Mikel Arteta defended his decision to make only one substitution during last night’s frustrating Premier League stalemate against Newcastle.
The Gunners surrendered their 100% home record after Eddie Howe’s supremely well drilled side left the Emirates Stadium with a highly creditable point that strengthened their own top four credentials.
A failure to score for the first time this season, meanwhile, shone a fresh spotlight on Arteta’s lack of back-up attacking options on the bench and highlighted the north London club’s need to spend in January.
Arteta made only one substitution against Newcastle, bringing on Takehiro Tomiyasu for an exhausted Ben White midway through the second half but persisted with a forward line that struggled to create clear cut chances against the league’s meanest defence.
Summer signing Fabio Vieira has shown flashes of potential since his £34million from Porto, but was again an unused substitute, as he was at Brighton on New Year’s Eve, which led Gary Neville to question his worth to his manager.
He told Sky Sports: ‘Fabio Vieira cost £34million. Mikel obviously thought he would’ve weakened the side by bringing him on.
‘They do rely on the perfect pass and the thread, they haven’t got full-backs that deliver really good crosses, they haven’t got a midfield player that switches play or plays De Bruyne-style crosses.
‘They’re always relying on the short bits of play around the box, which Newcastle to be fair defended so well and so resiliently and so compactly, made it so difficult for them, and they didn’t have another plan off the bench.’
Arsenal did come close to snatching a victory late on when Eddie Nketiah wriggled free and forced a smart stop from Nick Pope and Arteta felt with momentum building another changed would have disrupted his side.
Asked why he made only one chance over the course of a testing 90 minutes, the Arsenal manager said: Listen, we were on top of them, we were chasing the goal. We were in a good moment and I didn’t want to make more changes.’
Arsenal are attempting to reinforce their squad with talks progressing over a deal for Ukraine international Mikhailo Mudryk, while the league leaders also maintain an interest in Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix.
‘I don’t know, it’s a question for Edu and the board to respond,’ said Arteta when asked for a progress report on Arsenal’s transfer business.
‘We are trying to improve the squad in every window. This is no different, we will do our best because we cannot waste any window with the squad numbers that we have so we shall try.’
For more stories like this, check our sport page.