Arsenal: Martin Keown quotes Arsene Wenger to warn Mikel Arteta

Granit Xhaka has been a key player at Arsenal since Mikel Arteta took over (Photo: Getty)

Martin Keown has urged Mikel Arteta to stop playing Granit Xhaka in defense and has made his case by mentioning the words of Arsenal legend Arsene Wenger.

The Gunners play Southampton on Saturday knowing that a win could put them level with Tottenham Hotspur in the table and significantly boost their chances of finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League.

Midfielder Xhaka is due to start the game but not in his usual position, with the Swiss international likely to once again fill in at the left-back in the place of the injured Kieran Tierney and the out of form Nuno Tavares, just as he did in the defeat to Brighton last Saturday.

However, while Xhaka has received the backing of Arteta to play at left-back, Keown is not convinced that the 29-year-old is able to perform well enough there, referencing a comment Wenger previously made about the player.

Speaking on talkSPORT, Keown said: ‘Now Wenger said something very telling… And he told us in the first few weeks [after signing Xhaka]“I bought a player who can’t tackle.”

Arsenal in Reading - FA Cup Semi-Final

Former defender Martin Keown (left) and former manager Arsene Wenger (right) are Arsenal legends (Photo: Getty)

‘He actually told us that in a press conference, “I think it’s something you develop when you’re very young, it’s too late for him now. I’ve told him to stay on his feet. ”

‘Maybe that said it all. There’s an issue for him with mobility, and he really shouldn’t be playing left-back in the most recent games because you expose him again.

‘But he puts a performance in and he’s vital in terms of leadership. But, for us to go to the next level, we need a player of better quality. ‘

Xhaka was signed by Wenger in 2016 from Borussia Monchengladbach and has had a rollercoaster of a journey at the Emirates, but performances this year have been more impressive.

However, with so much at stake for Arsenal and a tricky run-in of fixtures that include Chelsea, Manchester United, West Ham United and Spurs, it is a huge risk to continue playing him out of position.

Keown has previously stated that he would like to see winger Bukayo Saka play at left-back instead, saying: ‘I know that’s radical, but I’d rather see that than Xhaka there, who will get exposed.

‘It’s about your best XI. I think Saka can still do damage from left-back. [Nicolas] Pepe would go to the right and [Gabriel] Martinelli on the left.

‘If you’ve got an issue with a player to such an extent that mistakes are being made down that side, then you can’t play him [Tavares]. ‘

MORE: Granite Xhaka drops huge hint over Arsenal future amid Roma transfer links

MORE: ‘Look at the stats!’ – Mikel Arteta drops hint he will make controversial Arsenal team selection vs Southampton

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