Merson slams Arteta for ‘unbelievable’ Arsenal mistake- Southampton ‘couldn’t believe their luck’

Will Ford
Mikel Arteta looks dejected

Paul Merson says Mikel Arteta made an “unbelievable mistake” in the 3-3 defeat to Southampton by starting Fabio Vieira.

A late comeback rescued a point for the Gunners, who have dropped six points in their last three games ahead of their crunch clash with Manchester City on Wednesday.

And Arteta’s side now sit just five points clear of City, who have two games in hand, meaning Arsenal need to win all of their remaining games, including the game at the Etihad, to be sure of winning the Premier League.

Merson was perplexed by Arteta’s decision to start Vieira, who’s struggled to assert himself in the Premier League this season following his £34m move from Porto, ahead of “calm head” Jorginho, who joined from Chelsea in January for £12m.

“Arsenal played Fabio Vieira instead of Jorginho last week, and I thought that was unbelievable,” Merson told Sportskeeda ahead of Wednesday’s potential title-decider.

“They’ve brought Jorginho in to be a calm head in big matches. I didn’t think the game against Southampton was a foregone conclusion, and to keep Jorginho on the bench was a big mistake.

“Southampton wouldn’t have believed their luck when they saw Jorginho on the bench. He sits in, dictates play, and controls games.”

Merson believes that without injured centre-back William Saliba, Arsenal needed more protection for their defence from the base of midfield, which Vieira failed to provide effectively.

“With [Rob] Holding playing instead of Saliba, Arsenal needed protection from their midfield – not people getting turned. Arteta hasn’t done a lot wrong this season, but he made a mistake there.”

After the game, Arteta was asked about Vieira less than convincing display, and used the midfielder’s lack of minutes this season as an excuse.

“It was a difficult match for a lot of players but for Fabio, he hasn’t played enough minutes,” Arteta explained.

“He had good periods but the way the game starts as well, instead of going one or two-nil up, and everything goes in your favour, it starts to go in a much more difficult way. That doesn’t help.”

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