Arsenal: Neville slams Arteta decision in defeat to Aston Villa as he rates Gunners’ title chances

Joe Williams
Gary Neville on Arsenal
Gary Neville on Mikel Arteta's decision to start Kai Havertz in midfield.

Gary Neville thinks Mikel Arteta’s decision to start Gabriel Jesus up front over Kai Havertz backfired on Sunday as Arsenal lost 2-0 to Aston Villa.

Two late goals gave Unai Emery and his players a deserved 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium to boost their own top-four hopes.

Gary Neville: There’s more precision, there’s a bit more certainty with Havertz

In yet another twist in the title run-in, the Gunners were well beaten as Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins struck within three minutes of one another to stun the home fans.

Liverpool had lost at home to Crystal Palace earlier on Sunday and a fifth league defeat of the campaign for Arsenal leaves Arteta’s side in second – two points behind reigning champions Manchester City.

Neville thought Arsenal played well for much of the first half before they got “scruffy” in the second period with Arteta making the wrong decision to play Havertz in midfield rather than up front.

“The performance level was really good in that first half but it got scruffy,” Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast.

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“I love Gabriel Jesus as a player, I absolutely love him because of his energy and the pressing and the endeavour, I love that in strikers.

“But then there’s a level that comes and we probably saw why we have seen Kai Havertz play centre forward for the last five or six weeks because there’s more precision, there’s a bit more certainty with him.

“I just felt that’s what Arsenal lacked in the first half, that precision and certainty because they were imperfect in the final third.”

Neville added: “With 20 minutes to go, I thought Mikel Arteta should’ve got Jorginho on in midfield and Jakub Kiwior at left-back, get your best team out there and gain some level of control because otherwise you’re going to get beat.

“It felt like a dangerous situation because the game was going away from Arsenal.”

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Gary Neville: We’re not watching a team crumbling

On Arsenal’s title chances, Neville continued: “You have to trust them you think [to respond to the Aston Villa defeat]. They need to call upon last season’s experience when they dropped points people didn’t think they would.

“They need to get back on the bike because they’re not out of the title race. It’s going to be tough because of what Man City are but it’s about how Arsenal recover.

“You can finish second to this Man City, it’s about how you finish second. They need to do it in a better way then how they finished last season.

“We’re not watching a team crumbling I don’t think like they did last year. All eyes are going to be on them in the next week or two.”

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