Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson believes Arsenal looked ‘out of their depth’ against Manchester City on Sunday.
The Gunners went behind after just two minutes against Pep Guardiola’s Premier League leaders, and they never recovered from Raheem Sterling’s headed effort, slipping to just one win in their last six games with the 1-0 defeat.
The result leaves Mikel Arteta ‘s men in 10th place and no fewer than 11 points off the top four and six points off the top six as we head further into the second half of the campaign.
Arsenal are a work in progress under Arteta, the Spaniard only in his first full season as manager, but the club’s fall from the very top in recent years has former player Paul Merson concerned, particularly after Sunday’s performance against City.
“I played at Arsenal for a good number of years a long time ago and it is just a phenomenal football club. It’s a Rolls Royce of a football club but when you look where they are now, it’s just hard to watch,” he told Sky Sports.
“Man City used to be a million miles away and talk about turning things on its head, they are so far ahead of Arsenal. The only thing that can give you hope if you are an Arsenal fan is that you can watch City and think things can turn around.
“I was so disappointed yesterday. It’s so easy for me to sit and say Arsenal should have had a right go at Man City because I know you can end up losing 4-0 or 5-0, and then it looks an awful result. But if you look at Arsenal’s performance, they looked out of their depth and that was really worrying.
“When they got to 75 minutes and were only a goal down, they had to have a right go. But it looked like the players just didn’t have that belief. It seems a long time ago now and it was a long time ago that Arsenal had that.
“They had that fear factor for teams playing them. I found it a really hard watch.”
Merson believes Arsenal should now focus on the Europa League with a top four finish looking very unlikely.
The Gunners take on Benfica on Thursday in the first knockout round of the competition with the tie poised at 1-1 after the first leg. Elimination would essentially end Arsenal’s season.
“It’s probably now time to focus on the Europa League for Arsenal, but they’d do well to win that with the way things are going. There are some really good teams in that competition – some good English teams as well,” he added.
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“It’s a real massive rebuild job at the Emirates Stadium and I think it’s going to take a long, long time. That’s unless they’ve got some money from somewhere and they have a right go, but we’ve seen Chelsea have a right go and look where they are.
“We are talking about whether they will get in the top four and that was a lot of money, so there are no guarantees.
“It’s a really hard one to take for Arsenal at the moment.”