Premier League • England

Paul Merson destroys two ‘lazy’ Arsenal stars after Villa defeat as he issues grave title warning to Arteta

Paul Merson has written off Arsenal Premier League title hopes after Aston Villa defeat

Paul Merson has written off Arsenal Premier League title hopes after Aston Villa defeat

Paul Merson believes Arsenal now have no chance of winning the Premier League title after witnessing their 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa, having named two players who needed to do much more in their shock Emirates Stadium setback.

The Gunners last won the Premier League title in 2004 – their Invincibles season – and, having come so close last year, Arsenal are hoping to go one better this time around. However, Mikel Arteta’s side failed missed their chance to move back above Man City into top spot after Unai Emery’s side claimed the spoils in north London through late goals by Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins.

Having earlier witnessed their fellow title rivals Liverpool lose 1-0 at home to Crystal Palace, former Arsenal star Merson warned the Gunners the same fate could befall them if they weren’t “at it” against Villa.

And while they started the game full of intent and purpose, their failure to score saw Emery’s side grow into the game and, with tensions growing among their home fans, it came as little surprise when Bailey tucked home Villa’s opener.

IN DEPTHThe world-class XI Arsenal could field next season if Arteta lands top midfield, striker targets

It then soon became 2-0 when chasing an equaliser, Watkins broke free, held off a challenge from Emile Smith Rowe to lift a brilliant finish over the advancing David Raya.

However, on punditry duty for Sky Sports, Merson was less than impressed with the efforts of two Arsenal stars during the game, first condemning Kai Havertz for not doing more in the build-up to the opener and then criticising Ben White for earlier pulling out of a tackle.

Suggesting players need to put everything on the line in a title battle, Merson expressed his anger at both players.

Merson unhappy with two Arsenal stars as he dismisses title hopes

“You’ve got to stop that cross!” Merson bemoaned when watching a replay of Havertz’s attempt at defending.

“There was a time when Ben White jumped out of a tackle before coming off. You’ve got to stop these things. These chances come around not too many chances in a lifetime of winning the league and you’ve got to get out there and stop that.

“Ben White is jumping out of a tackle, he’s a defender jumping out. You don’t get these chances. You go home tonight and think that’s gone. For me it’s gone. You’ve worked that hard for 32 games to go that extra yard, just one yard to stop that cross. It’s lazy.”

On their title hopes, Merson added: “It is 100 per cent gone.”

Asked to explain more about that, Merson believes that Arsenal, having gone two points behind three-time reigning champions Manchester City, have too much to do with just six games left.

“They’re chasing the best team in the world, The best team who have done it year in year out,” he went on to say.

“It’s not like we’re sitting here thinking, ‘I wonder how Man City will be this season with the rest of the games’. They will reel them off. They’ll keep playing and playing and wiping teams away. If it was someone else they were chasing down, every chance.

“I’ve seen this team too many times, they’re bang out of luck Arsenal. They’re chasing one of the best teams ever to play football.”

Gary Neville questions Mikel Arteta tactics

Gary Neville, meanwhile, on co-commentary duty, still believes Arsenal have a glimmer of hope despite questioning Arteta’s tactics in the 2-0 home defeat.

“The performance level was really good in that first half but it got scruffy,” Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast.

“I love Gabriel Jesus as a player, I absolutely love him because of his energy and the pressing and the endeavour, I love that in strikers.

“But then there’s a level that comes and we probably saw why we have seen Kai Havertz play centre forward for the last five or six weeks because there’s more precision, there’s a bit more certainty with him.

“I just felt that’s what Arsenal lacked in the first half, that precision and certainty because they were imperfect in the final third.’

Neville added: “With 20 minutes to go, I thought Mikel Arteta should’ve got Jorginho on in midfield and Jakub Kiwior at left-back, get your best team out there and gain some level of control because otherwise you’re going to get beat.

“It felt like a dangerous situation because the game was going away from Arsenal.”

On their title hopes he added: “You have to trust them you think [to respond to the Aston Villa defeat].

“They need to call upon last season’s experience when they dropped points people didn’t think they would.

“They need to get back on the bike because they’re not out of the title race. It’s going to be tough because of what Man City are but it’s about how Arsenal recover.

“You can finish second to this Man City, it’s about how you finish second. They need to do it in a better way then how they finished last season.

“We’re not watching a team crumbling I don’t think like they did last year. All eyes are going to be on them in the next week or two.”

Arsenal are next in action against Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday, before they tackle Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday evening.