“Honestly I can believe it” Former Gunner slams Arteta for FA Cup team selection

Paul Merson has questioned Mikel Arteta’s decision to rest his first-team players for the FA Cup match against Southampton.

The Gunners were eliminated from the competition by the Saints who beat them 1-0 today.

Arteta brought back the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Willian to his starting XI. Both players have been missing since the Gunners started winning games again.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang unavailable, he started Eddie Nketiah and also benched Bukayo Saka and Thomas Partey.

Merson says because the Gunners will not win the league and they won’t even make the top four, he should have fielded his best players in this competition since that brought him some success last season.

He credited the competition for making the Spaniard in the last campaign as he helped the Gunners beat the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea to win it for a record 14th time.

He said on Sky Sports: “I don’t know what he’s doing, they’re not going to win the league.

“They are not going to get in the top four of the Premier League unless they went on one of the best runs in the history of the Premier League.

“So, for me, this is the one that made Arteta last time around.

“He’s come to Arsenal, he had a great semifinal and a great final.

“Honestly I can believe it, this is a more important game than the midweek league game, in my opinion.

“They’re not getting relegated and they are not getting in the top four. 

“So for me, you don’t really want to end up getting 6th or whatever again, and then you plan the Europa and you plan Thursday, I think that just sends them back.

“So for me, bad decision.”

Tags Paul Merson


  1. His bigger point was that we need to finally act like a “real” professional organization that understands how one conducts business in a truly transitional year…naïve selections and negative tactics are just a by-product of the ineptitude that has dominated the Arsenal landscape for the better part of this season…Arteta’s stubbornness is eerily reminding me of another former employee, any guesses? before the game, much like many of you, I’m sure, I was wondering who Arteta would select between Wilian or Pepe, assuming one of them would almost assuredly start, little did I know that he would somehow figure out a way to shoehorn the both of them into our piss poor starting 11…if he was saving the “Willian playing in the CAM position” card, like had been discussed briefly on the off-season, it failed to inspire, as was expected

    1. Hi RVL. Im really undecided (aka fickle) about Arteta. Its good then bad in turns. Start to think we are getting there, then we (or he) do something daft.
      I thing we needed to clamp down on lax attitudes and poor descipline which may have started late in the AW era, but I also think pragmatism is also often necessary. Dont cut off your nose to spite your face, and Im not sure MA does pragmatism, only principle (ie “my way or the highway”). Yes hes continuing to be stubborn, and a midfield including Pepe, Willian and Elneny is simply coneding before the game starts!

      1. Hey Guy, I’m not opposed to Arteta, I’m just not convinced…some will say that good defensive play is borne out of making consistently good decisions over a considerable period of time so that it becomes almost second nature…the problem with that is if you have everyone focusing too much on one side of the play, they lack the ability to turn the page in the offensive zone…if this happens you eventually have no choice but to rely too heavily on your defensive play to get results, which simply compounds the problem…furthermore if you place too much focus on this type of truly negative tactics you aren’t actually learning how to play defence when you’re actually taking chances in the final 3rd, which should be the ultimate goal…the fact that he’s doing this in baby steps suggests that he believes this team, as it stands, is simply not good enough to employ a much more balanced tactical game plan, let alone adopting a release the dogs approach, which is a bit worrisome, especially against teams outside the top 4 or 5…Cheers

        1. Agree. He seems to have either two problems or some uncertainty as to what can work.
          1 Having concentrated on shoring up an awful defence with an abundance of DM’s he either is still defensively obsessed (he certainly seems to very readily revert to it) or doesnt believe they are yet good enough to progress from that
          2 He likes defined structure and roles – perhaps because it was sadly lacking before, or perhaps because that’s his DNA. if overstressed to players though it stifles originality, flair and risk taking as players fear being dropped for trying anything individual or outside their remit. This was blatently obviously the case until a few weeks ago

  2. Im mixed on that one Dec – not least because Merson often talks rubbish! Love the FA cup but i’d rather rise in the EPL than get to the latter stages of the cup, and I dont think we can do both with this squad.

    1. I hate that guy! How did he get a pundit role? If we hate him and we are Arsenal fans, what do the rest think of him? lol

  3. I dont agree that this game was more important than Tuesday (all games are important) but i do agree that he got the team selection completely wrong. Playing players in wrong positions, playing pairings that haven’t worked before, playing players that are performing badly game after game is plain stupid. Ive said it before Artetas attention to detail sucks. Small things like unprofessionalism (foul throws) little things like silly fouls and silly yellow cards etc are not being clamped down on. By doing what he did today is sending out all the wrong messages to the players. We looked so out of balance and under prepared for this game and players that can show energy and enthusiasm sat on the bench. Yes we have to rotate but players also have be given a fair chance and watching players play under par game after game and still being played and players who aren’t being given a chance just keep sittng on the bench.

  4. Poor selection and poor attitude in our play .I cannot believe that cup holders did not have the right approach to play the game .Gabriel was no ready and holding was pathetic .Nkitiah is substandard and the midfield did not have the drive to move forward to create something in the final third .Cedric against his former team wasted so many crosses and Pepe’s attitude sound like he does not seem to be bothered ,where is the drive that willian used to have with Chelsea .Martinelli should have played at the right flank .Arsenal procurement of players like Pepe and William is a total waste of money . The club is in such dire straits unfortunately and Alas!!!!! You need a David Dean mentality to run the club from up stairs

  5. Why is Tuesday game more important?
    We are not getting top 4 so why not go for cup which is same prize as finishing 5- 6 th

  6. One team today was managed by someone with a clear plan who is able to get the most out of his players….The other team by a man who keeps stubbornly picking his favourite players who are undeserving of selection and then exacerbating the situation by using a method of play which is far too slow and ponderous to break down any dynamic and motivated Premier League side.

  7. Everybody on Just Arsenal must be scratching their heads at todays team selection. Absurd team selection. How was it going to win….by magic?

  8. I dont agree at all, the manager doesn’t make foul throughs on the pitch. Since merse knows so much let him go in detail to see the minutes that the guys that are inform have played. It is only natural for them to have a rest or would you have them pick up injuries, tear hamstrings? For a cup we have won over and over? The fa cup is a big cup but we are only 7 points of top four and this season it is any teams for the taking. Rotation is naturally and these fringe players need to get a chance, how will they get up some form if they never play? Merse makes statements out of emotion an not based on facts.

  9. Today’s team selection was pathetic and absurd! I personally think MA has questionable integrity as a coach,he could have gone for both FA and top four ie giving us the strongest squad to face southampton.

  10. MA prioritizes EPL points over the cup. I do too. William and Pepe have simply shown they aren’t good enough. Winning the cup was great but a higher league position is the goal. Disagree with putting Saka at left back though. There were other options. Mersons opinion – irrelevant.

  11. It was a poor game from our side, for 70 mins we played total crap, then TP and Saka came on and we came alive, a little too late imo.

    that result and team performance shows how bad our overall squad depth is.

    In the last 5 or so games we have been lively in the final 3rd due to ESR, Saka and Laca, also Xhaka has probably played his best football for us since he joined us.

    People have said we will go through alot of pain with MA in charge to get back to where we think we should be and yesterday was a prime example of that, we dont have a great squad, we have 2 donkeys in Pepe and Willian who just restrict everyone else from playing as they are just not up to the standard required or suit the way MA wants to play.
    Both should be moved on imo and the sooner the better

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