Mikel Arteta has to get the harmony and balance right at Arsenal, both on and off the pitch.
That’s the view of former Liverpool and England star John Barnes, who believes the 3-0 defeat against Liverpool on Saturday showed that the Gunners are “quite frail.”
Arteta is now gearing his side up for their Europa League quarter-final first leg clash against Slavia Prague, with winning the competition now realistically Arsenal’s best chance of qualifying for Europe again next season.
But while Arteta has made no secret of the importance of the game to him and his players, he has also apologised to Arsenal supporters in the wake of the disappointing defeat against Liverpool.
And Barnes has said that the humbling defeat at home shows that there is still plenty of work for Arteta and Arsenal to do, following a few difficult years for the club.
“You can see that [Mikel] Arteta is trying to instil a much more professional and determined attitude, even in superstar players like [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang,” Barnes said, speaking to BonusCodeBets.
“He needs everyone to pull in the right direction rather than his players thinking ‘we’re Arsenal, we’re superstars and even if we don’t win the manager is going to get the blame so we don’t need to perform.’
“There was a change at Arsenal when the fans switched on Wenger and started to call for him to go and the players all of a sudden switched.
“Arsenal don’t just need one leader in the team, they need to look at their whole environment, the fans and everybody must back the manager in charge, and whether you’re Aubameyang or a young player they must respect the manager in charge.”
And Barnes believes that Arsenal have fallen behind their traditional ‘top six’ rivals in recent years due to the culture at the club, adding that Arteta simply has to fix a number of key factors to get the Gunners back challenging towards the top end of the Premier League.
“At Manchester City, the superstar players there cannot step out of line and show any kind of disrespect to the manager or they won’t play – at Arsenal, they don’t do that,” he said.
“People blamed Arsene Wenger for Arsenal not doing well and managers since then, rather than putting pressure on the players to perform.
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“Some of the players, like Aubameyang, don’t have the right attitude when things aren’t going well – attitude, commitment and determination are such a big part of things and if Arsenal were to get that right they’ll improve.
“Arsenal have gone through a number of years since Wenger left where the players absolved themselves of responsibility to perform – when they lost it was never their fault – and the managers have been sacked.
“I don’t think Arsenal have the right balance in their squad. Odegaard and players like that are good when things are going well for the team, but what was clear against Liverpool was that the team is quite frail. Thomas Partey gives them some steel, but overall Arsenal are lacking some physicality and they’re flimsy out of possession. Getting the balance in the team and squad harmony is important.”