'Pointless' - Richard Keys highlights Mikel Arteta mistake that could cost Arsenal in title race

Mikel Arteta during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium.

Pundit Richard Keys has hinted that Mikel Arteta’s decision to play Oleksandr Zinchenko in an inverted role could potentially cost them in the Premier League title race vs Man City.

Arsenal are currently one point ahead Pep Guardiola’s side at the top of the table, but could be leapfrogged when Man City take on Fulham in Saturday’s early kick-off. The Gunners are next in action on Sunday when they take on Manchester United at Old Trafford.

City’s game in hand puts them in the driving seat to finish the season in the top spot. But Arsenal are determined to pounce if they slip up in any of their final three games.

A key player for Mikel Arteta this season has been Declan Rice. But Keys has highlighted how a change in system, particularly in the 2-0 loss against Aston Villa back in April, failed to get the best from the summer signing.

“Rice is a Rolls Royce. I said as much earlier in the season when I blasted him for being Declan Nice,” Keys wrote in his latest blog . “He was tippy-tappying about in midfield, playing second fiddle to Zinchenko, playing sideways and backwards.

“That’s not his game. I know it’s what he was being asked to do, but it was frustrating to see such a talent being wasted.

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“Arsenal have looked so much better when they’ve played with Jorghino or - freeing Rice to get involved all over the pitch.

“Thank goodness Arteta’s obsession with Zinchenko, in that pointless inverted role, seems over. If they don’t win the title I wonder if he’ll berate himself for playing the wrong team v Villa? I said on the Monday after that defeat he’d got it wrong so I’m not trying to be clever now.

“Playing Zinchenko meant anchoring Rice and also giving [Kai] Havertz a different role. It didn’t work. It doesn’t work. Havertz is an 8 1/2 - 9. On that subject - do Arsenal really need a proper 9? They’re the league’s top goal scorers - so why?”

Zinchenko has not started a Premier League game since the defeat against Villa, with Takehiro Tomiyasu preferred in the left-back role. Since the 2-0 loss at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal have won all five games, keeping three clean sheets and scoring 13 times.