Mikel Arteta makes shocking title admission amid Gary Neville claims

Arsenal must tighten up defensively, according to Mikel Arteta, after conceding twice to Sporting Lisbon on Thursday night.

His warning came just days after Gary Neville warned Arsenal that their penchant for giving away soft goals could cost them the title. The Gunners drew 2-2 in Portugal to put themselves in a strong position for the second leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.

However, Arteta is concerned about the manner in which the goals were conceded. “When you concede two poor goals away from home in Europe, it’s very difficult to get a positive result,” the Spaniard fumed to BT Sport after the game.

“The game had different phases because we gave away too many simple balls in our own half, giving them the ability to [exploit] transition moments, which they are good at.

“In other moments, we had total control of the game and we lost a little bit of threat today, especially with the four players we are missing in our frontline. [There were] some positives because we showed a lot of character to get back into the game, but we need to defend our box much better and be better on Sunday [against Fulham].”

Last Sunday, after the Gunners survived a major scare against Bournemouth, Neville emphasised Arsenal’s proclivity to concede poor goals. The Cherries took an unexpected two-goal lead before Arsenal came back to win 3-2 and re-establish a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Despite getting away with one at the weekend, Neville insists Arsenal must tighten up if they are to stay ahead of Manchester City in the race for the domestic crown. “I thought City had a more difficult game [against Newcastle],” he said on The Gary Neville Podcast. In my opinion, they were more likely to drop points than either team – to be fair, I didn’t think either team would.

“So, City did their job and then you expect Arsenal to go and comfortably win. The fact that they’ve won in this manner gives them extra spirit and momentum, because it’s a game that you’d expect them to win 2-0 or 3-0 simply because Bournemouth are second from bottom.

“However, they made it extremely difficult for themselves. They have a lot of momentum, a lot of spirit, and the fans are behind them. I would tell them that they must stop conceding goals.

It sounds simple, but conceding goals on the run-in is difficult, and they’ve conceded two against Bournemouth, one against Brentford, one against [Manchester] United, one against [Aston] Villa, and one against City. They’ve given up a lot of goals recently, I believe 11 in the last eight games. So they just need to manage that a little better because they have 12 games left. City are still not playing at their best. We’re in a fierce title race.”

Arsenal play Fulham in the Premier League on Sunday, while Manchester City play Crystal Palace the day before at Selhurst Park.

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