MIKEL ARTETA confirmed Declan Rice missed the dramatic pre-season win over Barcelona after suffering a kick in training.
The Arsenal boss was not willing to take a risk on playing his record signing 24 hours after picking up the knock.
And it proved a smart decision as his side got into an intense battle with the Spanish giants.
Asked why £105million man Rice, 24, did not make the matchday squad in Los Angeles, Arteta said: “Dec wasn’t really that comfortable to train and we didn’t want to take a risk.
“Aleksandr Zinchenko also has a little muscular issue and it’s a shame he hasn’t been able to play this whole tour, but I think he will be back soon.”
Bukayo Saka, Kai Havertz, Fabio Vieira and a Leandro Trossard double saw Arsenal to a 5-3 win against Barcelona at the SoFi Stadium.
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Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha had twice put the LaLiga champions ahead in the first half while Ferran Torres threatened to force a penalty shoot-out late on before Vieira completed the scoring.
However, Arteta was not best pleased with his boyhood club Barcelona because of some brutal challenges that left Saka and Trossard lucky to escape serious injury.
The Gunners boss – who hailed Gabriel Jesus' performance – said: “From the very first tackle it got really competitive for a friendly match.
“Playing in front of 70,000 people creates an atmosphere and they are elite players who all want to win.
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“At the end I think it got a bit too much for a friendly but football belongs to the players and as soon as the game starts they’ll rebel against the coaches and do what they want.
“As soon as there’s the first foul of the game they’ll start getting intense but I think the show we put on for all the people who came to watch was really good.”
Barca boss Xavi added: "I said to Mikel at the end that it was like a Champions League game. The intensity they put in was not normal in a friendly.
“I understand that everyone wants to win but you don’t expect to have this many injuries and yellow cards in a game like this.
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“This was our first game of the summer and Arsenal have now played four. They are a very strong team and they were at a very high level of rhythm that we weren’t expecting.”
Arsenal will now head back to England after two wins and a defeat in the USA.
They play Monaco in the Emirates Cup on August 2 before taking on Manchester City in the Community Shield four days later, their final warm-up clash ahead of hosting Nottingham Forest on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
Arteta, though, admitted there is still work to be done in the transfer window to finalise his squad, despite splashing £200m on Rice, Havertz and Jurrien Timber.
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The Spaniard said: “We have 30 players here which is unsustainable. The market is still open and things can happen. We are prepared for that.
“We still have improvements to make in terms of what we want to do in games but I am really happy with the squad at the moment.”
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