has revealed he opted to try out Delcan Rice at centre-half against PSV Eindhoven ‘in case something happens’ with his regular options at the heart of ’s defence.
With the Gunners already qualified for the knockout stages of the , Arteta made eight changes to his side for the final group game away to PSV.
, Gabriel Magalhães and Kai Havertz were the only players to keep their place in the side with Eddie Nketiah on the score sheet in a 1-1 draw in Eindhoven.
Arteta made changes just after the hour mark with Rice and Ben White coming in for Cedric Soares and Saliba with the club’s record signing seeing out the game in defence.
Jakub Kiwior, Arsenal’s other available centre-half, played the full 90 minutes at left-back but with Jurrien Timber still a long-term absentee, Arteta explained post-match he wanted to try out Rice in a centre-half role should something happen to one of his first-choice options during the busy festive period.
He said in his post-match press conference when asked about Rice: ‘We are very short at the back, I really wanted to try when something happens, how we are going to resolve that situation and I think it was really good.
He added: ‘He’s played there before and we have to try in case of an emergency.
‘I will have to make sure that we can fill the gap in the right way.’
Saliba has been virtually ever-present in the Arsenal starting XI this season, playing every minute in the Premier League and Champions League up until his early withdrawal tonight.
Gabriel found himself out of the side at the start of the season but from September has started and completed all but one of their league games, also ever-present in the Champions League.
Arsenal resume league action against Brighton on Sunday.
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