Bernd Leno’s assessment this week that Mikel Arteta is not to blame for Arsenal’s awful Premier League form made for an interesting take from the German.
Speaking ahead of the defeat to Burnley, the 28-year-old didn’t shy away from digging out his teammates for their bad positioning, poor discipline and lack of focus. In his mind, there is no doubt that current failings are firmly the fault of the players.
When the evaluation was put to Mikel Arteta ahead of the trip to Everton, the boss was quick to put himself in the line of fire.
“I take full responsibility because I pick the players that are on the pitch,” he said.
“I have to try to be able to transmit to them the state of mind so that they can control themselves.
“Unfortunately, in football everything goes so quickly and emotions play a big part. I want the players to play with freedom and to take the pressure off them. Honestly, in this moment I believe that’s how you get the best out of them.”
Arteta will be forced to rotate again when we head to Goodison Park with Xhaka and now Gabriel suspended. It looks as though David Luiz, who hasn’t featured since his horrible clash of heads with Wolves striker Raul Jimenez, will return.
While the Brazilian isn’t exactly a poster-boy for discipline and focus, the boss says his experience and leadership qualities will be very welcome during this tough period.
“That’s a key word [leadership],” he said. “In this moment, you want players to take ownership, to be accountable when they go on the pitch and you need leaders to inspire others.
“That gives security to the players. Obviously, David’s experience and what he’s achieved in the game is above everybody else in that dressing room, for sure. His experience can be really helpful.”
It remains to be seen whether Luiz gets the nod or if the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers or Pablo Mari are given a chance.