Paul Merson destroys Mikel Arteta for ‘mind-blowing’ substitution vs Villarreal

Paul Merson described Arsenal's performance against Villarreal as 'the worst he'd ever seen'
Paul Merson described Arsenal’s performance against Villarreal as ‘the worst he’d ever seen’ (Picture: Sky Sports)

Paul Merson described Arsenal’s performance against Villarreal on Thursday night as ‘the worst he’d ever’ seen and criticised the ‘mind-blowing’ decision to substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Mikel Arteta’s side desperately needing a goal.

The Gunners managed just one shot on target and were unable to overturn a first leg 2-1 deficit at the Emirates against a dogged Villarreal side managed by Arteta’s predecessor Unai Emery.

Aubameyang, still recovering from the after effects of having contracted malaria, came as close as anyone to breaking the deadlock, striking the post twice despite being starved of service.

With the tie still delicately poised as the match entered its final stages, Arteta took the bizarre decision to withdraw the club captain and introduce summer signing Willian who had failed to score in any of his previous 35 appearances for his new club.

The former Chelsea winger was totally ineffectual during the final 10 minutes, as were fellow substitutes Alexandre Lacazette, who was making his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury a fortnight ago, and youngster Eddie Nketiah.

Paul Merson couldn't understand the decision to take off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Villarreal
Paul Merson couldn’t understand the decision to take off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Villarreal (Picture: Getty)

‘It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,’ the former Arsenal forward told Sky Sports reflecting on his former club’s display against the Yellow Submarine.

‘That’s the worst I’ve seen. That was a semi-final of a European game and there was absolutely no urgency.

‘If you’d have come in and turned it on with 10 minutes to go you’d have thought Arsenal were through.

‘It was mind-blowing at the highest level. Aubameyang’s coming off, top goalscorer. You need a goal, you’ve got to keep him on the pitch.

‘You’re bringing players on who haven’t scored all season. It was as bad as it could possibly get, it was an embarrassment. No European football for the first time in 25 years, it’s an absolute joke.’

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