Mikel Arteta reviews Arsenal's defeat at Newcastle
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Granit Xhaka and his midfield partner Mohamed Elneny are “not good enough” for Arsenal, according to Liverpool legend Steve Nicol. Xhaka laid into his team-mates following the damaging 2-0 loss to Newcastle on Monday but Nicol says the Swiss star is not blameless.
Defeat left Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League hanging by a thread. They need to beat Everton on the final day of the season and hope Tottenham lose to already-relegated Norwich.
Xhaka tore into his colleagues for not carrying out the instructions of manager Mikel Arteta at St James’ Park. Nicol says some performances of the younger players can be excused but he pointed out that experienced players such as Xhaka and Elneny, who are both 29, have shown they’re simply not up to the required standard.
He told ESPN FC: “No [age is not an easy excuse], I don’t think so. If you look at the front four including [Martin] Odegaard, and Odegaard I think is the most experienced and the oldest, he’s 23.
“But if you go behind that front four, Granit Xhaka and Elneny, how far down the league do you go before you see a team where those two guys are playing for them? So the fact is we’re talking about the so-called strength of the team wouldn’t get a game for, probably other than themselves, the top eight, maybe even lower.
“And then you’ve got such young, inexperienced players who you’re asking to carry [the team] to a Champions League spot. It’s not possible and they’ve shown it’s not possible.
“You do need experience but you also need strength around youth. And they don’t have that strength.
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“Yes, Granit Xhaka tries hard. Yes, Granit Xhaka tackles people, he tries to get people going.
“But he’s just not good enough and Elneny isn’t either. You’ve got more than half of your team that when it comes to this time of the season, because one they don’t have legs, or two they’re inexperienced, they can’t do it.”
Speaking to Sky Sports after Monday’s loss, Xhaka apologised to the fans while digging out his team-mates. He said: “We didn’t do what the game plan was, not listening to the coach.
“What happened was a disaster performance. You don’t deserve to play Champions League or even Europa League. It’s very hard to take it at the moment.
“If someone isn’t ready for this game, stay at home. It doesn’t matter your age. If you’re nervous, stay on the bench or stay at home. You need people to have the balls to come here and play.
“It’s one of the most important games for us. We’re feeling very disappointed for the people who came over here. Sorry to them [fans], I don’t have any other words.”
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