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Mikel Arteta reacts to Gary Neville’s “little mafia” Arsenal theory

Mikel Arteta has responded to Gary Neville’s ‘little mafia’ comments – by saying the scathing criticism his Arsenal players received after their thrashing by Liverpool was “fully deserved”.

Neville made the remark after the Gunners were thrashed 3-0 by Jurgen Klopp’s side, with the ex-Manchester United man saying he felt some of Arteta’s players looked “disinterested”.

Arteta has said his side must take the pundit’s criticism “on the chin” – and do their talking on the pitch as they bid against Slavia Prague in the Europa League on Thursday.

Saturday’s defeat to Liverpool has left Arsenal 10 points behind the Premier League’s top four – meaning their only realistic chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League is now to win Europe’s second-tier competition.

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Arteta was asked to respond to Neville’s comments as he faced the media ahead of Thursday’s quarter-final first-leg clash against their Czech visitors.

Mikel Arteta said all his players must improve on their performance against Liverpool
Mikel Arteta said all his players must improve on their performance against Liverpool

“No, no response,” said the Gunners boss. “I think we have to respect every opinion and when there is criticism coming after the way we played against Liverpool we have to take it on the chin.

“Because any criticism we get – with the way we played – is fully deserved.

“So it’s not time to respond, it’s time to talk on the pitch and show what we can do which, when we are at full gas, is a lot.”

Pressed further on Neville’s comments, Arteta said: “Listen I don’t read or listen… obviously I need to be aware of what is being said.

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Arsenal's 3-0 defeat to Liverpool left them 10 points behind the Premier League's top four
Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool left them 10 points behind the Premier League’s top four

“The only thing I’m saying, whether it’s the one from Gary or Jamie [Carragher] or whoever is talking about us, and after the performance that we had against Liverpool, we have to perform, and that’s the only thing we have to do.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was among the players criticised by Neville, with the skipper having endured his worst season in an Arsenal shirt, having managed just 10 goal involvements in 25 Premier League matches.

Asked if his captain’s performances have been good enough, Arteta said: “I think the whole team and myself have to put in better performances than we did the other day against Liverpool, that’s for sure.”

Neville was scathing in his criticism of Arsenal following their defeat on Saturday, saying he couldn’t believe what he had seen at the Emirates.

Gary Neville let rip and accused some of Arsenal's players of forming a "little mafia"
Gary Neville let rip and accused some of Arsenal’s players of forming a “little mafia”

“I was alarmed,” Neville said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football .

“At the end of the game I did something I don’t ordinarily do. I normally just get straight off as soon as the game finishes, but I sat around for a bit with Martin Tyler and just said ‘what was that’?

He added: “I have to say, coming out of Saturday, we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes at Arsenal but there were a few of those players on the front part of the pitch, it looked like a little mafia.

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“It looked like a little group of players who weren’t comfortable, like there was a disconnect with them and the manager – like the manager looked like he’d had enough of them, like he had that glazed-eye look.

“Look, it’s instinct but we’ve been around football now quite a long time to know when a group of players are disinterested.

“We could be completely wrong and next week we could be talking about how great they are.

“The shape under Mikel Arteta has been really good. That back four pushes up to a really good line, they have a compact 30-35 metres always between them.

“Actually that wasn’t too different on Saturday, but what was really different was the effort, or lack of it, of that front six.

“I’m going to say all six. Odegaard, a few times he did try and put a little bit of a press on but he was on his own. The rest of them, I’d go as far as to say they were a joke.”

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