Arsenal legend Paul Merson hit out at German playmaker Mesut Ozil after the Gunners' surprising 3-1 defeat to Rennes on Thursday.
Despite being away in France, Arsenal were favourites to win the first leg of their round of 16 Europa League tie. However, after taking an early lead through Alex Iwobi the Gunners went down to ten men after Sokratis was shown a red card minutes before half time.
What followed was a second half capitulation by Arsenal as the mid-table Ligue 1 side scored three goals and ruthlessly dominated the rest of the game. Sky Sports pundit and former Arsenal player Merson was particularly critical of Ozil on talkSPORT, despite Unai Emery hauling the midfielder off with 20 minutes to go.
“You have got to take Ozil off, because now you are playing with nine and a half really. You’re not playing with ten because he is not going to get back into shape, he’s not going to get back and tackle anybody."
“So I think he probably would have thought ‘I’ll come off here. He doesn’t want to play with 10, he finds it hard with 11 sometimes if he doesn’t get out of the right side of bed. So, with 10, at least he can go ‘I’ve had enough, I’ve done my bit’.”
Merson also added that the Gunners have put themselves under 'severe pressure' going into the second leg, which will take place on Thursday at the Emirates. Emery’s side will need to score twice without reply to advance in the competition.
With regards to Ozil, the German has had an obscure role under Emery and it remains to be seen whether he will be at the club next season. The former PSG manager will have to decide whether to start him in their next league match against a relentless Manchester United at the Emirates.
Arsenal currently sit fifth in the Premier League table, one point behind United, who are undefeated in the league under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. If the Gunners lose, it leaves them with a lot of work to do to make it into the top four and will put even more pressure on their Europa League campaign.