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Theo Walcott questions Mikel Arteta 'trust' issues with Arsenal players after costly Porto snub

Theo Walcott questions Mikel Arteta 'trust' issues with Arsenal players after costly Porto snub

Former Arsenal star Theo Walcott has suggested Mikel Arteta lacks trust in his squad players, which he says played a role in their 1-0 defeat at Porto on Wednesday night.

The Portuguese side earned an advantage in their Champions League last-16 tie courtesy of Galeno’s late strike.

Arsenal were notably not at their best at Estadio do Dragao and failed to have a shot on target, leading to Walcott’s assertion that the manager should have made more than one substitution.

Jorginho replaced Leandro Trossard to shore up the midfield after 74 minutes but Mohamed Elneny, Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Fabio Vieira and Cedric Soares were senior players all left unused despite Arteta’s starters failing to fire and visibly tiring late on.

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“I remember being in this certain position before and being subbed as a forward player,” Walcott told BBC Radio Five Live, via Metro.

“[Gabriel] Martinelli, for instance, could be tired, he’s worked a lot, he’s worked really hard, tracking his full-back quite a lot tonight. Of course, lazy pass, loses the ball [for Porto’s goal], but then I’ve just got to question this squad depth of Arsenal at the start of the game – does Mikel trust the players?

“He only brought on one sub tonight and I just feel it could’ve been a game where we completely just shut up shop, maybe just slow it down even slower than it was and take off certain players, obviously [Bukayo] Saka wasn’t as effective tonight.

“It’ll be completely different at the Emirates, I’m sure, but as a coach would you feel you’d want to make more subs knowing that the game is stagnating?”

Walcott, 34, insisted that Arteta did have options on the bench to see the game out and was left unimpressed by goalkeeper David Raya’s positioning for Galeno’s long-range strike.

“It’s a tricky one because with Arsenal obviously Mikel always tends to play the same team, you always know who will be playing, same sort of substitutes come on,” he continued.

“But yes, maybe, the lack of experience in the Champions League with certain players, but you’ve got your likes of [Mohamed] Elneny who has been around the club and has been the longest-serving player for a long time now, where he’s smart in the game, knows how to slow it down.

“Jorginho, of course, comes on and is experienced enough. It’s all happened by Martinelli being slightly tired, it is what it is.

“But again I have to question the position of the keeper as well. I think he’s done brilliantly at times but I think you can question certain positions.”

Arteta addressed the goal in his post-match briefing and labelled it “cruel” to criticise Arsenal for showing “naivety”.

“Well, it’s only the last ball,” he stated. “If in 94 minutes, we didn’t have the naivety in that one, I think it’s a bit cruel to judge it, but it’s true that it’s had a big impact on the result. A lot of other things that they’ve done for the first time here, it was very good.”