Mikel Arteta: Hit me with criticism over Arsenal slump, not my young stars

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Mikel Arteta: Hit me with criticism over Arsenal slump, not my young stars
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Mikel Arteta insists he is willing to take the flak for Arsenal’s alarming slump in form in order to protect his young players from criticism “they are not prepared to take”.

Arsenal began this month sat fourth in the Premier League, but three defeats on the spin have dented their Champions League dream and seen them slip to fifth ahead of tonight’s clash with Chelsea.

Tottenham have leapfrogged Arsenal into fourth and, although the Gunners can go level on points with them by winning tonight, they have come under fire.

Arteta, however, wants all the criticism to be directed at him as he wants to protect his squad, which is the youngest in the Premier League, from the backlash.

“Hit me, give [it to] me, because I don’t want them to be hit because they are not prepared to take that,” he said.

“The bill that you have to pay when you have such a young squad is this: that sometimes these things are going to happen.

“So, it is so fulfilling and so great to see what they are able to do and what they are really doing, which I cannot find a lot of cases very similar to that.

“And on the other hand, when this comes and when the storm comes, you have to be prepared to take it.”

Arsenal go into tonight’s game at Stamford Bridge desperately looking to steady the ship after a turbulent few weeks.

They have not lost four Premier League games in a row since 1995, but Arteta’s squad has been depleted by injuries.

Kieran Tierney (knee) and Thomas Partey (thigh) are definitely out of tonight’s game, while Alexandre Lacazette (Covid-19) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (calf) are major doubts.

Arsenal’s drop-off in form has largely manifested itself in a lack of goals and they have scored just twice from their last 73 attempts in the Premier League.

The side’s performances have led to criticism, but Arteta revealed he uses it as fuel to motivate himself.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

“First of all, take it and then filter it, and use what you think makes sense and is genuine, and what is not,” he said.

“But the reality is you lose three football matches, that we shouldn’t, and you are upset. This is an emotional, normal reaction and frustration that has to be shown.

“We have to worry the day that Arsenal loses three matches and there is no reaction. That day I think we have to go home. This is something really positive and shows the standards that we have to make.

“But we cannot lose sight about what happened and how it happened, and don’t drive yourself crazy and try to change everything in that moment. Because I think we have learned some lessons in the past about that as well.”

Arsenal’s last three defeats came at the hands of Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton, but now they must turn it around by facing Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham over the next 10 days or so.

“We have to understand why we lost those games as well, but there is nothing to look back on,” said Arteta.

“Everything is still to play for, our ambition is still intact, our desire is still intact. We know the challenge ahead and we’re going to go for it.”

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