Paul Merson labels Mikel Arteta’s decision a ‘masterstroke’

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta made the right decision of not starting young striker Eddie Nketiah against Leicester City, says Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson.

The former Arsenal star and Sky Sports pundit has lauded Gunners boss Mikel Arteta for pulling striker Eddie Nketiah “out of the firing line” in the 1-0 victory over Leicester City at the weekend, and hand the youngster a breather ahead of mid-week’s clash versus Sean Dyche’s relegation-threatened Everton.

The Arsenal legend told Sky Sports: “I wasn’t sure about Leandro Trossard playing up front, I didn’t think it worked. I’d have brought Eddie Nketiah on at half-time because for all the play Arsenal had they didn’t look like scoring in the first half. The VAR decision to disallow Trossard’s goal was a brilliant spot.

“Trossard playing in that position did mean they could keep possession because he was coming short for the ball. It was like Man City from last season playing a false nine.

“That said, it was a good decision to give Nketiah a rest and I’d be shocked if he didn’t play against Everton on Wednesday. So it’s a masterstroke really to get him out of the firing line to recharge.

“Arsenal have got to win on Wednesday against Everton, which is their game in hand and can move them five points clear. You’ve got to make that game in hand count, that’s the name of the game. They should beat Bournemouth on Saturday and then you’re at least five points clear with 12 games to go – it’s in your hands.”

Nketiah had played every minute possible for the Gunners since Gabriel Jesus suffered the injury during the World Cup until last Saturday’s win at Leicester.

The striker excelled in Jesus’ absence and filled the void left by the Brazilian striker admirably when the season resumed, but recently has failed to produce the goods in the final third, having failed to find the back of net since his brace against Manchester United in January.

This rough patch in front of goal has coincided with Arsenal’s recent dip in form, a run of just one win in five games.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta took the slightly bold decision to leave Nketiah to the bench for the trip to the King Power Stadium, with Leandro Trossard coming in to start up top as a false-nine alongside Gabriel Martinelli.

That change paid dividends, with Arsenal defeating Leicester 1-0 thanks to a goal from Martinelli that was set up by Trossard, who also had a wonder-strike ruled out after Ben White obstructed the opposition goalkeeper.

Despite that result, Arteta could now bring a refreshed Nketiah back into the starting XI when the Gunners host the Toffees in their next match.

The Gunners are enjoying a pulsating Premier League campaign under Mikel Arteta and will be hoping to end their 19-year wait for a 14th English league title in May, however Manchester City, who are only two points adrift of top spot albeit having played a game remain the most apparent threat to Arsenal’s title charge.

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