Gary Neville blames cancelled north London derby for Arsenal’s troubles in Champions League race

Gary Neville had his say on Arsenal’s top-four bid (Isaac Parkin/PA)

Gary Neville has said the postponed north London derby is to blame for Arsenal being fifth in the Premier League.

The rearranged fixture was played last Thursday, with Spurs beating the Gunners 3-0. It was originally planned to go ahead in January, but Arsenal requested that it be rearranged due to Covid cases in their squad.

Last week’s result and Arsenal’s subsequent defeat by Newcastle sees fourth-placed Spurs with a two-point advantage over their rivals heading into the final day of the season. Neville has now said Mikel Arteta’s side wouldn’t be in this position if the derby hadn’t been postponed.

“Cancelling that NLD game has cost Arsenal,” Neville tweeted. “They had not recovered at all from Thursday and had this loss been earlier in the season they would have been clear of it.”

If Arsenal had defeated Spurs, Arteta’s men would have been on the verge of securing fourth spot. They missed that opportunity and another against Newcastle, and Arteta has said the club aren’t ready for Champions League football if they continue to play as they did on Monday.

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“The performance was nowhere near the level we need to be at if we want to play in the Champions League,” the Spaniard said. “Normally I will always defend my players. Not tonight, it is too difficult. Newcastle were 100-times better than us in every department, from the beginning to end. It is hard to accept, but that’s the reality.

“We didn’t compete. We never got into the game. We lost every duel. Newcastle deserved to win the game, probably by a bigger margin. I am incredibly disappointed. It’s a very painful one. It was in our hands, it’s not in our hands now.”

Arsenal need to beat Everton on Sunday and for Norwich to defeat Tottenham in order for the Gunners to bag Champions League football.

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