Merson pinpoints moment Arsenal’s title challenge ‘came to an end’ and makes Ramsdale admission
Paul Merson has explained where he thinks things have gone wrong for Arsenal in the second half of the Premier League season.
The Gunners have topped the table for the majority of the season, but a dip in form has proven costly of late.
Mikel Arteta’s side have only won one of their last five matches and they found themselves well short against Manchester City at the Etihad.
Merson thinks that things started to go wrong for the Gunners the moment William Saliba picked up an injury.
“As soon as he came out of the team, that’s when Arsenal’s title challenge came to an end and they started conceding goals left, right and centre,” Merson told GiveMeSport.
“Until then they looked so solid. And he was a big part of that. The difference in Arsenal without him proves how important he has been.”
The French defender has been out of action since March when he picked up an injury in the Europa League.
Since Saliba has been out of the side, Arsenal have only taken 12 points from the 21 available. In contrast, Man City have won all of their games since this point.
Rob Holding has been the man tasked with replacing Saliba, but he has often found himself in difficult scenarios.
Ian Wright recently came to the defence of Holding, despite some of his shaky performances of late.
“I think [Arteta] has been a bit unfair on Rob Holding,” Wright said on Premier League Productions. “He is somebody who hasn’t had a lot of minutes. He was someone who came in to replace William Saliba – and he is fantastic.
“Yes, in certain instances, Rob has been done for pace. We have seen him isolated and it has caused a bit of a problem.
“I think it has been unfair, some of the stick he has got. But seeing Kiwior coming in. He has been there long enough to see what’s going on and to see what we are capable of. I think it’s good to bring him in. These are the games you want to see him in.”
Arsenal are expected to add another defender to their ranks in the summer transfer window to give them more options next season.
Despite Arsenal’s faltering title hopes, Merson has been impressed with Aaron Ramsdale this year, despite a few shaky moments of late.
“People forget how many great saves he’s made along the way. During the season he has made big saves to keep Arsenal in games. I think he’s been outstanding.
“Later on in the season, he’s made a couple of mistakes but overall, you’ve got to say he’s been absolutely brilliant. He won’t be taking Jordan Pickford’s place as England No 1 while Gareth Southgate is in charge though.”
The Arsenal shot-stopper has made 85 saves this season and boasts a save percentage of 70.7%.
Next up for Arteta’s side is a trip to Newcastle. Arsenal can finish this season on a maximum of 90 points if they win their remaining four matches.
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