Mikel Arteta responds to Gary Neville’s scathing criticism of Arsenal’s ‘little mafia’

Mikel Arteta responds to Gary Neville's scathing criticism of Arsenal's 'little mafia'
The Sky Sports pundit ripped Arsenal apart after their loss to Liverpool (Pictures: Sky Sports)

Mikel Arteta has told his Arsenal players they must take Gary Neville’s scathing criticism ‘on the chin’ and prove their doubters wrong in their next match against Sparta Prague in the Europa League.

The Gunners’ slim chances of qualifying for the Champions League took a big dent when they were beaten 3-0 by Liverpool on Saturday night, with their lethargic and disjointed performance even more damaging than the result.

Neville was aghast at what he had seen from Arsenal and particularly laid into skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette, branding them a ‘little mafia’ and claiming Arteta was ‘fed up’ with the trio.

Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League
Arsenal shipped three goals against Liverpool and it could have been more (Picture: Getty)

While the Arsenal boss would not be drawn on whether a ‘disconnect’ had emerged between himself and his players, he feels any criticism of the side was justified given the nature of the defeat to Liverpool and the performance that accompanied it.

Asked to respond to Neville’s ‘little mafia’ comments at a press conference on Wednesday, Arteta replied: ‘No, no response. I think we have to respect every opinion and when there is criticism coming after the way we played against Liverpool we have to take it on the chin.

‘Because any criticism we get – with the way we played – is fully deserved.

‘So it’s not time to respond, it’s time to talk on the pitch and show what we can do which, when we are at full gas, is a lot.’

Probed further on Neville’s comments, and whether he faces a showdown with players who lack the right attitude, Arteta continued: ‘Listen I don’t read or listen… obviously I need to be aware of what is being said.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium
Aubameyang was particularly criticised by Neville over his display (Picture: Getty)

‘The only thing I’m saying, whether it’s the one from Gary or Jamie [Carragher] or whoever is talking about us, and after the performance that we had against Liverpool, we have to perform, and that’s the only thing we have to do.’

Aubameyang has had his worst season in an Arsenal shirt, mustering just 10 goal involvements in 25 Premier League matches, with the captain taking the brunt of Neville’s criticism after the Liverpool defeat.

Asked if Aubameyang’s performances have been good enough, Arteta replied: ‘I think the whole team and myself have to put in better performances than we did the other day against Liverpool, that’s for sure.’

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