Neville ‘harshly’ singles out two of Arteta’s ‘leaders’ who helped Arsenal ‘throw away the title’
Gary Neville has praised Arsenal for exceeding expectations this season but does believe they have suffered mentally in recent weeks, which has contributed to them “throwing the title away”.
The Gunners were comprehensively beaten by high-flying Brighton on Sunday, while Manchester City beat Everton at Goodison Park.
Sunday’s results mean City can retain the Premier League title next weekend with Arsenal traveling to Nottingham Forest and Pep Guardiola’s side hosting Chelsea.
Mikel Arteta’s men have been heavily criticised for their shaky form during the run-in with City winning game after game.
Manchester United legend Neville does think Arsenal have thrown away a big chance to win their first championship in 19 years and has hinted that Arteta’s players are weak mentally and got too emotional during the title race.
The former right-back singled out moments including Oleksandr Zinchenko and Granit Xhaka.
The latter got into an altercation with Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold during the 2-2 draw at Anfield, which some have said was the reason Arsenal threw away a two-goal lead.
While Zinchenko – who Neville believes should be setting an example as a team leader having won multiple league titles with the Cityzens – was clipped passionately celebrating with the Arsenal fans after a dramatic comeback win at home to Bournemouth.
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“I think there is an element of throwing the title away because of the nature of the defeats they have had, being up in games, being 2-0 up in two games, losing 3-1 against the bottom of the league [before a late comeback to draw], yesterday what happened [against Brighton],” Neville said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
“In 2023 we don’t use the same emotive language as we have done in previous years.
“There is no doubt if this was going back to the Kevin Keegan era, this would be described very harshly; this Arsenal team would be being attacked now for what has happened in the last few weeks, but we are a lot more conscious and a lot more aware about the language we use around it.
“However, at elite level you have to make sure you perform, the biggest moments in the most high-pressure environment, you have got to deliver in those moments.
“I always doubted whether this Arsenal team, looking at some of the things that were happening; the over-celebrations against Aston Villa.
“I look at little things that might be a little bit harsh. Zinchenko after the game against Bournemouth celebrating an hour after the game with the fans and screaming. You want your leaders in the team who have been there before to spread composure around the dressing room and to calm everybody down, you don’t want them to lift the anxiety and lift the emotion.
“There is an element of emotion; Xhaka at Anfield, [Thomas] Partey losing his form in games and getting caught on the ball in difficult moments.
“It has become very tough on them mentally. I think mentally it has caused them a big issue in the last few weeks.”
Neville did praise Arteta’s side for finishing as high as second behind an incredible City team, especially after he did not expect them to finish in the top four before the season got underway.
“We never had them in the top four, our predictions are there for everyone to see,” he added.
“I think this is an exceptional season for Arsenal to finish second because I didn’t have them anywhere near this and neither did anybody else.
“The problem for some people is ultimately it doesn’t look like a good season because of where they’ve been.
“They’ll find it difficult themselves to think this a good season because they’ll think they should’ve won the league.
“Overall, I think it’s been an outstanding season to do what they’ve done.”
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