Arsenal icons Martin Keown and Freddie Ljungberg had their say on Mikel Arteta sticking with Granit Xhaka at left-back against Villarreal last night.
The Swiss international has been filling in for the injured Kieran Tierney, and to be fair to him, he has been solid. However, Xhaka had his work cut out for him last night as Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze exploited his lack of pace.
Arteta received a lot of stick from Arsenal fans for his decision to continue with Xhaka. Keown and Ljungberg pointed the finger at the Arsenal boss as well, with the latter claiming that the Swiss international was scared to challenge the rapid Villarreal winger.
Keown said on BT Sport during their coverage of the game: “He’s pointing to Ceballos to get in front of him. It looks like the action of a player who is not comfortable in that position and the manager has put him there.
“So it’s about the decisions of the manager, it’s not Xhaka’s fault. I do believe he’s the most improved player we have. But to play him at left-back leaves him exposed for me.”
Ljungberg added: “That’s what I wanted to say.
“We know Granit’s weaknesses, he’s a fantastic player with the ball and his left foot is very good but he’s slow. So one against one that’s why he drops all the time, he doesn’t dare to come up because he’s scared to get done. You can’t blame him too much though.”
The Insider’s View:
It’s easy for people to point the finger at Arteta now, but almost every Arsenal fan would’ve gone with Xhaka at left-back last night after how well he had performed there in the last few games. Sadly, it didn’t work yesterday.
The good thing now is that Tierney will likely be back for the return leg next week. That will solve the problem Arteta has at left-back, and more importantly, Xhaka can return to his preferred central midfield role.
That will make Arsenal a much more balanced side. Xhaka dominating the game from the middle of the park combined with Tierney’s immense quality up and down the left flank will make us a very dangerous side.
Hopefully, that will be enough for Arsenal to make a comeback and knock Unai Emery and his boys out of the competition.