Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown branded Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final exit against Spanish club Villarreal on Thursday (May 6) as embarrassing, saying the players did not turn up.
Keown, who won three Premier League titles with Arsenal under Arsene Wenger, pointed the finger at manager Mikel Arteta, saying he was out-thought by Unai Emery, the man he replaced in the Arsenal hot seat in 2019.
With Arsenal languishing in ninth spot in the Premier League, they now face the prospect of not being involved in European competition for the first time in 25 years.
“It’s a huge job at this football club. His (Mikel Arteta’s) inexperience has perhaps cost him,” Keown told BT Sport after the 0-0 draw at the empty Emirates Stadium, which meant Arsenal went out 2-1 on aggregate.
“He’s still manager, but it felt this was the rescue package and his players didn’t turn up. He was outsmarted by the previous manager (Unai Emery) which is a bit of an embarrassment.
“Arsenal looked lost. We couldn’t get out and they made us nervy. We haven’t really laid a glove on them and we haven’t gone down fighting.”
Arsenal’s most realistic hope of qualifying for Europe next season was by winning the Europa League, which is rewarded with a place in the Champions League.
With that route now shut down by Villarreal, Arsenal face a depressing final four games of the season.
“You have to be a quick learner as a manager,” Keown added of Arteta. “I’m not saying he isn’t going to be manager of the club, that’s a decision that will be made through the summer.
“It will have to be an incredible start to next season if he is to stay in the job. He’s under huge pressure now. Big decisions to be made at the football club.”
Arteta’s tactics and team selections against Villarreal were questioned, notably why he took off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with his side needing to score. He was also quizzed on why Alexandre Lacazette came off the bench so late.
“He was only available to play 10 minutes – 15 minutes maximum. He wanted to take that risk and we believed it was worth taking it,” Arteta said.
Asked whether his job was on the line he replied: “I feel the pressure all the time because I want to do as good as I can for the team. You will see it. It’s not about talking it’s about showing it on that pitch.”