Soccer

Keown urges Arteta to drop two Arsenal players after Man City defeat

Martin Keown wants to see Mikel Arteta go back to his tried and tested attacking line-up by omitting both Nicolas Pepe and Martin Odegaard from his starting XI.

Despite his recent upturn in form, Pepe was a surprise inclusion against Man City.

New loan signing Odegaard's involvement was less of a shock, given he had filled the No.10 role in Thursday's draw with Benfica, but the selection of both stars meant no place in the side for Emile Smith Rowe, who started on the bench.

Smith Rowe has arguably been Arsenal's best player since Christmas, and did eventually enter the fray late on, as he and Alexandre Lacazette replaced Pepe and Odegaard in the 73rd minute.

Sadly for the Gunners it was too late to spark a comeback as Raheem Sterling's early header proved to be the winner, but Keown wants to see Arteta revert back to his previous selection.

"It surprised me that Arsenal didn’t press Manchester City like they had pressed Leeds in their last home game," Keown told The Mail.

"It was courtesy of their high press against Leeds that Arsenal won a penalty to make it 2-0. Emile Smith Rowe later picked up possession on the edge of the opposition box before assisting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to make it 4-0. Yesterday was different. Arsenal showed the visitors too much respect and City were allowed to dominate.

"For Mikel Arteta, the front four who finished this game are his best combination and they need to be starting matches. I’d like to see Aubameyang on the left, Alexandre Lacazette central, Bukayo Saka on the right and Smith Rowe in behind."

Who should start in Arsenal's attack vs Benfica on Thursday? Have your say below.

Keown's thoughts similarly echoed those of Sky Sports pundit Alex Scott, who questioned why Smith Rowe had been left out in favour of Odegaard.

"Today you look at Odegaard, for me he was bang average," Scott said.

"And so you question the decision actually with Smith Rowe not being selected ahead of him.

"I think we’re going to see his [Odegaard’s] real qualities over the next couple of weeks.

"Is he good enough to be in this starting XI of Arsenal? Or actually is this loan period going to be a short one?"

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