Premier League • England

‘He’s got big ones’ – Mikel Arteta fires back after Gary Neville labels Arsenal star ‘a nervous wreck’

Mikel Arteta, the manager of Arsenal celebrates with his sons after the game. FA Community Shield match, Arsenal v Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in London

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta celebrates a win over Manchester City

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has launched a strong defence of David Raya after Gary Neville strongly criticised the goalkeeper’s performance during Sunday’s monumental 1-0 victory over Manchester City at Emirates Stadium.

Spanish star Raya joined the Gunners from Brentford over the summer, signing on a season-long-loan that can become a permanent £27m deal in 2024. Eyebrows were initially raised at the signing with many feeling Arsenal already had a more than compenent No 1 in Aaron Ramsdale, whose outstanding form for the Gunners helped them to a top-two finish last season.

However, a ruthless Arteta is seemingly convinced that Raya is a goalkeeper capable of taking Arsenal to the next level and one who can alsoy help improve their ability to play out from the back, a facet of his game that Ramsdale sometimes struggles with.

Indeed, with Raya winning the gloves off Ramsdale for the first time back on September 17 in a 1-0 win at Everton, the Spaniard has not looked back with Ramsdale forced to take on a watching brief on the sidelines.

The decision has, largely, looked vindicated so far with Raya helping Arsenal climb to joint top spot in the Premier League and often imposing himself on the side in the way that Arteta will always have envisaged.

The 28-year-old, though, endured something of a difficult first half on Sunday as Arsenal secured a 1-0 win over City for the first time in the league since January 2015. The winner came late on through a deflected Gabriel Martinelli shot. However, the Gunners were somewhat fortunate to go in at half-time on level terms with Raya almost caught out on multiple occasions trying to play out from the back.

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David Raya comes in for strong Gary Neville criticism

Ultimately, however, Arsenal did go in level at the break and they were able to step it up in the second half to narrowly edge their way to a crucial win.

Nevile, though, was quick to take Raya to task in commentary, feeling Arsenal were extremely fortunate not to concede in the opening 45.

“They (City) should have scored. The goalkeeper is all over the place in these first few minutes. He’s really shaky, Raya,” Neville said during co-commentary for Sky Sports.

“He’s just a bit jittery, Raya. He’s not seeing things as clearly as Arsenal fans would like.”

The pundit later suggested Raya was “really struggling”, adding: “I can spot a keeper a mile off that’s a nervous wreck and there’s one right in front of you. He then added: “The mistake in midweek he’s carried into this game, he’s not sharp enough and he’s very lucky.”

Pundit Theo Walcott also went one step further, claiming that the relegated Ramsdale “will be dancing on the bench” at Raya’s display.

Arsenal fans were also unimpressed and also took to social media to criticise Raya.

“Get Raya off asap,” one fumed, as another confessed: “My patience is running thin for Raya. Is he mad?”

Others also feel that Arteta has chosen the wrong No 1, with another stating: “Raya is awful playing out from the back. Ramsdale far better.” Another fan agreed: “I’m sorry, I’m still yet to see anything from Raya that shows me he’s better than Ramsdale.”

Arteta stands up for under-fire Arsenal man

However, Arteta was to have the last laugh and the clean sheet that Arsenal ultimately claimed, which the Gunners boss claimed was “more than just three points”, vindicates his decision to stand by Raya.

And Arteta was also quick to hit back at Neville and everyone else who criticised Raya, hailing his display as both brave and always in control.

“I think he was excellent,’ Arteta told Sky Sports. “The way he controlled the ball.

“How dominant he was and how high he played. I love players with courage and David certainly has big ones!”

Arteta continued: “[City] give you a lot [of problems] and we gave them a lot of issues as well.

“It is not easy to get out [against City]. You need the right timing, the right movement, the right moments. I like the courage.

“You are going to have these [hard] moments against this team. You have to be direct and managed the emotions and make sure you don’t get caught against this team.”

Arsenal now have a 13-day break from Premier League action with their season resuming with a tasty match at revitalised Chelsea on Saturday 21 October, before a Champions League trip to face Sevilla and then a home date with struggling Sheffield United.

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