Merson claims Arsenal star ‘pulled wool over Arteta’s eyes’ in Aston Villa ‘mistake’

Jason Soutar
Arsenal midfielder Jorginho receives instructions from Mikel Arteta
Jorginho receives instructions from Mikel Arteta

Gary Lineker and Paul Merson have agreed over a mistake Mikel Arteta made before Aston Villa’s Premier League win at Arsenal on Sunday.

The Gunners were stunned by Unai Emery’s men at the Emirates, with late goals from Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins securing a 2-0 win for the visitors.

Merson: Arteta got Arsenal team v Villa wrong

The Premier League title is now Manchester City’s to lose, which is awful news for Arsenal and Liverpool, who have trickier fixtures than the reigning champions.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were also on the wrong end of a shock result on Sunday, losing 1-0 at home to Crystal Palace after an early Eberechi Eze strike.

City are now two points clear of Liverpool and Arsenal with six games remaining and Merson is one of many to say the title race is now over.

Merson has also said that Arteta cost Arsenal with his team selection against Aston Villa.

Kai Havertz has been leading the line very well for the Gunners this year, with Jorginho operating in a No. 6 role, which has pushed Declan Rice further up the pitch.

Arteta deservedly started Leandro Trossard on the left wing but decided to move Havertz back into midfield, with Rice in a deeper role and Gabriel Jesus up front.

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Merson said before the game that Arteta’s starting XI was questionable and after the 2-0 defeat to Villa, he claimed the Spaniard should not have changed things up.

“I said before the game I didn’t like Arteta’s decision with the team he picked,” the ex-Arsenal midfielder told Sky Sports.

“Keep on playing the same team that wins every week, don’t have the wool pulled over your eyes for a 25-minute cameo against Bayern Munich. Jesus comes on and does well and he moves Havertz.

“They’ve won nine of 10 with Jorginho and Havertz playing where they were. It was a bench today that if it wasn’t going right, he didn’t have anyone. Usually, you have Trossard and Jesus to come on.

“He did it against Southampton last season when he left Jorginho out last season. The pressure gets to everybody. That’s where you need a Pep Guardiola who keeps cool.”

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Speaking on The Rest is Football podcast, Lineker praised Merson for identifying the “mistake” before kick-off and agreed that Arteta should not have dropped Jorginho.

“I was really surprised he didn’t play Jorginho because he’s been really good in recent weeks,” Lineker said.

“Really good, and it obviously allows Rice to march more forward and he’s very good at running with the ball and breaking between the lines.

“So I was quite surprised. I think it was Paul Merson who said it was a mistake, he said it before the game. Fair play to him for recognising that.”

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