“Why is he not playing Martinelli” was tweeted countless times on Saturday.
“Saka on the bench, it’s a disgrace” was another.
Following the starting XI announcement, everyone had an opinion on who was playing, who shouldn’t and who was not in the squad. It is only natural.
This then led to the rumour mill kicking off. “Is Arteta teaching Martinelli a lesson”. This all follows up on Matteo Guendouzi being “dropped” following an alleged incident in Dubai.
The truth is, defence aside, Arsenal have very few injury worries.
Prior to Everton, only Kieran Tierney, Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares were on the walking wounded list.
Of the 26 players to have played in the Premier League for Arsenal this season, 21 were fit and ready to go (2 injured, 3 sold or out on loan). With a match day squad of 18, 3 players were always going to miss out.
Games are coming thick and fast at the moment. We are playing twice a week for the forceable (although we have the weekend off with no game v Man City – although we then play Portsmouth in the FA Cup on Monday).
Arteta needs to rest and rotate. To keep players fresh. To keep them injury free.
Take Bukayo Saka.
Saka is an 18-year-old kid in his first full season of mens football. He had started 6 games in a row for Arteta. It has pretty much been a game every 3 or 4 days for him, winter break aside.
Before Everton, he had played Sunday & Thursday. 90 minutes against both Newcastle and Olympiakos. It was only natural that with Saed Kolasinac returning, Arteta would take the opportunity to Saka a break.
Think of the challenge that injured Kolasinac. Had that happened to Saka, and he be out for the season, many of those moaning that he did not start would then moan that he was being over played.
Arsenal have a lot of very talented youngsters. They can not all play at once. They can not all be in the squad at once.
Up front is a perfect example of this.
We have senior players in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe. These are backed up by Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah.
That is 7 attacking players, all of whom were fit against Everton.
With 3 starting, it would be ludicrous to have 4 on the bench. By the time you pick a goal keeper that leaves just 2 places on the bench left for defenders and central midfielders.
Most teams usually go with 2-2-2 on the bench.
Two defenders (one central, one full back). 2 central midfielders, and two attacking players.
Once Arteta had gone with Nketiah upfront, Lacazette was always going to be on the bench. This left space for one more attacking player on the bench.
With Saka in the squad as left back and left winger, it was a straight choice between Martinelli and Nelson.
On this occasion Arteta went for Nelson.
And you can fully understand the Spaniards thinking by picking Nelson.
Nelson provides something that no one else does. He is a right footed winger who gets chalk on his boots.
Martinelli, meanwhile, creates little and is better suited down the middle. In Aubameyang and Lacazette, Arteta had two other striking options in his squad alongside Nketiah. Nelson simply gives more balance to the match day squad.
Also missing out were Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock, and again it is completely understandable.
The defensive options on the bench against Everton were Sokratis and Saka.
If Bellerin went down injured, Mustafi would shift to right back, and Sokratis would come into the middle (or vice versa). And if Kolasinac got injured, Saka would come on.
That left no space for Maitland-Niles as a defensive option.
Moving into midfield, Arteta went for Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi on the bench. His more senior pair.
Had he gone for Willock or Maitland-Niles, we would have had the same stories as post-Dubai. That Guendouzi had been dropped for attitude problems.
Instead it is Maitland-Niles not in the squad, and rumours circulating about Arteta being unhappy with attitude.
Willock also lost out, with Dani Ceballos starting for his 2nd Premier League game in a row.
Whenever a player is left out, stories will circulate as to why. Usually the simplest answer the truest. That the manager is simply rotating and resting.
Expect more changes for Thursday against Olympiakos, and more again for the FA Cup game against Portsmouth.