Souness blames Mikel Arteta ‘antics’ for Arsenal losing their nerve in title race

Mikel Arteta and his Arsenal players Credit: Alamy
Mikel Arteta and his Arsenal players Credit: Alamy

Graeme Souness has rather predictably claimed that Arsenal will not win the Premier League after claiming just one point from their last three games.

The Gunners lost 3-1 to Manchester City in midweek to relinquish top spot in the Premier League, though they have a game in hand. You can read 16 Conclusions on that game here.

Souness has blamed Arteta and his ‘antics’ for Arsenal’s dip in form, though he also cites the Gunners’ lack of experience in a title race in his column for the Daily Mail.

‘There’s no way of dressing up the gravity of Arsenal’s defeat to Manchester City this week,’ he said.

‘I felt that match was an opportunity for Arsenal to plant a seed of doubt in the heads of Manchester City’s players and make a big psychological gain. But they were unable to do that.

‘Those were three fatal points to concede and I will be surprised if they can recover and win the title race.

‘I really hope that I’m wrong because during my time in football, Arsenal have been the benchmark of how a football club ought to be run. We need a competitive title race and the beauty of this sport of ours lie in its endless capacity to surprise us.

‘But what we are witnessing here is a young team, who are not serial winners, playing against a deeply-established team who are. That’s why the significance of gaining a psychological advantage was so much more important to Arsenal than City.

‘City knew the importance of Wednesday’s game, too, but defeat would not have been fatal to them, because have been here before in the past five years. They know, deep down, what needs to be done to win this league.

‘When Arsenal lost at Everton a few weeks ago, Mikel Arteta went for a very different approach by declaring: ‘I love my players even more.’ This is how the world has changed. We’re living in a time where people are perhaps more precious and we’re concerned about raising a voice to them and telling them off. I accept that.

‘But those Liverpool teams I played in were run on a very different philosophy – of making us feel that we could always give more. I believe it still stands the test of time, even though it’s the exact opposite to what you see now, with every manager cuddling his players.

‘Arsenal have looked a very nervy bunch for a whole month now – and in part that stems from Mikel Arteta and his antics on the touchline. The wild celebrations. The falling out with rival managers. The conduct towards officials. All of this will have had an impact on his players, both live and when they’ve seen it played back.

‘Arteta has gone overboard because this is all new to him. As a player, he bordered on being son-in-law material – you wouldn’t be unhappy if you walked through the door with your daughter – and I can never remember him aggressively going after anyone. Yet he’s now turning up on a match-day with an angry head on. I don’t believe this is helping the cause.

‘For a team of serial winners like ours, a setback like Wednesday’s would have made little difference. People writing you off was like a speck of dandruff. But for a team who’ve not been serial winners, I imagine it could play havoc.’

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