Roy Keane’s “soft” claim coming back to haunt Arsenal with Champions League dream fading

Lampard says Everton can relax for Arsenal trip

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Arsenal have one last game before they conclude their 2021/22 campaign – and it could still change the entire outlook on the season. The Gunners have lost their last two matches to surrender fourth place to bitter rivals Tottenham.

To qualify for next season’s Champions League they are in the undesirable position of needing a favour from the Premier League’s bottom club, Norwich, this weekend. Mikel Arteta’s side face Everton on Sunday, with the minor boost that the Toffees now have nothing to play for after their dramatic 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on Thursday made them safe.

But the likelihood is that Arsenal have already blown their chances of ending their six-year absence from Europe’s premier cup competition. When it mattered most they lost 3-0 to Spurs and 2-0 to Newcastle, allowing their rivals to overtake at the last corner. As they head onto the final straight they need a minor miracle.

The aftermath of their defeat at St James’ Park has seen accusations fly. Granit Xhaka came out and criticised his own team-mates, while many words have been written and said about the knock-on effects the game could have on Arsenal’s long-term plans.

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The Gunners spent £150million on six players last summer and have similar ambitions this time around, with major recruitment needed. That will be made all the more difficult without the allure of the Champions League.

Arsenal’s current predicament also lends some credence to Roy Keane, who has been consistent in his criticism of Arteta’s side over the past few years. The former Manchester United captain is renowned for his hard-nosed opinions and he did not hold back when assessing Arsenal back in November 2020, after a 2-1 defeat by Wolves.

“I think a lot of the players aren’t good enough,” Keane said on Sky Sports. “I think there’s a softness there. I think, obviously a few years ago all the cheerleaders were out when they had a decent performance up at United.


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“Only got one point since then, obviously lost the other two games. I think they look soft. They’re probably lacking a bit of confidence, I didn’t see that fight that the manager was talking about. I know it was a difficult interview (for Arteta), you’ve been beaten in the game, it’s difficult, but I didn’t see that desire, that determination to get a result. You can have an off night, of course, but you still find a way to get a result and at this moment in time I don’t see it with this group of players. They look a bit soft.”

Around the same time, Keane took issue with then-captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang referring to Arteta by his first name. “They didn’t show him respect when they called him Mikel,” Keane told Sky Sports. “He’s the manager or the boss or the gaffer. That is respect, not Mikel, he is not your mate. It’s called respect.”

Many might see Keane’s point of view as archaic and out of touch, but the former United hard man will certainly believe his opinions have been backed up by recent events. Arsenal have lacked leadership over the past week and have come up short as a team when it really mattered. Regardless of Tottenham’s result against Norwich on Sunday, the least Arsenal can do is show some character and bounce back against Everton. Closing the season on a positive note can give them some impetus heading into a hugely important summer period.

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