Mikel Arteta says his Arsenal players would have to be “very arrogant” to turn their noses up at the Carabao Cup, even if he knows that some fans would happily see the competition sacrificed to boost the club’s title hopes.
Arsenal travel to West Ham on Wednesday night in the fourth round of a competition that they have not won in 30 years.
By this stage last season, the Gunners were already out having been beaten in the third round by Brighton, but with their side at that stage top of the Premier League, few supporters lost much sleep over the defeat.
Unlike last term, Arsenal are also juggling Champions League football alongside their title aspirations this season and Arteta concedes that the least prestigious of the four major honours up for grabs will not be top of most fans’ wish lists.
“I don’t know if we can convince them,” Arteta said. “If you ask about what the priority would be, it wouldn’t be the Carabao Cup for sure.
“For us it’s more internally how we use it. The amount of work we put in ourselves and how we approach every single game playing for Arsenal Football Club. You cannot approach it in any different way because that’s not respecting the game.”
“I don’t think the players think like that,” he added, when asked whether players, too, saw the benefit that an early exit could have in decongesting the fixture list.
“I think they get really upset when they lose. After you are out you try to look at the bigger picture and say, ‘ Ok, now we’re going to use it in a different way.’ But if you ask someone what they want to do tomorrow, for sure they want to win the game.”
Despite his desire to be reunited with a trophy that Manchester City routinely won during his time on Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff, Arteta is likely to rotate his squad for the trip to the London Stadium, with a vital league meeting with Newcastle to come at the weekend.
Nonetheless, the Spaniard insists his players, many of whom are yet to lift major silverware with the club, cannot afford to view the Carabao Cup with anything less than full respect.
"I don’t think I have three World Cup winners in the squad that can think like this about the Carabao Cup,” he said. “I might be wrong, but I don’t think anyone can think like that. I think that would be very, very arrogant."