Monday Night Football pundit highlights the Gunners' soft-centred midfield as area for improvement
Tuesday 23 December 2014 19:25, UK
Liverpool and Arsenal can forget about challenging for major silverware until they learn how to stop the opposition playing, according to Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville.
The two teams played out a 2-2 draw on Merseyside in the Premier League on Sunday as Martin Skrtel rescued a point for the hosts in the dying seconds after goals from Gunners duo Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud had cancelled out Philippe Coutinho's opener.
Brendan Rodgers believed his side performed better at the weekend than they had in their 5-1 victory over the Gunners at Anfield last February.
Speaking on the Monday Night Football, however, Neville argued neither side could be encouraged by a game riddled with mistakes and lacking the real intensity once associated with 'big' Premier League games.
The make-up of these two teams is wrong. If we're talking about these two teams going up and challenging for Champions League titles and championships, it's not going to happen. They're a long way away.
"People talk about encouragement for Liverpool but it depends what you’re encouraged by. I was not encouraged by yesterday’s game," Neville said.
"The make-up of these two teams is wrong. If we're talking about these two teams going up and challenging for Champions League titles and championships, it’s not going to happen. They're a long way away.
"We’ve danced around the issue that it's encouraging that both teams play decent football but neither understand how to stop goals going into the back of their own net. They do not understand how to defend their box and they do not understand how to stop people playing - and that is a massive problem.
"So the idea that these teams are playing nice football needs to be forgotten. It's a given that teams play nice football, that's what top teams should do, but they also have to stop the opposition playing at the other end and they're not doing that.
"Arsenal were tactically all over the place on Sunday and in the big matches, teams slice through their midfield like a knife through butter. They have too many technical players who don't have bite.
"For as much as Liverpool outplayed them yesterday, Arsenal were terrible in midfield from a competitive point of view, and from stopping the opposition playing."
Neville singled out the performance of Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini in Sunday's game at Anfield, with the Sky Sports pundit arguing the Frenchman concentrated more on his team-mates' performance than his own duties on the pitch.
But the former England defender was more concerned with the nature of the 'big' games he has witnessed in recent months in the Premier League.
"Flamini throughout the game was a commentator, pointing and shouting at everybody," Neville added.
"He looks to do every other person's job for them but the one job he's there to do, stopping the ball getting played into midfield, he failed to do regularly. I don't think he's got the quality to look after everybody else's job and look after his own as well.
"Flamini neither screens nor presses. Top midfield players screen well and press well. No one appears to be listening to Flamini. I don't see anybody reacting to what he's saying.
"I left Anfield on Sunday immensely disappointed, as I have with many of the big games this season, because there isn't the intensity or the willingness to stop the opposition playing.
"I feel like we're being brainwashed into thinking teams have got to be either technical or horrible to play against. The best teams in the world are horrible to play against. You're not going to win the league or Champions League just by having technical players; you have to have a team of balance."