Despite lots of plaudits for an impressive overall performance against Manchester United, Arsenal have been on the end of some damning criticism after their defeat on Sunday.
The Gunners lost their first match of the season at Old Trafford, falling to a 3-1 defeat despite controlling large portions of the game, before coming unstuck against a clinical counter-attack. Although Mikel Arteta and his captain Martin Odegaard both focused on an early controversial VAR call that cancelled out what would have been Gabriel Martinelli’s opener, the Gunners have been singled out for some of their decisions in the loss.
After going 2-1 behind, Arteta responded quickly by bringing on three substitutes within 10 minutes of the goal, which was scored shortly after Bukayo Saka had levelled the game.
The decision has been picked out as a game-changer for Arsenal, and not in a good way by Garth Crooks. The BBC Sport pundit was critical of the decision, which included taking off Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko and bringing on Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah.
In his team of the week, which included Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Christian Eriksen, Crooks said, “For 60 minutes, Arsenal played the best football I’ve seen them play this season. Perhaps with a little more patience from their manager the Gunners might have come away with something. Having five substitutes doesn’t mean you have to use all of them.”
Although the move to change three players whilst on top of the game does raise questions, Arsenal did bring on two attacking changes with Fabio Vieira also a more forward thinking option than Albert Sambi Lokonga. Also, being early in the season and with fitness levels not yet reaching optimum levels, making changes was arguably justified.
He also only went on to use four of the five changes available to him, with Erik ten Hag also only making four. The final change was to bring on the more attacking Takehiro Tomiyasu in place of makeshift right-back Ben White shortly after Rashford had put United two goals ahead.
This also isn’t the first time Crooks has been overly critical of Arsenal this season despite their impressive start to the season. After they beat Fulham, he said: “The headline after Saturday’s win was ‘How Arteta is turning Arsenal into contenders’. My only problem with that statement is I didn’t like the way the Arsenal manager went about it against Fulham.
“With the final seconds ticking away, and the visitors chasing an equaliser, I was hopping with fury to see Mikel Arteta watch the ball roll off the pitch into the technical area, pick it up and then throw it away as the Fulham player was racing to get it back into play.
“Managers should never touch the ball unless they intend to hand it back to the player. Bertie Mee or Arsene Wenger would never have behaved in such a manner – and they have won titles.”