Petit slams two ‘average’ Arsenal players and hits out at new signing who ‘disappears’

Joe Williams
Arsenal legend Emmanuel Petit speaks into the microphone

Arsenal legend Emmanuel Petit thinks Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba have looked like “average” players in recent weeks.

The Gunners have dropped four points in their last two matches with a 1-0 loss to Everton and a 1-1 draw to Brentford allowing Manchester City to close the gap on them to three points.

Arsenal still have a game in hand on City too but the two teams face each other on Wednesday night with Pep Guardiola’s side able to move top with a win.

Mikel Arteta’s men have the second best defensive record in the league with Gabriel and Saliba forming a brilliant partnership this season – but Petit thinks the pair should be criticised for their recent displays.

“Saliba and Gabriel don’t look the same defenders as they used to a few months ago,” Petit told Compare Bet.

“In the last couple of games, they look average. Especially Saliba, he is not playing like he was earlier this season.”

On the Gunners’ overall drop in form, the Arsenal legend added: “I think they’ve lost their momentum collectively. Some individuals seem to be tired as well, Martinelli and Odegaard, for example. Eddie Nketiah hasn’t been effective anymore in front of goal. For me the main reason is collectively though.

“They didn’t play badly against Brentford, but they didn’t play the same way they used to. Against Everton too, they didn’t look up to par physically and mentally. If they can recover that collective spirit, then they can do something against Manchester City, especially at home.

“I remember the game recently against Manchester United, I think the fans will be very important again. It’s not easy for the players – a couple of weeks ago there was an eight-point gap between the two teams. Now, if City win, they’ll be top of the league. Mentally, it’s going to be a big challenge for the Arsenal players.

“They haven’t played the same way in the last couple of games, but it’s normal – you can’t play the same way every single game during a season, but it’s happened at the wrong moment. You can feel the pressure, City are breathing down their neck.

“Plus, City have that title-winning experience. That’s the main difference between the two teams. It’ll be one of the big keys to the game.”

Arsenal signed Jorginho in the January transfer window from Chelsea after having two bids for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo turned down.

Paul Merson commented that Jorginho is perfect for Arsenal after they bought him but Petit thinks the Italian “disappears on the pitch” too often.

On whether he agrees with Merson’s comments, Petit continued: “No, I disagree. This is a position I really know. I have a huge respect for Jorginho, the way he plays, but Jorginho is a perfect player when you dominate the game, when you control the game technically and tactically.

“But, when he’s under pressure, when he fights against tough opponents, physically, he drops. All of a sudden he disappears on the pitch. We saw that against Everton when he came in, and we’ve seen it so many times with Chelsea as well.

“When the team is under control he’s a perfect player for that, he runs the game, he manages the game, he’s got vision, technique, and there’s no problem at all for that. But all of a sudden, when the team is under pressure, when they meet a strong opponent physically that can play with the ball, it becomes very difficult for him.

“So no, for me he’s not the first option in the midfield. I would have loved to see Rice, or Caicedo, or even Mac Allister from Brighton. I prefer Mac Allister because he fights to get the ball, he’s got hunger as well.

“He’s also young. Jorginho is 31, he doesn’t represent the picture of the club. He will be included in the rotation with Arteta, that’s it, but for me, he won’t be in the first eleven, for sure.”

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