The former Manchester United defender-turned-pundit has claimed Mikel Arteta has already lost trust in one of the players he spent a decent amount of money on in the summer.
The Gunners welcomed a resilient Newcastle side to the Emirates who were hell-bent on making life as difficult as possible for their hosts and did exactly that, clinging on for a 0-0 draw which slightly dents Arsenal’s momentum as they look to challenge for a first title in 19 years.
For large periods of the game, Arsenal were camped in the final third desperately trying to unpick Newcastle’s low block but their efforts proved unsuccessful, much to the frustration of Arteta. The Spaniard was constantly in the ear of the fourth official and actually exchanged verbals with counterpart Eddie Howe shortly before the full-time whistle.
While the Gunners are certainly blessed with plenty of technicians capable of picking the most beautiful of passes, it just wasn’t to be for the likes of Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey or Oleksandr Zinchenko on Tuesday evening.
Eyebrows have been raised, however, over the fact that Arteta could have chosen to deploy another one of his attacking midfielders to refresh Arsenal’s efforts but chose not to.
£34m Vieira was an unused substitute for the second game in a row, while his cameo against West Ham on Boxing Day lasted less than five minutes
Fabio Vieira (left) was an unused substitute against Newcastle
Neville addressed the situation while on commentary for Sky Sports, claiming: “Arteta, he looks at £34 million Vieira on his bench and doesn’t bring him on, so he doesn’t have faith that he’s going to improve the team that was out there.
“Fabio Vieira cost £34million. Mikel obviously thought he would’ve weakened the side by bringing him on.
“They do rely on the perfect pass and the thread, they haven’t got full-backs that deliver really good crosses, they haven’t got a midfield player that switches play or plays De Bruyne-style crosses.
“They’re always relying on the short bits of play around the box, which Newcastle to be fair defended so well and so resiliently and so compactly, made it so difficult for them, and they didn’t have another plan off the bench.”
A win for the Gunners would have seen them enjoy an astonishing 10 point lead at the top of the table, instead it remains at eight for now.
Manchester City travel to Chelsea on Thursday night knowing a win on the road would see Arsenal’s advantage cut to just five, with Arteta’s men boasting a particularly tricky-looking January when it comes to their fixtures.
It remains to be seen whether the Gunners will look back at this draw at home to Newcastle as the game that saw their momentum wane and the title slip away from them.
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