Mikel Arteta has defended Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after fierce criticism from Sky Sports duo Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher last month, insisting ‘they can comment sometimes without knowing all the details’.
The punditry pair were brutal in their assessment of Arsenal’s form and labelled the Gunners ’embarrassing’ after their 3-0 Premier League defeat by Liverpool at the Emirates.
Former Manchester United defender Neville said he felt ‘really uncomfortable’ after commentating on that game and said ‘I sat around for a few minutes with Martin Tyler and was like: “What was that?”‘
He also accused Arsenal’s attackers of acting ‘like a little mafia’ and said ‘there was a disconnect between them and the manager. Like the manager looked like he had enough of them.’
Carragher also tore into Arsenal’s attacking players, suggesting that the Gunners could find themselves with another ‘Mesut Ozil situation’ in Aubameyang.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has defended Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after fierce criticism from Gary Neville (right) and Jamie Carragher (left) on Sky Sports
Arteta said Neville and Carragher’s comments on his talisman (pictured) were missing context
He said: ‘Aubameyang, and he’s the superstar but I think his performances this season have been lazy at times.
‘He’s a player who if he doesn’t score then he doesn’t bring anything to this team. I’ve watched him four or five times this season thinking they need more from him.’
But Arteta defended his captain on Wednesday morning, insisting Neville and Carragher’s comments were missing some context.
Speaking ahead of his side’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal, Arteta said: ‘They (Carragher and Neville) are all the time free to talk.
‘My job and responsibility is to protect our players and to get the maximum out of it.
‘They can comment sometimes without knowing all the details.
‘He played well (at Newcastle on Sunday) and he felt much better than the days before that. Scoring a goal is really important for him so he’s in a good place.’
Arteta (left) insisted Aubameyang is in a ‘good place’ after scoring at Newcastle on Sunday
Arsenal must overturn a 2-1 deficit against Villarreal in their Europa League semi-final
Aubameyang has 15 goals and three assists in 35 appearances so far this season and was left out of the starting line-up for the first leg against Villarreal.
He only returned to Arsenal training towards the end of last month having been hospitalised after contracting killer disease malaria on international duty with Gabon.
He is expected to play on Thursday night, after scoring in Sunday’s win at Newcastle, as the Gunners try to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Unai Emery’s side.
A small contingent of Arsenal fans are expected to be outside the Emirates to greet the team bus on Thursday night.
Asked if that could provide extra motivation to his team, Arteta said: ‘I think that would be great. We’ve been missing them so much, we need them.
‘If the players feel like they are right behind them, supporting them, again I think it’s only the 10th time the club have played a European semi final so it’s a big moment for us.
‘Hopefully we can have them closer than we’ve had already in the last few months.’