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Paul Merson accuses Mikel Arteta of 'losing the plot' in Arsenal's defeat at Tottenham

By Paul Brown

Paul Merson has identified the fatal flaw in Mikel Arteta he feels cost Arsenal the north London Derby - and possibly a place in the Champions League.

Gunners great Merson, who won five major trophies with the club as a player, reckons Tottenham are now favourites for the top four. They crushed Arsenal 3-0 on Wednesday night for their biggest ever win against them in the Premier League.

Arteta accused referee Paul Tierney, who sent off Rob Holding and awarded Spurs a penalty, of destroying the game afterwards. But Merson insists it was not Holding's red card or Tierney's performance that was to blame for opening the door to Spurs in the race for a Champions League spot.

Mikel Arteta cut a sullen figure after Tottenham wiped the floor with his Arsenal side (REUTERS)

The former England forward wrote in his Daily Star column: "Blame Mikel Arteta's fatal flaw. He wants to be Pep Guardiola and play Pep Guardiola football all the time but he just doesn't have the players. And that came back to bite him against Tottenham. I got sacked by Walsall for not being a very good manager but even I know how to play against Spurs.

"I like Arteta but he's not Pep. He hasn't got Pep's team. So play to the strengths of your team. It's his biggest flaw. The gameplan he needed was obvious for all to see. But he got it horribly, horribly wrong. He had no pace at centre half with Holding playing there. So drop deep, play on the edge of your box. Don't give Harry Kane any space to drop into, don't give Heung-min Son any space in behind to run into. Simple.

"But Arsenal did the opposite! Arsenal didn't even have to win the game and they went out hell for leather with a high line and blew it. Holding is not good enough. But I'm not blaming him. They should have given him a chance. Not make him defend a high line when he hasn't got the pace. That's why the red card came. One hundred per cent. Because he had to try and stop Son getting a run on him.

HAVE YOUR SAY! Will Spurs pip Arsenal to fourth place? Let us know in the comments section

Arsenal defender Rob Holding was sent off in their capitulation against Tottenham which has blown up the race for the top four (Getty Images)

"It was a stonewall sending off. Just bad decision-making by the manager. You come on to Tottenham at your peril. Manchester City did it, and Spurs did the double over them! Arteta lost the plot. To come out afterwards and say the ref destroyed the game. No. He needs to take a look at himself because his tactics were wrong. He should have shut up shop and kept it tight. But that's not pretty football is it? So we'll just keep on doing what we're doing because that's how football should be played. Really?

"Honestly... Arsenal should have dug in and made it difficult, sat back, made them nervous and waited for their chance. I could not believe what I was watching."

Merson reckons Spurs will now win their last two games - and fears the Gunners will not, missing out on a return to the Champions League. He said: "They have opened the door and I'd be shocked if Tottenham don't win their last two games. I can't see Arsenal winning their last two games. Newcastle in their last home game of the season is a difficult game because they will have a point to prove.

" Everton at the Emirates? You'd take that. Everton have picked up results lately. But Jordan Pickford has had to make a load of top class saves. If Arsenal win their last two games then fair play but for a young team like that to come back from a derby defeat and do it, that would be a big feat. I just don't see how Arsenal handle the pressure.

"They didn't handle it at Spurs. They will be two points behind because Spurs will be Burnley."

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Dive Deeper:
Paul Merson gives fresh top four verdict following Arsenal's defeat to Tottenham
Paul Merson believes Spurs now hold the upper hand heading into the final two games of the season, with Arsenal…
Arsenal news: Paul Merson delivers brutal Mikel Arteta verdict as Edu told to sign Newcastle ace
The latest Arsenal news from football.london on Monday morning including updates on Paul Merson, Emmanuel Petit and Gabriel Magalhaes
Richard Keys sticks the boot into "mini-me" Mikel Arteta with scathing Arsenal blast
Richard Keys has labelled Mikel Arteta "mini-me" after the Arsenal boss channelled Pep Guardiola in his post-match interview after Arsenal's…
Every word Mikel Arteta said on Gabriel's injury, the referee and Arsenal's defeat to Tottenham
Mikel Arteta has spoken to the media after Arsenal's 3-0 defeat to Tottenham at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Paul Merson left with egg on his face as he makes Arsenal and Tottenham top four U-turn
Arsenal are still in control of their own destiny in the top four race but Tottenham are breathing down their…
Mikel Arteta refuses to be drawn on Antonio Conte criticism
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Get all your news in one place