacious Dani Ceballos?
— Layth (@laythy29) February 23, 2020
Lacazette has had a tough time in front of goal in recent months, going on a nine-game goalless run between December and February.
The France international’s drought coincided with the return of Eddie Nketiah from a loan spell at Leeds United.
Nketiah was widely expected to be loaned out once more but impressed Arteta with his attitude in training so much so that he started ahead of Lacazette in the Gunners’ last two Premier League outings as well as the FA Cup win over Portsmouth, with Lacazette forced into trying to catch the eye in Europa League starts.
Yet again, what happens on the training pitch away from the attention of first-team fixtures appears to be the way to earn a place in Arteta’s starting XI.