'We didn't deserve to be on the pitch': Granit Xhaka blasts Arsenal for lacking 'balls' in dismal display

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'We didn't deserve to be on the pitch': Granit Xhaka blasts Arsenal for lacking 'balls' in dismal display - GETTY IMAGES
'We didn't deserve to be on the pitch': Granit Xhaka blasts Arsenal for lacking 'balls' in dismal display - GETTY IMAGES

Granit Xhaka said Arsenal “did not deserve to be on the pitch” and needed to show more “balls” following a disastrous defeat at Newcastle United which all but ended their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Arsenal produced one of their worst performances of the season to hand the initiative to Tottenham Hotspur ahead of the final weekend of the campaign. Tottenham are now two points clear in fourth ahead of their trip to face relegated Norwich City on Sunday.

Xhaka apologised to the club’s supporters and said Arsenal had failed to follow Mikel Arteta’s game-plan. He added that any players who were not ready for the match should have stayed at home.

“From the first minute until the 90th minute we did not deserve to be on the pitch today,” said the Arsenal midfielder. “I can’t explain to you why. We did not do what the game-plan was, not listening to the coach.

“What happened was a disastrous performance and like this you do not deserve to play in the Champions League, or even in the Europa League. It is very hard to take it at the moment. I don’t know why we are not doing what the coach is asking of us.

“If someone is not ready for this game, then stay at home. It does not matter about the age. You can be 30, 35, you can be 10, you can be 18. If you are not ready for that, if you are nervous, stay on the bench or stay at home. Don't come here.

“We need people who have the balls, sorry to say that, to come here and play. Because we knew this game was one of the most important games for us.”

Arteta admitted Arsenal deserved to lose by an even bigger scoreline, saying his players never “earned the right” to take any sort of positive result from the game. Arsenal were undone by an own goal by Ben White and a late strike by Bruno Guimaraes.

“We deserved to lose and we probably deserved to lose by a bigger margin,” said the Arsenal manager, who also apologised to the club’s fans.

“Right from the beginning they were on top of everything and we didn’t manage to get out of our own half. We put ourselves in trouble, we lost every duel, every second ball. We did not compete in the game in the way that game required us to do, and we never earned the right to get anything out of the game.”

Arsenal have defied many expectations to come this close to a Champions League place, given the scale of the rebuild under Arteta, but the Spaniard said his team failed to respect the principles they had installed this season.

“We have generated an expectation that probably no one would talk about at the start of the season with the squad that we have,” he said. “But we have managed to get through here basically by respecting certain principles and always competing in football matches, and tonight we have not done that.”

'He has been a disgrace at times himself'

Sky pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher accused Xhaka of showing disrespect to his team-mates with his interview.

Neville said: "He is having a right dig at people within his dressing room. I hope he was not having a go at his young players. He has been a disgrace at times himself over the last four or five years!"

Carragher added: "We like players to be honest but it's easy to come out and be strong with your words, and get some credit for it. Do it on the pitch. For me, he's putting out some of the young players who he didn't think were ready, or up for the fight and intensity of it.

"I love players being honest but he was part of that as well. If I was a player on the coach or plane on the way back, I'd be like: 'You were as big a part of that as anybody'."

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