Souness blasts Arsenal and calls out Mikel Arteta’s side for ‘cheating’ after ‘pattern of offending’

Joe Williams
Graeme Souness on Arsenal
Graeme Souness is not happy with Arsenal and their set-piece tactics.

Liverpool legend Graeme Souness has hit out at Arsenal for their set-piece tactics since appointing Nicolas Jover as one of Mikel Arteta’s coaches.

The Gunners hired former Manchester City coach Jover as their specialist set-piece coach in 2021 and have made leaps forward since in the amount of goals they score from dead-ball situations.

Arsenal are currently leading the Premier League table by one point from defending champions Manchester City, who have a game in hand on Arteta’s side.

Arteta’s side have scored 22 goals (not including penalties) from set-pieces this season, which is the best in the Premier League this season, while they scored just six in the campaign before Jover arrived.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville labelled Jover a “genius” for his work when Kai Havertz headed Arsenal into a 3-0 lead against Tottenham in the north London derby last weekend, he said: “There he is again. The set-piece guru. He’s a little nuisance, that set-piece coach, but he’s damn good.”

But Souness insists that two of the Gunners’ goals in their 3-2 victory over Spurs “should not have counted” because there were incidents of obstruction.

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Souness told the Daily Mail: “I’ve heard a lot of talk about the ‘genius’ of Arsenal’s so-called set-piece ‘guru’ and the incredible work he’s played in the team’s push for the title.

“Well, forgive me for bursting the bubble here, but amid all the excitement about the goals Tottenham conceded from corners last week, something very significant was somehow missed. Two of those goals should not have counted.

“We are witnessing a stealthy, very deliberate, strategy from Arsenal – and Ben White in particular – to obstruct goalkeepers in a way which will avoid detection by the referees.”

Graeme Souness: What we’re seeing here is cheating

Souness added: “Might I suggest the referees consult their own little FA rule books for a definition of that term?

“Law 12 states, in black and white, that obstruction is ‘moving into the opponent’s path to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction when the ball is not within playing distance of either player.

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“Set-piece genius’? Call me old-fashioned but what we’re seeing here is cheating. This blocking by players from set-pieces is more prevalent than ever before, which presents a challenge for referees. But Arsenal do this every game and it’s always by White, so the penny should have dropped long ago.

“Arsenal have been using this pattern of offending ever since the set-piece coach, Nicolas Jover, joined Mikel Arteta at Arsenal.

“That was two seasons ago. Don’t even get me started on the fact that we also have the VAR officials, sitting in their warm booth, equipped with the camera capacity that ought to be pulling Arsenal up on this every time.”