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Former Arsenal star criticises Mikel Arteta’s decision in Champions League defeat

Former Arsenal forward Theo Walcott has criticised Mikel Arteta’s decision in the round of 16 Champions League defeat against Porto

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta
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Former Arsenal star Theo Walcott has pointed out that Mikel Arteta’s reluctance to trust squad players may have contributed to Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat against Porto in the Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday night.

The lone goal, courtesy of Galeno’s late strike, gave Porto the upper hand at Estadio do Dragao. Arsenal struggled to find their rhythm and failed to register a shot on target. Walcott argued that Arteta’s decision to make only one substitution, bringing on Jorginho for Leandro Trossard, was a missed opportunity to inject fresh energy into the team.

Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live, Walcott expressed concern about the squad depth at the start of the game, questioning whether Arteta truly trusts his players. He suggested that more substitutions could have been made to secure the defense and slow down the pace of the game. Despite the starters visibly tiring, senior players like Mohamed Elneny, Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Fabio Vieira, and Cedric Soares remained unused on the bench.

“I remember being in this certain position before and being subbed as a forward player. [Gabriel] Martinelli, for instance, could be tired, he’s worked a lot, he’s worked really hard, tracking his full-back quite a lot tonight. Of course, lazy pass, loses the ball [for Porto’s goal], but then I’ve just got to question this squad depth of Arsenal at the start of the game – does Mikel trust the players?

READ MORE: Theo Walcott impressed with Mikel Arteta’s new training ground mentality at Arsenal

“He only brought on one sub tonight and I just feel it could’ve been a game where we completely just shut up shop, maybe just slow it down even slower than it was and take off certain players, obviously [Bukayo] Saka wasn’t as effective tonight.

“It’ll be completely different at the Emirates, I’m sure, but as a coach would you feel you’d want to make more subs knowing that the game is stagnating?”

Walcott believed Arteta had viable options on the bench to see out the game and criticised David Raya’s positioning during Galeno’s long-range strike. 

“It’s a tricky one because with Arsenal obviously Mikel always tends to play the same team, you always know who will be playing, same sort of substitutes come on,” he continued.

“But yes, maybe, the lack of experience in the Champions League with certain players, but you’ve got your likes of [Mohamed] Elneny who has been around the club and has been the longest-serving player for a long time now, where he’s smart in the game, knows how to slow it down.

“Jorginho, of course, comes on and is experienced enough. It’s all happened by Martinelli being slightly tired, it is what it is.

“But again I have to question the position of the keeper as well. I think he’s done brilliantly at times but I think you can question certain positions.”

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