Tony Adams has accused Mikel Arteta of ‘trying to be too clever’ with his thinking going into Arsenal’s crushing 3-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa and claims Kieran Tierney is ‘going to get confused’ constantly switching positions at the back.
The Gunners were completely outplayed in every department by a rampant Aston Villa side on Sunday afternoon, with Bukayo Saka’s own-goal and Ollie Watkins’ quickfire double in the second half sealing all three points for the visitors.
Arteta took full responsibility for the performance and admitted his players looked ‘sloppy’ and ‘very vulnerable’ for extended periods of the game, with pressure mounting after a mixed start to the campaign.
Former Arsenal captain Adams has been a huge supporter of Arteta since he took over the reins from Unai Emery but feels the Spaniard got it wrong with the way he set his team up at the Emirates, particularly in defence.
‘It was such a poor performance coming off of the Manchester United game and I think Arteta was trying to be too clever,’ Adams said on Sky Sports’ The Football Show.
‘He’s gone back into the three, offloaded three with [Hector] Bellerin popping in to make the four into midfield and Tierney for me is in that too narrow position, he’s a left-back for me.
‘Every full-back who has come to the club in the last five years, maybe more, has never been taught how to play full-back. They’ve become kind of wingers, they bomb on and it leaves the central defenders isolated.
‘And I don’t care how good you are, if Rob Holding is left one-vs-one, at some point that forward is going to get the better of you over the course of the game. Hector needs support, he needs to be worked with.
‘I’ve not seen a full-back improve when they join Arsenal at the start, we’ve got Gael Clichy, Kieran Gibbs, endless [examples].
‘Lee Dixon, my old great mate, my old colleague, reminds me so much of Bellerin when he came to the club. He used to bomb on, he was fantastic, he would bomb down that right side all day long.
‘But we needed to teach him defending and at the end of his career I think he turned into one of the best right-backs in the world. He was fantastic at defending and that’s because he was part of the unit, he knew everything the central defender was doing. It’s partnerships across the back four.
‘They can be, but he [Arteta] needs to work with the full-backs.’
Adams is confident Tierney has all the qualities required to succeed at Arsenal but is concerned the Scot will get ‘confused’ swapping between left-back and left centre-back under Arteta.
‘I think Tierney has got it all, he’s got a fantastic attitude,’ Adams added.
‘He’s someone you can really work with but to play him left-side centre-half, and then sometimes playing him left back, the kid’s going to get confused.
‘You’ve got to put him in at left-back and work with him.
‘I think he can be a real talent when he bombs down that left.’
The legendary former Arsenal and England centre-half continued: ‘In defence you have to have consistency and familiarity, you have to keep playing with the same personnel, you have to keep playing in the same system.
‘To keep going from system to system, in my experience, doesn’t work.
‘You need familiarity with the goalkeeper, with your midfield players, those kind of relationships and partnerships.
‘If you’re pulling people out and putting the next person in there’s no consistency and defensive stability.
‘Arsenal aren’t alone here, I see it in the whole country. It’s the only area of the park for me that you have to leave alone, you have to build relationships.’
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