Mikel Arteta admitted he took a risk by making nine changes for Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Portsmouth in the FA Cup fifth round but insisted he had no choice because some of his stars were still shell-shocked after their Europa League exit.
Arteta’s side reached the FA Cup quarter-finals thanks to goals from Sokratis Papastathopoulos in first-half injury time and Eddie Nketiah six minutes after the break at Fratton Park on Monday.
It was a much-needed boost for Arsenal, who crashed out of the Europe League in a painful last-gasp defeat against Olympiakos on Thursday.
Arteta conceded that fielding such an inexperienced line-up — only David Luiz and Bukayo Saka retained their places — could have put Arsenal’s only chance of silverware this season in jeopardy.
“They fully deserve the chance and I know it is risky to play them in this competition but they are worth a risk,” Arteta said of his young side.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was in tears after missing a costly late chance against Olympiakos, and Mesut Ozil were both absent, while Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe were on the bench.
“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.