By Matt Farr
Former Arsenal player and pundit Martin Keown has called into question Arsenal’s desire after their cup exit at the hands of Southampton on Wednesday.
In his SportsMail column, Keown believed Arsenal had enough quality players on the pitch to win the game, and that they didn’t show enough fight for their team.
Arsene Wenger made 10 changes for the game, opting to rest the likes of in-form duo Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott, in favour of Lucas Perez and Jeff Reine-Adelaide – his priorities lying in other competitions.
“The defeat by Southampton will have been worrying for Wenger as the players didn’t seem to have any desire,” Keown began.
“There was enough on the pitch for Arsenal to win that match. Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny both started at Old Trafford in the league, Aaron Ramsey has played in the Mesut Ozil role to great effect for Wales, and Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs have both won England caps.
“But there was no urgency to their play. They didn’t seem to create anything. It was all very safe, passing the ball in front of their opponents.
“Wenger will have been disappointed by Jenkinson – he looked devoid of confidence. Somewhere along the line Wenger has to motivate these players to give more when they play,” he said.
The Arsenal boss has come under scrutiny for his managerial ability in recent seasons, having failed to lead Arsenal to a Premier League title since their unbeaten campaign in 2003-04.
The club ended their decade-long trophy drought with back-to-back FA Cup victories in 2013-14 and 2014-15, but the Premier League title – the ultimate prize – has continued to elude them.
Wenger’s side finished as runners-up last year, and are currently fourth, three points behind leaders Chelsea. However, they have a habit of coming up short against winnable opposition, and Keown believes that was the case on Wednesday night.
If they are to stand any chance of finishing at the top of the pile this season, Wenger and Arsenal must silence their critics yet again, and prove that they possess a winning mentality.
They have an opportunity to bounce back from their cup exit against underperforming West Ham in the league on Saturday, followed by a trip to Basel midweek for their final Champions League group game.
In other Arsenal news, Wenger is expected to make seven changes for their next Premier League game.