Mikel Arteta has made one major mistake with his Arsenal team selection against Benfica.
That is the view of former Gunners defender Martin Keown who is of the opinion that Alexandre Lacazette should have started instead of on-loan Real Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard.
The only alteration from seven days ago sees Kieran Tierney get the nod over Cedric Soares – who claimed the assist for Bukayo Saka’s equaliser – at left-back.
That means Odegaard makes his fourth successive start for the Gunners.
A decision that Keown disagreed with ahead of kick-off, stating his preference to have seen Emile Smith Rowe line up in the No.10 position behind the main striker.
“I wouldn’t (start him). For me, it’s almost another project, which we haven’t got time for,” Keown said on BT Sport. “We haven’t got time to do that, there’s no time to lose.
“You have to win games of football and he’s not ready yet, he’s demonstrated that.
“I think there’s a player in there somewhere underneath all of that, I think he’s got flashes of quality, but Smith Rowe now is ready to burst into that position.
“As long as Smith Rowe is in that team, I don’t think he deserved to be left out against City, I thought Odegaard got lost a little bit in that game, so that worries me going forward,” he continued.
“This young man (Smith Rowe) has been a revelation since he’s got into the team. I like to be protective to the young players having come through the system myself and I just feel, defensively, he gives them so much more.
“Perhaps the manager, and it’s his call, doesn’t want Pepe in a wide position because he’s the one that would come in.”
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Keown also stated that Lacazette should have been leading the instead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
“I would personally do something different: I’d put Aubameyang back to the left and play Lacazette down the middle and put Smith Rowe back into that central position.”
However, those comments have backfired on Keown with Aubameyang justifying Arteta’s decision to start him through the middle with a goal to give Arsenal the lead on the night as well as on aggregate.
But a wonderful free-kick from Diogo Goncalves has levelled matters.