Robin van Persie criticised three Arsenal players during the Gunners’ 1-0 victory in the Europa League on Thursday night, in conversation with BT Sport.
Mikel Arteta’s charges were in last-32 first-leg action away at Olympiakos, but it was a tricky night for the Gunners and the deadlock was not broken until nine minutes from time.
Bukayo Saka connected with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s pass and played the ball across the six-yard box for Alexandre Lacazette to slam home from close range.
At half time, some Arsenal fans lamented the team’s lack of creativity on Twitter, and Van Persie echoed their sentiments with regards to the Gunners’ midfield.
The Dutchman claimed that Joe Willock, Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka aren’t really capable of delivering a final ball, which impacted on the attackers’ play.
“But what is the reason why Arsenal don’t create so many chances, and I do believe that it is because of the midfield,” Van Persie told BT Sport 2 (20 February, 8:55pm).
“The strikers don’t believe that that final ball can come. If you look at Xhaka, Willock, Guendouzi, they don’t really have the final ball in their locker, and I do think this affects the front three in a bad way.”
A world-class striker during his professional career, Van Persie knows the finer details of the job better than most, and that includes the ways a team is connected and what each player will have in mind during a game.
For Van Persie to effectively say that Arsenal’s attackers didn’t have much faith in what the midfield at the time could provide for them and were negatively impacted as a result is a pretty worrying statement.
Nonetheless, it was Arteta’s choice to start with that midfield, and credit to him, he made the right substitutions during the game.
Willock and Gabriel Martinelli were replaced by Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos, which saw Guendouzi drop deeper, and things eventually worked out alright in the end.