Mikel Arteta says he is worried about player burnout amid a frantic season for Arsenal which has given very little time to rest between matches.
The 2020-21 campaign has not gone as smoothly as Arsenal fans might have hoped after seeing Arteta deliver the FA Cup and Community Shield last summer.
The Gunners have slipped to 11th in the Premier League standings after 18 fixtures, ten points behind fourth-placed Liverpool and 13 adrift of current leaders Manchester United.
The north London outfit can close that gap if they beat Newcastle at Emirates Stadium on Monday, but Arteta could be without two key players for that pivotal encounter.
Keiran Tierney and Pablo Mari both missed Arsenal's 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace last time out due to calf injuries, with the former only just returning to training and the latter still in the early stages of his recovery.
Gabriel Martinelli is available for selection again after bouncing back from an ankle sprain, but Arteta is expecting fitness issues to continue plaguing his side as the campaign progresses.
Asked if his players are at risk of exhaustion due to this season's congested schedule, the Spanish head coach told his pre-match press conference: "Yes. We have been trying to manage it, but the reality is that the fixtures are what they are and we didn't have a pre-season, which is why - and we've talked about it many, many times - one of the reasons we wanted the five subs.
"It was exactly that, but this is just the consequences and this will happen more and more, I think, and to more clubs."
Arteta added on whether he could make wholesale changes to his side, who have won four of their last five domestic games, when Newcastle arrive at the Emirates: "Yes, but when you are winning, you want to be in the team.
"When someone is doing well then you don't want to take him out because you get asked: 'why are you taking him out?'
"The players also want to continue to play because they can't see the bigger picture but it's our responsibility to protect them.
"We could have taken a big risk with Kieran against Palace and it wasn't the right one to take because we could have exposed him big time."
After their latest Premier League clash, Arsenal will start preparing for a fourth-round FA Cup tie against either Southampton or Shrewsbury on January 23.