Mikel Arteta admits he took a risk making nine changes for the FA Cup win at Portsmouth but claims he was left with no choice as some of his players were struggling to recover from their shock Europa League exit.
The Gunners secured safe passage into the quarter-finals following a 2-0 win at Fratton Park as Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Eddie Nketiah provided the goals.
It was a good response from Arteta’s side, who dropped out of Europe following a last-gasp defeat to Olympiacos on Thursday.
While the Spaniard conceded making wholesale alterations put Arsenal’s only chance of silverware this season in jeopardy, he believed he was left with no alternative as only David Luiz and Bukayo Saka retained their places on the south coast.
“They fully deserve the chance and I know it is risky to play them in this competition but they are worth a risk,” the Arsenal boss said of the players who came into his side.
“I assessed the team and physically some of them were knackered, some of them had issues, some of them mentally were hanging on what happened that day.
“So I tried to pick the right team knowing how they were and I made the most of it. If you win, it is okay but if we had lost obviously it would have been the wrong decision.
“The energy, the focus and the willingness and desire to play in this competition is really important.”
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One sour note for Arsenal came when midfielder Lucas Torreira was taken off injured on a stretcher just 17 minutes into the game.
The Uruguay international left Fratton Park on crutches with Arteta adding: “He was in a lot of pain, he is in a brace at the moment.
“He will be assessed in the next few days and we will know more. I don’t know if it’s the bone or ligaments, we don’t know yet.”
Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett was proud of his players but, after a strong start, felt their Premier League opponents were worthy of their place in the next round.
“I felt that we put quite a lot of pressure on them in the first half of the game,” he said.
“We needed one of those moments to go for us but fair play to them, they got the blocks and we couldn’t make those moments tell.
“I’m disappointed with the first goal and the timing of it, we really needed to go in at half-time 0-0 and build it up for the second half.
“Fair play to my players, they never gave up and didn’t buckle – Arsenal have deserved to win the game but we are proud of what we have done in the competition and are still doing well in the league.”