Arsenal have a fairly large squad, but the talent in the squad is not very evenly distributed through out the team. With Arsenal in four competitions this season prioritizing matches and maximizing the talent playing the most important matches is one of the biggest jobs of the head coach.
I think that this is something that Unai Emery has really struggled with this season and it will come back to bite Arsenal as he deals with his first Holiday fixture list. You can look at the squad currently and it is already slim at the back with injuries (which may or may not be due to overplaying) and things look even worse.
To get an idea of how bad things have been rotated this year I took a look at Arsenal’s top players and then looked at what percentage of the minutes they played in the Europa League group stage and the League Cup. These were the biggest opportunites to rotate teams and get our main players time off to save them as Arsenal fought for a top four spot.
I have determined that the main players I am looking at are Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis, Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac, Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. That is the main 14 outfield players for the first team this season.
In the Europa League these players have played a total of 2876 minutes out of 5400 total minutes for the group stages. That is a total of 53% of the total minutes going to important first time players.
In defense Emery gave 1145 minutes to Mustafi, Sokratis, Holding, Monreal, and Kolasinac out of a total 1620 minutes (540 minutes for LB, 1080 for CB) which was 71% of the total minutes. With how few defenders Arsenal have in their first team this seems really high.
In the League Cup, which is without dispute the lowest priority he has given first team players 1609 minutes in three matches. This is the competition that for so long has been the place that Arsenal’s youth were given their chance to play but this season 54% of the minutes went to established first team players.
This isn’t even just the Tottenham match skewing things. In the first match against Brentford 572 of the 900 outfield minutes went to first team players. In the second match against Blackpool 387 of the 900 outfield minutes went to first team players.
One of the hardest adjustments for new foreign managers is the sheer number of matches that a team has to play in December. I’d venture an opinion that Emery is falling into this trap and has failed to properly prepare in the matches that Arsenal had before this period.