Arsenal’s outcasts: The four players Mikel Arteta doesn’t trust

Robin Bairner
Robin Bairner
  • 20 Apr 2024 09:20 BST
  • 4 min read
Mikel Arteta, Emile Smith Rowe, 2023/24

Arsenal’s exit from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich this week has brought about a good deal of soul searching at the Emirates Stadium.

With the 1-0 loss in Germany coming off the back of a loss to Aston Villa in the Premier League, the Gunners have seen their title hopes battered in the same week as their European dreams ended.

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The postmortem has been significant.

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In particular, the depth of Arsenal’s squad has been studied. The general consensus is that manager Mikel Arteta relies too heavily on too small a group of players. Looking at the comparative playing time between the Gunners and Bayern would appear to back this theory up.

This equally leads to the conclusion that there are players in the Arsenal squad that Arteta does not trust to be at the level he expects. After all, it is not a shortage of numbers that is preventing him rotating, it is a perceived lack of quality.

So who are the players who are appearing regularly on the Gunners’ bench but not getting game time?

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Arteta: lacks squad depth at Arsenal
© IMAGO - Arteta: lacks squad depth at Arsenal

The Arsenal outcasts

There are four outfield players in the Arsenal squad who have appeared 35 times or more in the matchday squad but have less than 1,500 minutes of pitch time across all competitions this season.

Foremost among these is Jakub Kiwior, who has appeared in the squad for every match this season yet has typically accumulated minutes in games that Arteta has dismissed in importance – the League Cup or the dead rubber in the Champions League against PSV.

He profited in February from Oleksandr Zinchenko’s injury problems to pick up some significant minutes and did appear to win points from his manager in that period.

Next comes Eddie Nketiah, whose plight is well known. The Hale End graduate appears to be used reluctantly by Arteta at centre-forward. Although he netted a hat-trick in a rare start against Sheffield United in October, he was dropped following the subsequent loss against Newcastle and has barely been seen in Premier League action since.

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Squad appearancesPitch appearancesTotal minutesMins per squad appearance
Jakub Kiwior4627149632.5
Eddie Nketiah4537139230.9
Reiss Nelson422363915.2
Emile Smith Rowe361845312.6

Reiss Nelson sees even less action than Nketiah, despite having made the squad for all but four games in all competitions. He has played only 255 Premier League minutes, despite being a regular bench option.

Finally, there is Emile Smith Rowe, who makes up a triumvirate of academy products that Arteta seems to want to see the back of. The 23-year-old has only played 453 minutes across all competitions as he has been puzzlingly locked out of the team.

While Kiwior has the opportunity to change Arteta’s mind, it appears the fate of Arsenal’s three graduates is sealed.

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