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Arsenal legend Martin Keown slams Mikel Arteta for ‘exposing’ Granit Xhaka at left-back against Villarreal


ARSENAL icon Martin Keown blasted Mikel Arteta for hanging Granit Xhaka out to dry by exposing him at left-back against Villarreal.

The Gunners were 2-0 down inside 30 minutes in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final with both goals coming from the Arsenal left.

Martin Keown fumed at Mikel Arteta's use of Granit Xhaka

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Martin Keown fumed at Mikel Arteta’s use of Granit XhakaCredit: BT Sport
Arteta played Xhaka as a makeshift left-back against Villarreal

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Arteta played Xhaka as a makeshift left-back against VillarrealCredit: Getty

Nicolas Pepe’s second-half penalty gave Arteta’s ten men a lifeline in the tie with a crucial away goal after Dani Ceballos had been sent off after picking up his second booking.

With Scot Kieran Tierney out injured for the rest of the season, midfielder Xhaka continued to deputise at left-back as he had done in the defeat to Everton in the Prem.

Pundit Keown fumed on BT Sport: “Keep it simple, you have to have a specialist left-back at this level.

“And that was always going to be a problem as it was against Everton.

“It’s the actions of a player that is not comfortable in that position and it’s the manager that has put him there.

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“It’s about the decisions of the manager. It’s not Xhaka’s fault by the way. I do believe he’s the most improved player we have.

“He’s still had a difficult time but to play him at left-back leaves him exposed for me.”

The former no-nonsense centre-back claimed Bukayo Saka – whose moment of magic won the vital spot-kick – would be a better option on the left side of defence.

Keown added: “It’s about the manager creating the strongest fist he can as a team with what’s available.

“Saka was picked to play for England in the November World Cup qualifiers as a left-back.

“We know know he’s in the squad as a forward player but that’s how versatile he is so play him at left-back.

“Then [Gabriel] Martinelli can play, Pepe can play. There’s still plenty of talent but it’s a better XI.”

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