A Gunners legend has admitted that the Spanish head coach is “under massive pressure” after another damaging domestic defeat against Manchester City
Mikel Arteta is “making really unusual decisions”, according to Martin Keown, who says the Arsenal boss cannot afford to make any more mistakes heading into the new year.
Arsenal’s miserable start to the 2020-21 campaign continued as they were beaten 4-1 by Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the League Cup on Tuesday night.
Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte grabbed the goals for the visitors, while Alexandre Lacazette scored what amounted to nothing more than a consolation goal for the hosts, who have now lost five of their last eight games in all competitions.
Alex Runarsson was handed a rare start for the Gunners after being signed to replace former backup goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in the summer transfer window, but the 25-year-old had a night to forget as he gifted City two of their goals with basic errors.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Martinelli was named in Arteta’s starting XI for the first time since recovering from knee surgery, and he picked up another knock shortly before half-time after colliding with Blues shot-stopper Zack Steffen.
The Arsenal boss decided against substituting the Brazilian at the break, only for him to limp off in the early stages of the second period, leaving Keown perplexed.
A member of the fabled 2003-04 Invincibles squad has expressed his belief that Arteta needs advising on the touchline after another domestic disaster, telling talkSPORT: “It’s turned into a crisis and the manager has joined in with really unusual decisions.
“He played the young kid [Runarsson] last night, no-one likes to see that [the mistakes], but I don’t believe his performance was a surprise.
“If Leno gets injured, having allowed Martinez to leave, they’ve left themselves wide open from the goalkeeping point of view.
“Just keep it simple! Martinez was outstanding last season.
“It’s looking at decisions in key moments, Partey coming back after a few days’ training and now he’s out for months.
“The support base around the manager has got to help him when it comes to every single decision.
“I was screaming at the telly last night – Martinelli, a fantastic talent, down injured for five minutes before half-time.
“Don’t bring him back out, please don’t bring him out… he comes back out and lasts about two minutes. Make the right decisions!
“He’s under massive pressure at the moment.”
Keown added: “People are calling for Emile Smith-Rowe and all these youngsters, but you can’t just throw them into this situation.
“Some of the guys are not getting opportunities early enough, then all of a sudden we put Runarsson into the team when he’s not ready.
“That has to come down to the manager. You really can’t get anything wrong from now on in. With the January transfer window coming up, there can be no more mistakes.
“They paid £25m for William Saliba and he doesn’t have a squad number, Nicolas Pepe is wandering around like he’s not interested, Willian is on holiday.
“You have to pick senior players you can rely upon and bolt young kids onto that, with players they can pick up the right habits [from].
“At the moment, the club feels like it’s in free fall.”
Arsenal will now look ahead to a vital encounter with Chelsea at Emirates Stadium at the weekend, where they will be aiming to halt a seven-match winless run in the Premier League.
Keown is worried that tension is building behind the scenes at his old club with each passing game, with Arteta considered to be losing the faith of his players.
“You wonder how toxic the dressing room is when there’s a growing group of players who don’t take part and sit in the corner,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say they’d be sniggering, but there is an undercurrent, surely there must be.”