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'This is normality': Gary Neville says some Arsenal fans are unfairly criticising 2018 Emery signing

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Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has jumped into the defence of Arsenal star Bernd Leno after some fans and pundits blamed him for the goal Burnley scored on Saturday.

The former Bayer Leverkusen man played out from the back as we always do. He passed the ball to Granit Xhaka whose attempted pass to David Luiz deflected off Chris Wood and found the back of the net.

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Xhaka’s execution was clearly wrong but many felt that Leno should’ve never passed the ball to him. The Swiss international was being pressurised by multiple Burnley players and if our goalkeeper had just booted the ball long, none of this would’ve happened.

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Some of the criticism did make sense but if Xhaka had executed the pass as he usually would, Leno wouldn’t have been questioned. Neville backed the German claiming that he only did what his manager asked him to do.

He said on The Gary Neville podcast: “I think ultimately goalkeepers play better than some outfield players would have done 20 years ago. The game has changed and it should change. We should welcome these changes. Gone are the days now where I sit on Monday Night Football and would criticise Xhaka.

“I would criticise him for the execution, but not for the principle. For me what we are seeing is that this is normality – that players are going to play out from their own box, but the execution was wrong.

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“The idea that he was given a bad pass by his goalkeeper, I don’t go along with that. That pass was expected to be given, they’re coached to give that pass there. Xhaka just gets it wrong.”

Arsenal Insider’s view:

Neville is spot on.

Leno has executed the same pass over 100 times this season and rarely has it ever caused any problem. Xhaka has moved the ball along properly every one of those times as well, but sadly, Saturday wasn’t his day.

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Blaming Leno for the goal or for playing out from the back makes no sense whatsoever.

Leno will continue playing out from the back and Arsenal will be put under pressure by more teams in the coming months. Nothing anyone says will convince Arteta to change that as it is the right way to play.

The German, signed by Unai Emery in 2018, has been Arsenal’s hero on multiple occasions. He has saved us time and again and there is no doubt that he is one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League. Arteta is certainly glad to have him at his disposal and so should everyone else.

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