Football

Arteta not to blame for Arsenal’s form: Leno

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is not to blame for their precarious position in the English Premier League and the players must shoulder the responsibility for the team’s dismal form, goalkeeper Bernd Leno said.

Arsenal have lost their previous four home games, with their last league home win coming on Oct 4 against bottom team Sheffield United.

Wednesday’s (Dec 16) 1-1 draw with Southampton at the Emirates Stadium stretched their winless league run to six games, leaving the London club just five points above the relegation zone in 15th place.

“The coach is least to blame for  this situation,” Leno told Sky Sports.

“If you look at the way we were running around on the pitch at times, then the players are the only ones to blame. We’re getting red cards, making mistakes, standing out of position. These are things that we have clearly addressed a thousand times. In the end, it’s a lack of focus on the part of the players.

“The coach is not an issue in the dressing room, there is no criticism of him. We criticise ourselves and the players know that they are responsible.”

Leno said a lack of discipline had contributed to Arsenal’s problems and the players were determined to put things right. Arsenal had central defender Gabriel sent off on Wednesday, while Granit Xhaka was red carded in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Burnley.

“The attitude is bad, the discipline is lacking and we have no self-confidence. There are many factors at play here,” the German shotstopper added.

“We have addressed this very clearly internally and everyone agrees that we have to change this very quickly.”

Arteta was also disappointed with the result against high-flying Southampton on Wednesday, although he acknowledged it was a decent outcome given his men had to play with a man down for the remaining 28 minutes.

Former Gunners Theo Walcott put the Saints ahead with a dinked finish over Leno, before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ended a run of 11 games without a goal in open play with a clinical finish into the bottom left corner after good work by Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah.

The goal proved vital as it came 10 minutes before Gabriel was sent off in the 62nd minute for a second bookable foul when he hauled down Walcott.

“Very disappointed because, in that moment, I was thinking to change the centre-back straight away – we didn’t even have time to do that,” Arteta told the BBC.

“In the end, we got a point that considering the circumstances we have to accept. The boys came out like we did three days ago, we scored a really good goal, on top in the game, and again we shoot ourselves in the foot.”

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuettl was happy enough with a result which took his side third in the table.

“I am OK with a point,” he said.

“Teams have respect for what we are doing and how we are playing. We have shown what we have learnt in the past and that is to play our game and we get more and more confident playing in possession.”

Walcott said he believed Southampton have become a different side.

“Arsenal are in a difficult time but, in the end, it is disappointing to take a point and it shows how far this club has come,” he said.

“We were fantastic, we did everything we wanted to do in the game. We just wanted to concentrate on our strengths, we know how good we are as a unit.”  

Southampton next host Manchester City, who are four points adrift of the Saints in eighth spot, on Saturday, while Arsenal travel to fifth-placed Everton on the same day. – REUTERS, AFP

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