‘We made a mistake’ – Martin Keown criticises Arsenal duo Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard in Villarreal loss

Martin Keown criticises Arsenal duo Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard in Villarreal loss
The £45m signing from Atletico Madrid endured a testing night (Picture: Getty Images)

Arsenal legend Martin Keown has criticised both Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard for their performances against Villarreal in the Europa League semi-final, though lays the blame on Mikel Arteta.

The north Londoners exited the competition after slumping to a goalless draw at the Emirates on Thursday evening, having mustered just one shot on target despite only needing a solitary goal to progress.

Arteta opted to play Partey as a lone holding midfielder with Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe the two more advanced players ahead of him, but the formation left Arsenal’s £45million recruit from Atletico Madrid isolated and exposed.

Martin Keown criticises Arsenal duo Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard in Villarreal loss
Partey struggled against Villarreal and very nearly gifted them a goal (Picture: Getty)

Keown was far from impressed with Partey’s sub-par performance and does not believe he has lived up to expectations, while he also criticised Odegaard for his lack of work rate and pressing.

‘You would have thought it would have suited Partey sitting deep in that midfield but it didn’t,’ Keown told BT Sport after the game.

‘He didn’t look like he had the energy to get round the pitch and they didn’t work off him well enough.

‘It was the tactics from the manager, completely outnumbered in that midfield and that was the tactical plan that Arteta went with.’

He continued: ‘We thought we were signing the next Patrick Vieira and he hasn’t looked like that at all.

‘Started with an injury, came back early and got injured again. Doesn’t seem to have the legs in midfield, certainly on his own.

Martin Keown criticises Arsenal duo Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard in Villarreal loss
Odegaard is currently on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid (Picture: Getty)

‘We made a mistake. We should have had two midfield players side-by-side in that midfield, for compactness. We didn’t have the right balance in that midfield.

‘And then I’m looking at Odegaard – when is he pressing? He didn’t seem to want to go and press with the frontline to create a four to stop Villarreal coming out.

‘And then in midfield they were able to just pass us by, he wasn’t able to offer that buffer, that protection for the defence.’

Arteta was asked if he felt his formation had allowed Arsenal – and Partey in particular – to be overrun in midfield and replied bluntly: ‘I don’t think so.’

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