Mikel Arteta has defended his decision to withdraw the dangerous Gabriel Martinelli in Arsenal’s defeat to Aston Villa and feels the side were making ‘rash’ decisions with the Brazilian speedster on the pitch.
The Gunners were handed just their second Premier League defeat of the season at Villa Park on Saturday evening, with John McGinn’s strike after just seven minutes ultimately deciding the contest.
Arsenal controlled the match for large spells and were particularly dominant either side of half-time, with it appearing almost inevitable that the north Londoners would grab an equaliser as Villa seemed to flag at the start of the second period.
Martinelli looked particularly dangerous up against Villa’s tiring high line and got in several times down the left flank, with Unai Emery deciding to sub off Ezri Konsa and put on the fresher Matty Cash to combat the 22-year-old’s growing threat.
But, not long after that change, Martinelli was withdrawn in favour of Leandro Trossard and Arsenal’s goal threat – and control of the game – dissipated somewhat, with Villa appearing to have ridden out the storm.
Arteta, though, rejected suggestions that his substitution made Arsenal flatter and felt his team were guilty of going to Martinelli too often and too early, with Villa increasingly catching him offside or simply mopping up an overhit pass.
Asked about the change, and whether it negatively impacted the side’s threat, Arteta replied: ‘No, I think it’s because we started to attack in a way that wasn’t smart from our part.
‘We started to make rash decisions, we started to play balls too early from areas that you’re not going to hurt them and then you get exposed afterwards.
‘I think it was enough to get much more than what we had.’
On whether his side seemed to tire as the match reached the latter stages, he replied: ‘Well a team that is fatigued doesn’t play against Aston Villa the way we’ve played, with the energy, the commitment and the quality that we have done. I don’t think that was the case.’
Arteta had to watch the match from the stands at Villa Park after picking up a third booking of the season – and therefore a touchline suspension – for excessive celebrating after his side’s late winner against Luton Town in midweek.
The Spaniard is usually a very animated and involved presence in the dugout and admits it was difficult to have to take a step back, saying: ‘It was what it was. I tried to adapt.
‘I think the boys did really well to communicate what we wanted and the team had a really good performance.’
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