Arsenal suffered a 2-1 loss to Villarreal in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final and now their European hopes as well as the fate of Mikel Arteta are just about hanging by a thread.
Villarreal should have sealed Arsenal’s fate in the first leg itself but somehow the Premier League side managed to grab that crucial away goal thanks to a penalty.
Throughout this season, manager Mikel Arteta has used various formations on the pitch and on Thursday, he opted for a false-nine system. And according to pundit Martin Keown, this uncertainty is really causing havoc for the Gunners.
Keown wrote for The Daily Mail: “Mikel Arteta’s tactics and decision-making on Thursday should have sent Arsenal crashing out of Europe and possibly ended his managerial career at the club.
“However, remarkably and thanks to that late penalty won by Bukayo Saka, Arsenal find themselves still very much in this tie against Villarreal.
“Arteta is being afforded the rare commodity of time and now he’s the beneficiary of an even rarer occurrence: a second chance. And this is one he really has to take.
“Arteta experimented with a false nine on Thursday, lining up without a recognised centre forward. Playing with that new formation for the first time in the biggest game of the season was a big ask of the players and a huge gamble. It didn’t pay off.
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“The best managers I worked under kept it simple in the big games, with clear messages and tried-and-tested systems that the players were familiar with. One problem facing Arteta is that he has played a number of different systems in his tenure at the club and doesn’t seem to know his best XI.
“All is not lost for Arsenal but the importance of Arteta making the right calls over the next week cannot be understated. The pieces of the puzzle are there but Arteta needs to put them together properly. It starts tomorrow at Newcastle.”
Most of the big managers have a preferred system or two which they fall back to during the big and decisive matches. But Mikel Arteta opted for a totally alien formation for such a crucial game.
Obviously, his players are not accustomed to playing with a false nine since most of the season they have been setting up in a conventional 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 system. And this confusion was pretty clear as Villarreal ran rampant for most of the match.
Arteta’s future at the club could be decided by the end of next week since if the Gunners cannot make it to the finals then there’s a big chance Mikel Arteta will be sacked in the coming weeks.
If Arsenal fail to win the Europa League this time around then they will not be in Europe next season altogether and this is something the owners will not take lightly.