Mikel Arteta slammed for meddling with Arsenal’s tactics against Aston Villa

Former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol has criticised the Arsenal manager for moving Kai Havertz from the central striking position into a midfield role against Unai Emery’s team.

Erstwhile Liverpool defender Steve Nicol has questioned whether Mikel Arteta’s staff do not challenge the Arsenal manager’s decisions after Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Aston Villa.

Arsenal vs Aston Villa

The Gunners suffered a setback at the Emirates Stadium against old boss Unai Emery, who stunned the home crowd with an outstanding second-half display against the Premier League contenders.

Arsenal dominated the opening half but failed to capitalise on their territorial superiority, and they were made to pay after the interlude as Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins netted in the final 10 minutes of the 90 to seal the Villans’ double over the North London club.

Why Nicol criticised Arteta’s usage of Havertz
The significant personnel tweak heading into the game saw Arteta deploy Kai Havertz in a midfield three alongside Martin Odegaard and Declan Rice, taking the Germany international away from a central striking role in which he previously thrived.


Nicol took exception to Arteta changing what had worked for Arsenal since the turn of the year as the Gunners suffered their first defeat of 2024 on Sunday.

“This is the question I would love to know the answer to,” the former Liverpool defender said on ESPN. “I would love to know if anybody on Arsenal’s coaching staff turned round and said to Arteta: ‘Why don’t we leave Havertz where he is?’

“He’s the guy who’s been putting the ball in the back of the net, why don’t we leave him up there? Why are we changing? We’re in a great run of form, he’s in a great run of form, he’s scoring goals. And by the way, when we’ve played him in the middle of the park, he hasn’t done a good job for us.

“Has anybody on Arsenal’s coaching staff got the stomach to turn around to Arteta and say: ‘I think you’re making a mistake’?

“That’s meddling if you ask me.”

What comes next for Arsenal?

Arteta’s men hope to shake off Sunday’s disappointing loss when they travel to Bayern Munich for their Champions League quarterfinal second-leg clash at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.

The Gunners return to Premier League action against Wolverhampton Wanderers on April 20.


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