Football

Misfiring Gunners draw flak

Ex-Arsenal defender Keown slams players for lacking 'resolve, desire and hunger'

Few were expecting Arsenal to pull a rabbit out of their hat against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, but the meek defensive performance by the Gunners left a sour taste in the mouths of many.

Harry Kane's 49th-minute goal at Wembley settled the issue in a 1-0 win for Spurs, and the way he virtually rose unchallenged to head home was a reflection of how fragile Arsenal's backline has been this season.

The 36 goals they have conceded in the English Premier League in this campaign is only one less than bottom-dwellers West Bromwich Albion.

BT Sport pundits Martin Keown and Rio Ferdinand ripped into Arsenal's shambolic defending, questioning the desire and mental strength of the Arsenal defenders.

Said former Arsenal centre back Keown: "That team talk at half-time, towards players that want to defend in the team, should have been about resolve.

"They got a pat on the back but it has to be better in the second half.

"Spurs came at them with a higher tempo and were simply too good.

"It is a bit of a false dawn, the new signings (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan) and what they did last week against Everton.

"The resolve, desire, hunger to defend is just not there and they allowed too much space to Tottenham, and they exploited it."

Ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand thought Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger missed a great opportunity during last month's transfer window, as he feels it was clear the team needed defensive reinforcement badly.

He said: "It confirms what we all knew before, inconsistencies and lacking balance. They had to get a defender in January.

"They lack concentration and leadership in the central area of the pitch. Far too many times Spurs got through them.

"You can't just put that down to formations and systems.

"There has got to be players on the pitch that take responsibility and take pride in keeping clean sheets and being disciplined."

Spurs hotshot Kane probably wasn't trying to rub salt into the wound but he sure sounded that way when he said he was surprised that the score remained at 1-0 until the final whistle, given his team's dominance.

The Gunners were outplayed for long periods as new signings Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan failed to shine in their first taste of the North London derby, reported AFP.

Kane's 32nd club goal of the season means he has now scored seven times in seven leagues games against Arsenal, who have not beaten a top-five side away in 16 games.

Said Kane on Spurs' official website: "It was a great game and we really played well, especially in the second half after we went 1-0 up.

"It's crazy how it ended 1-0, but we'll take it.

"In these big games, you just need that first goal and then the spaces start to open up and you get more chances.

"That's what happened and we should have been more clinical, we know that, but we played very well and kept them quiet until the last five minutes when they piled on the pressure."

Arsenal's loss left them six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool, who could overtake Tottenham in third by beating Southampton away in this morning's (Singapore time) EPL clash.

Failing to qualify for next season's Champions League via a top-four finish would be another hammer blow for the beleaguered Wenger, whose team had to settle for a berth in the far less attractive Europa League this term.

Wenger acknowledged that depressing fate is staring Arsenal in the face again following Kane's latest act of vengeance against the club that rejected him as a youngster.

"It's a game we couldn't afford to lose, it makes it much more difficult," Wenger said.

"We have to fight, there was more at stake than just the derby, that's why it's so disappointing.

"It's very disappointing because the priority is to be in the Champions League via the top four.

"I'm not a big fan of the Europa League winner getting into the Champions League. It's not right, but if it is an opportunity, we have to take it."

Football