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Arsenal legend Lehmann changes view on Gary Neville amid ‘little mafia’ theory

Arsenal Invincible Jens Lehmann admitted his view on Gary Neville has changed after the ex-Manchester United man’s “little mafia” comment.

Neville made the remark following the Gunners’ 3-0 thrashing by Liverpool at the weekend, as he slammed what he saw as a disconnect between manager Mikel Arteta and some of his attacking players.

The defeat left Arteta’s side 10 points behind the Premier League’s top four, with a Europa League triumph now their only realistic hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

And Lehmann has now weighed into the debate on his former club – saying he was never a fan of Neville in their playing days but admitting he agreed with the pundit’s assessment of the current Arsenal team.

‘I didn’t like Gary Neville as an opponent on the pitch but I like his comments sometimes,” said Lehmann, quoted by Metro.

Former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann says the current Gunners side have ‘something missing’

“Obviously I always fancy Arsenal and watch them. This season, I don’t really get what they’re doing, it’s been disappointing.

“There’s a lot of young players but for a lot of Arsenal fans this isn’t an excuse because they always need to compete for the top-four.

“Where they are right now, Gary is probably right, something is missing. He’s right.”

Former goalkeeper Lehmann played every match of Arsenal’s unbeaten march to the 2003/4 title, also winning the FA Cup with Arsene Wenger’s side the following season.

Arsenal's 3-0 defeat to Liverpool left them 10 points behind the Premier League's top four
Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool left them 10 points behind the Premier League’s top four

He admitted he was at a loss to determine whether the current team’s woes were down to manager Arteta or his players.

“Sometimes as a player you listen to your manager and you expect something more,” Lehmann said. “Sometimes as a manager you tell your players something and they just don’t do it. Right now it’s not up to me to decide which one it is.”

Neville was scathing in his criticism of Arsenal following their defeat on Saturday, saying he couldn’t believe what he had seen at the Emirates.

“I was alarmed,” Neville said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football .

Gary Neville let rip and accused some of Arsenal's players of forming a "little mafia"
Gary Neville let rip and accused some of Arsenal’s players of forming a “little mafia”

“Ordinarily on a Monday Night Football you come into this, you plan what you’re going to do and we know Arsenal are inconsistent, we know where Arsenal are in their transition under Mikel Arteta.

“You don’t ordinarily think it’s going to stand out but, I have to say, at half-time on Saturday I was really uncomfortable with what I’d seen.

“At the end of the game I did something I don’t ordinarily do, I normally just get straight off as soon as the game finishes, but I sat around for a bit with Martin Tyler and just said ‘what was that’?

He added: “I have to say, coming out of Saturday, we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes at Arsenal but there were a few of those players on the front part of the pitch, it looked like a little mafia.

“It looked like a little group of players who weren’t comfortable, like there was a disconnect with them and the manager.

“Like the manager looked like he’d had enough of them, like he had that glazed-eye look.

“Look, it’s instinct but we’ve been around football now quite a long time to know when a group of players are disinterested.

“We could be completely wrong and next week we could be talking about how great they are.

“The shape under Mikel Arteta has been really good. That back four pushes up to a really good line, they have a compact 30-35 metres always between them.

“Actually that wasn’t too different on Saturday, but what was really different was the effort, or lack of it, of that front six.

“I’m going to say all six. Odegaard, a few times he did try and put a little bit of a press on but he was on his own. The rest of them, I’d go as far as to say they were a joke.”

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