Martin Keown says he “would be surprised if there is a way back under” under Mikel Arteta for Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka after his latest sending off.
The 10-man Gunners fell to a 1-0 loss against Burnley on Sunday, their fourth home league defeat in a row, as a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang own goal settled the game in favour of the Clarets – who enjoyed a first-ever win at the Emirates Stadium as a result.
A turgid first half ended with just one shot on target for either side but Arsenal were better immediately following the interval.
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They were unable to build on that head of steam as Xhaka was dismissed for grabbing Ashley Westwood round the throat – his initial booking upgraded to a red card after referee Graham Scott consulted the pitchside VAR monitor.
It was the seventh time Arsenal have had a player sent off in the Premier League since Arteta was appointed almost a year ago and the defeat leaves the FA Cup holders just five points above the relegation zone.
“Mikel Arteta’s long-term vision is clashing with Arsenal’s current predicament,” Keown told the Daily Mail.
“It is something of an understatement to say his attempt to switch to a back four has not worked. The last four Premier League results playing that way are: lost three, drawn one. It is relegation form and Arsenal are in crisis.
“Going into the Aston Villa game last month, Arsenal had the best defensive record and had just won at Old Trafford for the first time in the league since 2006. All with the back five with which they won the FA Cup and Community Shield.
“True, they lost against Villa with a back five and the lack of creativity in a game they should have bossed was alarming – but I don’t think the manager needed to change it because of one result.
“Clearly Arteta’s plan is to play 4-2-1-3. But for that to work he needs two world-class central midfielders. He may have one in Thomas Partey but the Ghanaian is out for a while after being rushed back too soon from injury for the Tottenham game.
“Arsenal are still searching for the right balance in centre midfield, unlike Spurs, who have the perfect duo in Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Moussa Sissoko, prepared to go to war for their manager.
“Which brings me to Granit Xhaka. Of course, he will be under fire after Sunday’s sending-off against Burnley, and rightly so.
“He just does not get around the pitch quickly enough. He has made some huge mistakes – so many in fact you would be surprised if there is a way back under Arteta.
“If the experienced players cannot do it, it is time to trust a youngster in the heart of midfield. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is an England player and he was superb in that position against Rapid Vienna. He has great pace, is good in possession and can defend.”