London, September 24: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta suggested that it will be difficult for Mesut Ozil to force his way into an "evolving" Gunners side.
Ozil's contract expires at the end of the season and the 31-year-old's future has been the subject of intense speculation following his refusal to take a pay cut amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Arsenal's squad initially declined to take a 12.5 per cent wage reduction for 12 months but after Arteta reportedly intervened, the players - bar Ozil - agreed to accept the club's proposal.
Ozil stated he did not agree to the pay cut as he felt the club forced the players into making a snap judgement.
The former Germany international has not featured for the first team since the Premier League game with West Ham on March 7, and was again absent as Arsenal booked their spot in the EFL Cup fourth round with a 2-0 win over Leicester City on Wednesday.
Arteta batted away a string of questions regarding Ozil's future from journalists after the game, but the Spaniard did suggest he is likely to find it difficult to force his way into Arsenal's starting XI.
"The team is evolving; you can see the level they are achieving," he told a news conference. "This is where we are at the moment. We want to evolve more and play better and compete better.
"I'm really happy with the performance here, how difficult they're making things for the coaching staff to select the squad.
"You can see that the players we are changing, we are using, it's very difficult every week, not just for Mesut but for some other players as well, to make the squad. Every week we try to pick the right players.
"It's difficult for others as well that aren't involved in the Premier League and didn't play tonight either. We have a squad of 26, 27 players at the moment and we can't give playing time to all of them.
"I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition."
Arteta made seven changes to the side that beat West Ham in the Premier League at the weekend, with an own goal from Christian Fuchs and a late second from Eddie Nketiah sealing the win.
Arsenal were good value for their victory and Arteta said he was pleased with his team's approach to what could have been a tricky fixture.
"I'm really happy with the performance; first of all the attitude and the way we approached the game mentally," he added.
"The senior players took the lead straight away and I could see that they came here to win the game and after we're so happy with all our young players, the way they're developing and the way they played."