Gary Neville: Arsenal defence cannot be trusted
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Last Updated: 25/06/20 8:15pm
Gary Neville believes it will be impossible for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta to solve the club's problems without a complete defensive overhaul.
Arsenal followed up their 3-0 defeat at Manchester City on the opening day of the Premier League's restart with a last-gasp 2-1 loss at relegation-threatened Brighton on Saturday.
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It was a huge blow to the north London club's chances of securing European football next season, and Neville, speaking on the Gary Neville podcast, insists there will be no improvement from the Gunners without new defenders.
"You just can't trust Arsenal, you haven't been able to for years," he told the Gary Neville Podcast.
"We've all said it. Mikel Arteta - we should still say that the shape Arsenal are playing, the shape they have defensively I think is better than it was previously but the individuals within that will let you down.
"It doesn't matter how well you coach the shape, if you get exposed one on one or defenders make mistakes - as we saw in that game against Manchester City and against Brighton - then you're just going to get punished.
"They just need defenders with better concentration. Jamie (Carragher) mentioned about Dejan Lovren being emotional.
"Sir Alex Ferguson - there were elements of me that were emotional sometimes as a player and he would knock it right out of me. He said I hate emotional defenders. He wants his defenders to be ice cold.
"You are going to make mistakes as a goalkeeper and a defender, but then it's that second mistake," he added.
"It's that one where you try and win it back and you give that penalty away. It's where you try and win it and you can't win it.
"It's about just dropping your ego sometimes as a defender and delaying helps because your team-mates sometimes come back. You get too many defenders who try to win the first ball, who try and dive in, and we've seen that with Arsenal's defenders over the years.
"David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, when he plays. They dive in, they like to challenge when it is not there to challenge.
"They feel they have to win the ball and sometimes it's not there to win."
Arteta's response to Neville
Speaking at his press conference ahead of the Southampton game, Arteta said: "At the moment, we cannot do anything. At the moment we are playing with the players we have. My job is to make them as good as possible. They are players that have kept a lot of clean sheets under me, they’ve been undefeated for 12 games and they’ve done really, really well. So, I don’t like to judge players when they lose but I know overall where can we strengthen the team but as well that we have some players that very valuable. They have been performing under me really, really well and I trust them."
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Arteta saw his players react angrily after goalkeeper Bernd Leno appeared to suffer a serious knee injury, landing awkwardly under close attention from Brighton match-winner Neal Maupay. Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi could face action from the Football Association after putting his hands around the throat of Maupay at the full-time whistle, with the striker saying Arsenal need to "learn humility" after the game.
While Arteta disagreed with Maupay's assessment, he did admit showing more restraint may be necessary.
"When we show frustration we have to show it in the right way," he said.
"I haven't seen the images [of Guendouzi] or what happened, but we will talk about it if that is the case. Emotionally, we have to control the situations much better."
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Sky Sports journalist Gerard Brand, speaking on the Premier League Weekend Review Podcast:
"It's like football never really went away - we're still talking about Arsenal's defensive frailties. Arteta has undoubtedly tried to shore things up, but their expected goals against is about the same as when Unai Emery was in charge.
"In all competitions, it was 1.41 xGA under Emery and now it's 1.38 xGA under Arteta - and in the Premier League, it's actually worse for Arteta. That's just expected goals - they are conceding less under Arteta, but there are still huge problems there.
"I do think game management has a lot to do with it. Arsenal seem to get caught as they chase a second goal to kill the game, or when it's level late on and they're pushing for a winner like on Saturday against Brighton.
"You have to look at the defence as a unit, including the midfield, and they simply allow too many gaps in the middle of the park when they're caught on the ball high and their defence doesn't think them for that. Their defence is bang average. Sokratis, Mustafi, David Luiz... these are not top-six defenders anymore and replacing them is going to be really difficult.
"Arsenal's recruitment team have one of the toughest jobs in football. In the summer, it's going to be really hard for them."
'Culture shift needed at Arsenal'
"I don't see them challenging for a European spot," Brand added.
"A personnel shift is needed at Arsenal of course, but equally as important is that a culture shift is needed. My fear for Arsenal is how they perform away from home and against big teams.
"They've won just one of their last 14 away league games, and their record against big-six sides away is shocking. When they last won a game against a big six side in January 2015 at Man City, Erling Haaland was 14 years old, David Cameron was the Prime Minister, Raheem Sterling played for Liverpool and Jose Mourinho was in charge of Chelsea.
"March feels like years ago, but that feels like decades ago. Arsenal and Arsenal fans must realise that this isn't Arsenal as you know it. This isn't an Arsenal who can play their football wherever they go, home and away, against any opposition and go toe-to-toe.
"That was built on an unbelievable defence and a midfield that had selfless, strong players. But that culture of expansive football still seems to be stuck on them.
"This could be a quote from any year dating back to 2010, but the sooner that changes the better, and Arteta will know that."
Watch Southampton vs Arsenal live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football from 5.30pm on Thursday; Kick-off 6pm.