Per Mertesacker has admitted Arsenal’s Carabao Cup clash with Doncaster Rovers on Wednesday night was “difficult”.

The club captain played 90 minutes as Arsenal just about overcame League 1 Doncaster to reach the fourth round of the Carabao Cup. Mertesacker had to do more defending that he would have expected, as Arsenal failed to kill of the game despite taking a first half lead thanks to Theo Walcott.

What should have been a walkover was anything but, something that Mertesacker has acknowledged. “It was tough from the first to the last minute,” Mertesacker told Arsenal Player. “The longer the game was, the harder it got for us to keep control of the ball, to keep control of the game. It was difficult today. We got through and we’re going to build on that.

“I think it was a good test for us to see that you cannot give five per cent less in such a game against lower-league teams. They did really well and their forwards, especially in the second half, had the physique to withstand 90 minutes plus.

“It’s a good test for us and those who didn’t feature in the Premier League last time had a go tonight. It’s important that we get game time, that we get extra fitness. Only with these games can you get that extra shape that you need to compete for places in the Premier League.

“It was important to win, but we obviously need to improve and move the ball quicker at times.” Arsenal have a big squad and will be using competitions such as the Europa League and Carabao Cup to give run-outs to fringe players and youngsters, I believe.

With players searching for fitness and form, Arsenal’s performances in those competitions can often look disjointed, I’ve always felt. As far as the Carabao Cup is concerned, giving players like Mertesacker, Holding, Chambers, and Wilshere first team minutes is more important than progressing through the tournament and winning it, in my opinion.

Nonetheless, a better performance against Doncaster was expected. They will have to be sharper when they come up against Championship side Norwich in the fourth round, as the Canaries may not as forgiving as Doncaster were.