A Gunners legend admitted that the Spain head coach was “under massive pressure” after another damaging domestic loss to Manchester City.
Mikel Arteta “is making some really unusual decisions,” according to Martin Keown, who says the Arsenal boss can no longer afford to make any more mistakes as the new year approaches.
Arsenal’s miserable start to the 2020-21 campaign continued as they were beaten 4-1 by Manchester City in the League Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday night.
Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte grabbed the visitors’ goals, while Alexandre Lacazette scored what was nothing more than a consolation goal for the hosts, who have now lost five of their last eight matches in all competitions.
Alex Runarsson received a rare start for the Gunners after being signed to replace former replacement goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in the summer transfer window, but the 25-year-old had a night to forget as he gave City two of its goals with basic errors.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Martinelli was named to Arteta’s starting XI for the first time since recovering from knee surgery, and he received another blow shortly before half-time after colliding with the Blues scorer Zack Steffen.
The Arsenal boss decided not to replace the Brazilian at the break, but limped early in the second period, leaving Keown puzzled.
A member of the legendary 2003-04 Invincibles team expressed his belief that Arteta needed guidance on the sideline after another national disaster. talkSPORT: “It turned into a crisis and the manager joined in some really unusual decisions.
“He played the young child [Runarsson] last night nobody likes to see this [the mistakes], but I don’t think his performance came as a surprise.
“If Leno gets injured, having allowed Martinez to leave, they’ve left themselves open from a goalkeeper perspective.
“Keep it simple! Martinez was exceptional last season.
“He looks at the decisions in the key moments, Partey comes back after a few days of training and now he’s been out for months.
“The base of support around the manager must help him in every decision.
“I was screaming on TV last night – Martinelli, a fantastic talent, injured down for five minutes before halftime.
“Don’t bring him back, please don’t bring him out… he pops out and lasts about two minutes.” Make the right decisions!
“He’s under tremendous pressure right now.”
Keown added, “People are asking for Emile Smith-Rowe and all these kids, but you can’t just throw them in this situation.
“Some guys don’t get opportunities early enough and then all of a sudden we put Runarsson on the team when he’s not ready.
“It has to be up to the manager. You really can’t go wrong from here on out. With the January transfer window coming, there can be no more errors.
“They paid £ 25m for William Saliba and he doesn’t have a team number, Nicolas Pepe is walking around like he’s not interested, Willian is on vacation.
“You have to choose senior players that you can rely on and tie young children to that, with players they can develop the right habits. [from].
“Right now the club feels like it’s in free fall.”
Arsenal will now be eyeing a vital encounter with Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium this weekend, where they will aim to stop a seven-game losing streak in the Premier League.
Keown worries that tension will build up behind the scenes at his former club with each passing game, with Arteta seen as losing his players’ trust.
“You wonder how toxic the dressing room is when there is a growing group of players who are not participating and not sitting around,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say they would chuckle, but there is an undercurrent, surely there must be.”