Premier League – Arsenal v West Ham United – Emirates Stadium, London, Britain – March 7, 2020 Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta reacts [Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley]

Former Arsenal forward Robin van Persie thinks Mikel Arteta needs to focus on defending set pieces after the Gunners conceded yet another soft goal in their FA Cup win over Sheffield United.

Although they scraped through to the semi-finals thanks to a 91st minute winner by Dani Ceballos, Arsenal looked shaky at the back from corners and free-kicks all afternoon, and the Blades’ equaliser came from a long throw which was scrambled in by David McGoldrick.

The South Yorkshire side also had two goals disallowed by VAR which came from set-pieces, and Van Persie appeared concerned about the issue when speaking to BT Sport at half-time, claiming it could prevent the Gunners from challenging for major honours in the future.

“They can hurt Arsenal at set pieces, corners, free-kicks, as you could see,” he said.

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“It (the first disallowed goal) was clearly offside but if you want to hurt Arsenal somewhere, this is the time to do it, this is the moment. Arsenal are still vulnerable from set pieces. We talked about it four, five months ago.

“If they want to compete for trophies they have to sort that out. They have to find a way to run with their man. You have to follow your man or protect your zone, and they’re still not doing that.”

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Even though Arsenal went on to win the game, Van Persie doubled down on his view at full-time, adding: “What I believe is very important for Arsenal and for Mikel is they find a way to fix the set pieces against them.

“You fix that with mental toughness. It’s like when I played with you (Rio Ferdinand) and Vida (Nemanja Vidic), you would die to save the ball. You would put your head first, you would put everything to block the ball.

“That mentality is needed to compete for trophies, and to be honest I don’t really see that now and that’s not new, we talked about this before and it was even an issue in my time there.

“You need to find defenders who want to do absolutely everything to block that ball. They should try to find those types of defenders.

“I’m not saying these guys are bad, but there is another level up if you want to win trophies.”

 

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