Mikel Arteta tells his frustrated bench players to ‘change history’ as Arsenal eye stunning Double to end the season

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MIKEL ARTETA has told his frustrated bench players: You can make Arsenal history.

The Gunners have the chance to briefly leapfrog Liverpool back to the Premier League summit on Wednesday with a win over relegation-battling Luton at the Emirates.

GettyMikel Arteta has urged his substitutes to influence their hunt for trophies[/caption]

GettyArteta uses Reiss Nelson as an example after his injury time winner last season[/caption]

Barring Dutch full-back Jurrien Timber, Arteta nearly has a fully fit squad to choose from for the season run-in, competing in the Prem and the Champions League.

During Sunday’s goalless draw at the Etihad against Manchester City, Arteta had the luxury of bringing on Thomas Partey, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli and Takehiro Tomiyasu.

Emile Smith Rowe, Fabio Vieira, Eddie Nketiah and Oleksandr Zinchenko were unused, having struggled recently for game time, while Reiss Nelson did not even make the squad.

With nine Prem games remaining and potentially five more in Europe should they reach the Champions League final on June 1, Arteta will have to rotate to keep his starters fresh.

And the Spaniard has urged his fringe stars to stay physically to be ready to influence the North London club’s hunt for silverware.

Considering several changes against the Hatters, Arteta explained: “It’s always that balance, but their obligation and duty is to be prepared to play any minute in any moment.

“Look at the example of Reiss. His best moment for Arsenal [scoring in injury time to beat Bournemouth last season], it’s a moment where he played a few minutes and made a huge impact and it’s one of the best days in his life as an Arsenal player.

“Nobody remembers if he started or if it was off the bench. There are a lot of examples in world sport where players made the impact.

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“Sometimes you just need a second to change the history of a football club. You don’t need 100 minutes to play football.

“It’s easy to see that it’s a fact. It’s not something that I’m inventing.”

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Damning data means rustiness is likely: Nketiah and Vieira have no Prem starts and a combined total of 124 minutes on the pitch in 2024.

Zinchenko has three starts and 236 minutes of Prem action since the turn of the year, while Smith Rowe has only one start and 112 minutes.

Nelson has no starts and 80 Prem minutes under his belt this calendar year, while Smith Rowe, Vieira and Zinchenko have all had injury issues.

In an ideal world, Arteta admits he would “love” to have 22 elite players who he can constantly rotate.

His old City mentor Pep Guardiola has managed to achieve this in recent seasons, with at least two world class players in each position thanks to their financial power in the transfer market.

Arteta said: “I would love that – to have 22 or 20 instead of 18, where we change and one is better than the other. The week after, the other is better than the other one.

“That raises the level and for sure you would win more games.”

Asked how many transfer windows it would take for Arsenal to do the same, Arteta added: “I don’t know. It depends on how much we have to spend and how good we are at evolving the players we have to get to that level. Obviously the academy is a key thing.”

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Bukayo Saka is expected to start against Luton despite hobbling off with a muscular injury at City, while Gabriel Martinelli should also feature having overcome a foot issue.

Timber, who had ACL surgery back in August, is “not far off”, but Arteta has warned the Holland international will need time with the U23s to get match fit first.

Arteta was also asked about his own future, with just 12 months left on his current deal, but he insisted: “A year is a long time in football. I am really happy. The players are happy, the club is happy, no issues.”

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