Martin Keown has called for an immediate ‘rebuild’ at Arsenal following the club’s Europa League exit at the hands of the Olympiakos.
Mikel Arteta’s side crashed out of European competition following a dramatic 2-1 defeat after extra-time at the Emirates, Youssef El Arabi scoring with just a minute remaining to seal Olympiakos’ place in the last-16 on away goals.
Arsenal had looked vulnerable from set-pieces throughout and would concede the opener as Pape Abou Cisse turned home Mathieu Valbuena’s corner, levelling the scores on aggregate and forcing the contest into an additional period.
Pierre-Emerick Aubemyang put Arsenal back in front with a stunning overhead kick, before the Gunners’ captain would miss a guilt-edged opportunity to win the tie for Arteta’s side with the last kick of the game, putting the ball wide from close range just moments after El Arabi had stunned the hosts.
Defeat leaves the north London side facing a difficult task to secure European qualification for next season, and former Arsenal defender Keown admits the shock loss is ‘devastating’ for both Arteta and his side.
“It’s devastating,” Keown said on BT Sport. “All credit to Olympiakos, they took their chances. I’m not sure what Leno was doing at the end of the game taking liberties.
“There is a lot of work to be done at Arsenal, the rebuild of this club needs to start now. The commitment wasn’t there from the off.
“It was there for the taking, they were complacent. It was so disappointing. It was the first time tonight that I felt the players weren’t responding to the manager and the manager didn’t have an answer.”
Keown admits the squad will need to regroup as they bid to salvage their season, urging the club’s senior stars to ‘step up’ ahead of Monday night’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Portsmouth.
“Arteta has talked about the psychological fallout from that result being hugely impactful, and he needs his senior players to step up,” he continued.
“The youngsters will play well regardless of the situation but he’s a rookie manager himself, he’s been a good coach, how good a manager is he?
“He’s going to ask himself a lot of questions. There’ll be a lot of looking in the mirror for the whole group and trying to bounce back for the FA Cup on Monday.”
Keown added that Arsenal are a ‘long way off’ Europe’s elite sides as they look to return to the Champions League, insisting the club must ‘get the basics right first’ before they can be considered challengers for major honours.
"You concede four goals from set-pieces in two games at home. You make it very difficult."
Mikel Arteta was disappointed to see Arsenal's defensive flaws exposed once again as their European journey comes to an end against Olympiakos.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 27, 2020
“If Arsenal are even thinking about going into the Champions League, we’d get mauled by the top teams.
“Arsenal are just not good enough now to be at that level. The likes of Real Madrid and Man City; Arsenal are an awful long way off them.
“We’ve got to get the basics right first. We can’t defend from set-pieces, everyone’s going to know now.
“Portsmouth in the FA Cup, they’ll know if you put corners in against Arsenal you might score.
“You can’t have that sort of handicap, there’s weaknesses there that have to be fixed with personnel changes, players will have to be bought.”