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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has told his under-fire players to convince him they still have “passion” for the club – or face a summer exit.
His ultimatum comes after an abject display against Liverpool at the Emirates on Saturday evening left Arsenal with winning the Europa League as their only realistic hope of a return to the Champions League.
And after Sky pundit Gary Neville accused the club of having a “little mafia” up front, club legend Emmanuel Petit has weighed in on the attack.
“When I look at the older players in Arsenal’s team, it’s like they think it’s a retreat football club, somewhere you just go for a vacation,” the former Arsenal World Cup winner told Ladbrokes at the launch of the 5-a-side bet on Crystal Palace vs Chelsea.
Ahead of tonight’s Europa League quarter-final first leg against Slavia Prague, Arteta was certainly not in any sort of mood to leap to his players’ defence.
“Emmanuel knows the club really well and was here in the most successful years and he has that opinion – I have to change that opinion,” he said.
“I am here to give my valuation of what I see every day and where we are and I know where we are and where we want to go. We have to respect that.
“Showing passion goes with the character. People who are much more introvert or extrovert show much more emotion with their body language than others, but it does not mean it does not hurt as much.
“But for sure people who don’t have that emotion, that passion or that commitment, they won’t be at this football club.”
And as with Neville’s comments from earlier this week, it is about how Arsenal players respond to the criticism which counts in Arteta’s consideration.
“It’s just about how we take the criticism,” the Spaniard said. “It’s not good to get the criticism and feel guilty, because that guilt is going to be changed into fear.
“It’s about feeling responsible, and that is the key word for me. You have to be responsible every day for what you do on that pitch, for the club we represent, and then act and not too much talking.
Sadly, though, that may not be the case in the near future for Kieran Tierney, who picked up an injury in that game against Liverpool that could still put his Euro 2020 place in jeopardy.
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“We have to first make sure that he doesn’t need any surgery, which it doesn’t look like,” Arteta explained. “If that’s the case, the timeframe will be around four to six weeks.
“It could have been worse because the action looks quite scary but he’s feeling better and the damage is not that bad.
“He’s so keen to play for us before the end of the season and he’s extremely keen to represent his country in the Euros.
Probable Arsenal team vs Slavia Prague (4-2-3-1): Leno; Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Soares; Partey, Xhaka; Willian, Odegaard, Aubameyang; Lacazette.
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