Mikel Arteta has been “found out” and is at risk of being sacked following Arsenal’s defeat by Villarreal on Thursday night. That is the opinion of former England international Trevor Sinclair, who has slammed the Gunners manager for his decision-making during the Europa League semi-final first leg in Spain.
Arsenal suffered a big dent to their hopes of reaching the final as they were beaten 2-1 by Villarreal in a dramatic tie.
The Yellow Submarine dominated the opening stages and took the lead after just five minutes then Manu Trigueros fired past Bernd Leno.
Things got even worse for Arteta and his side when Raul Albiol slammed home the hosts’ second following a corner inside 30 minutes.
Arsenal were reduced to 10 men in the 57th minute when Dani Ceballos picked up a second yellow card, but did grab an away goal when Nicolas Pepe converted from the penalty spot.
Leno was forced into making some important saves before Villarreal midfielder Etienne Capoue was sent off late on for Unai Emery’s side.
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With Alexandre Lacazette unavailable, Arteta opted to field 20-year-old midfielder Emile Smith Rowe as a false nine in Spain, keeping strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah on the bench.
The former Gunners midfielder’s tactics backfired in Arsenal’s biggest game of the season and Arteta was heavily criticised post-match.
“I think Arteta got it wrong, and I think he got away with it,” Sinclair said on talkSPORT.
“The fact they’re still in this tie for the second leg, they’ve got a great chance [of going through to the final]. But they need to learn. I thought Unai Emery read the script really well.
“They were poor decisions made by Arteta and I feel he’s been found out by a much more experienced, I’m not saying better, but a much more experienced manager who has got one over him.
“If Arteta doesn’t learn, he’s going to get the sack, it’s as simple as that.”
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Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour was critical of Arteta’s call to play Granit Xhaka at left-back instead of Bukayo Saka or Cedric Soares.
“You’ve got to play Granit Xhaka in midfield,” Parlour said.
“Bukayo Saka has got to go left-back, he’s very athletic and [can] get forward too. Smith Rowe is better in a deeper area and Martinelli, I don’t get what’s going on with Martinelli.
“He changed the game for Arsenal, but he must be terrible in training because he never starts! He’s a very exciting player.
“Those are obvious choices and I thought they were really poor in central midfield, and that is where you dictate the tempo of the game.
“Thomas Partey didn’t have a good game, he was giving the ball away.”
Arsenal, who are 10th in the Premier League, travel to play Newcastle on Sunday before welcoming Villarreal to the Emirates Stadium for the second leg on Thursday.