Gary Neville’s ‘uncoachable’ Arsenal blast remains a problem for Mikel Arteta two years later

Rob Holding’s red card proved costly for Arsenal in the Tottenham defeat and was a well-known reminder of Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville’s defense of former boss Unai Emery

Gary Neville has criticized Arsenal's defense in recent years
Gary Neville has criticized Arsenal’s defense in recent years

Mikel Arteta has a defensive headache as Arsenal struggle desperately to keep their Champions League dream alive.

Still masters of their own fate when it comes to a top-four finish, the Gunners know two wins over Newcastle United and Everton will seal their place. However, a humiliating 3-0 defeat at rivals Tottenham has changed the face of the battle for Champions League football next season.

Arteta declined to comment on referee Paul Tierney’s performance on Thursday night, insisting he would be “banned for six months” if he spoke his mind. Tottenham were awarded a penalty for the opening goal after Cedric Soares collided with Son Heung-min and the visitors were reduced to 10 men minutes later when Rob Holding received a yellow card after a series of fouls.

The Arsenal boss shielded his players from criticism but Holding’s sacking was the 15th of his tenure since his appointment in December 2019. All too often, the Gunners’ efforts have been undermined by a lack of discipline and costly defensive mistakes.

Arsenal are already five points better than eighth place last season and could prove hugely successful should Arteta’s young guns qualify for next season’s Champions League. However, the errors and final dismissal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium were painful reminders of the problems that have plagued the Gunners since Arsene Wenger’s departure.

Unai Emery was sacked after just 18 months in the hot seat in November 2019 following Arsenal’s worst form since 1992. A Europa League defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt sealed the fate of the current Villarreal manager, but he was defended amid widespread criticism from Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville.

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Mikel Arteta refused to criticize his side after Arsenal’s difficult defeat at Tottenham

The former Manchester United full-back believed the problems lay with recruitment and the club’s squad rather than Emery. At the time, Neville told Sky Sports News: “Let’s get this straight, these defenders are not trainable.

“I don’t know who has been responsible for recruiting at Arsenal for the last two or three years but if I were in the boardroom I’d give that bunch a proper rocket after seeing some of the wreckage.

“There’s no way Unai Emery is asking David Luiz to get up two or three times to play offside or some of those vile things you see from other defenders and midfielders. You’re thinking about Xhaka the other day. Emery is a man of honor and man sees his behavior, that’s something much deeper than the coach.

“He may be sailing across the English Channel this afternoon and is very happy to be leaving behind a quite simply very average group of players. The coach will ultimately take the fall but some of the things we saw on the pitch were fantasy football

“Without a doubt they let him down. Recruitment was really pathetic. You couldn’t find a more unpredictable group of players in terms of defense to watch. If you were to say, ‘Go out there and find those three. ‘ or ‘The four most unpredictable defenders in Europe’, it seems, was the default. Some of the players aren’t up to it, they don’t have the quality for Arsenal’s level.”

The staff may have changed with Arteta overseeing an injection of youngsters, but the manner of Thursday night’s defeat was all too familiar to Arsenal supporters. It could prove to be just a blip, but the Gunners will have to regret the recent collapse should Tottenham ultimately skip them to the Champions League.

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