‘Luiz & Sokratis celebrate conceding a corner!’ – Emery’s Arsenal have ‘soft belly’, says Nicholas

David Luiz Sokratis Arsenal 2019-20
The former Gunners forward has not been impressed by the tactics and teams pieced together by a coach facing questions at Emirates Stadium

Arsenal have a “soft belly”, says Charlie Nicholas, with Nicolas Pepe in need of “a shake” and centre-half duo Sokratis and David Luiz criticised for high-fiving “when they give corners away”.

Familiar questions have been asked of the Gunners this season, with struggles away from home continuing to hold them back.

Unai Emery has seen his selection and tactical calls queried, with the Spaniard accused of having overseen no progress since replacing Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium.

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Former Arsenal star Nicholas sees plenty of issues to be addressed in north London if a top-four challenge is to be sustained – starting in a derby date with Crystal Palace on Sunday.

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“Unai Emery has come under scrutiny from some supporters and they are starting to ask questions,” Nicholas told Sky Sports.

“Why have they paid the money for Kieran Tierney and are not playing him, despite getting him fit? Why are you not playing Hector Bellerin when fit? I do not understand why he gets these players fit and he doesn't play them.

“Bernd Leno makes some mistakes and is young, but he is left completely and utterly isolated by the lack of a defensive partnership. I feel sorry for him.

“David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos high five each other when they give corners away. Matteo Guendouzi has good energy and covers the ground well, but he is too young to understand the protective role and needs someone in beside him to pivot him and look after him.

“These players have a soft belly but they are supposed to provoke and win the little scraps. I would be more interested in Lucas Torreira beside Guendouzi or even Ainsley Maitland-Niles could do it with his speed.

“In attack, Nicolas Pepe needs a shake. He is very talented but he needs to want the ball and get on the ball.

“Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is scoring goals in an ordinary team and Alexandre Lacazette must start. I like Bukayo Saka but you need to feed him in at the right time.

“[Dani] Ceballos needs to be in behind the front three. If you dominate games which you should do against Palace, the middle two and full-backs will be higher up.

“Emery wanted to emulate Liverpool's style of play, and when those two full-backs are high, you know there is trouble coming. Bellerin and Tierney must play higher when they play and that is when the two holding players come in handy and that is how the balance works.”