Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has told his under-fire players to convince him they still have “passion” for the club – or face a summer exit.
His ultimatum comes after an abject display against Liverpool at the Emirates on Saturday evening left Arsenal with winning the Europa League as their only realistic hope of a return to the Champions League.
And after Sky pundit Gary Neville accused the club of having a “little mafia” up front, club legend Emmanuel Petit has weighed in on the attack.
“When I look at the older players in Arsenal’s team, it’s like they think it’s a retreat football club, somewhere you just go for a vacation,” the former Arsenal World Cup winner told Ladbrokes at the launch of the 5-a-side bet on Crystal Palace vs Chelsea.
“They have ambition, but I don’t really expect them to win big games anymore.”
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Ahead of tonight’s Europa League quarter-final first leg against Slavia Prague, Arteta was certainly not in any sort of mood to leap to his players’ defence.
“Emmanuel knows the club really well and was here in the most successful years and he has that opinion – I have to change that opinion,” he said.
“I am here to give my valuation of what I see every day and where we are and I know where we are and where we want to go. We have to respect that.
“Showing passion goes with the character. People who are much more introvert or extrovert show much more emotion with their body language than others, but it does not mean it does not hurt as much.
“But for sure people who don’t have that emotion, that passion or that commitment, they won’t be at this football club.”
And as with Neville’s comments from earlier this week, it is about how Arsenal players respond to the criticism which counts in Arteta’s consideration.
“We have to first make sure that he doesn’t need any surgery, which it doesn’t look like,” Arteta explained. “If that’s the case, the timeframe will be around four to six weeks.
“It could have been worse because the action looks quite scary but he’s feeling better and the damage is not that bad.
“He’s so keen to play for us before the end of the season and he’s extremely keen to represent his country in the Euros.
“It will depend on how things evolve in the next few weeks.”
Probable Arsenal team vs Slavia Prague (4-2-3-1): Leno; Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Soares; Partey, Xhaka; Willian, Odegaard, Aubameyang; Lacazette.