‘Arsenal walking into lion’s cage with a lorry load of steaks’ – Merson questions playing out from the back



The former midfielder believes further improvement is required in north London before the Gunners can go toe-to-toe with the best in the business

Arsenal’s insistence on trying to play out from the back has them “walking into the lion’s cage with a lorry load of steaks”, says Paul Merson, with Mikel Arteta urged to tinker with his approach.

The Gunners have been famed for their ball-playing philosophy since Arsene Wenger took the reins at the start of his iconic 22-year tenure.

Arteta, who once took the captain’s armband under the legendary Frenchman, bought into that mindset as a creative midfielder in his playing days.

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He has continued to favour that system as a coach, with his teeth cut alongside tiki-taka expert Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

Arsenal are being asked to play in the same style, with their manager looking for them to work their way up the pitch with quick, incisive passing.

That can be a risky business, though, as the Gunners found out against high-pressing Liverpool in their last Premier League outing, and Merson feels it is too early in Arteta’s rebuild for those at Emirates Stadium to be going toe-to-toe with the best in the business.

“There is some improvement and on the other hand they are playing against the best team in the country and if not the best team in Europe after Bayern Munich,” former Arsenal star Merson told Sky Sports on the back of a 3-1 defeat to the defending Premier League champions at Anfield.

“When they go after, you just… it’s like going to Woburn zoo next week and walking into the lion’s cage with a lorry load of steaks. You’re going to get eaten alive aren’t you?

“If you stay in your car you are going to be alright and that’s what it was. They are playing that way away to Liverpool, they are the best in the business.

“If they are going to keep playing that way, there is only one result.”

Arteta has offered no indication that he will be changing his ways and is set to send his side out in search of three points on Sunday when Arsenal play host to a Sheffield United side that has stumbled out of the blocks in 2020-21.



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