Paul Merson "can’t believe" Mikel Arteta decision as Arsenal crash out of FA Cup

Paul Merson concedes he was shocked by Mikel Arteta's decision to play a weakened side in Arsenal's FA Cup defeat at Southampton.

Gabriel's first-half own goal meant the Gunners' defence of their trophy ended in the fourth round.

Arteta opted to give some of his fringe players a chance to impress at St Mary's.

The in form Emile Smith Rowe was left out of the matchday squad while the likes of Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette were only good enough for a spot on the bench.

Arsenal are not challenging for any honours this term bar the Europa League.

Merson was therefore left to question why Arteta did not place more importance on a successful FA Cup run.

"I don’t know what he’s doing, they’re not going to win the league, they’re not going to get in the top four of the Premier League unless they went on one of the best runs in the history of the league," he told Sky Sports.

"This is the one that made Arteta last time around, he came to Arsenal, he had a great semi-final and a great final [in the FA Cup]. 

"And I honestly can’t believe it, this is a more important game than the midweek league game. 

"They’re not getting relegated and they’re not getting in the top four. 

"You don’t really want to end up getting sixth or whatever again and then you play in the Europa League on Thursdays, that just sends them back. So for me, bad decision."

Arsenal won the FA Cup last season with a victory over Chelsea which saw Arteta win the first trophy of his managerial career.

The Spaniard therefore was left to rue their missed chances as his squad rotation failed to pay off.

"We're really sad to be out of the competition," he said.  

"We had issues in the first half and unforced errors as a result of the high press they do. In the second half, we had two or three big chances.

"It was an even game. In the first half, they won a lot of second balls. In the second half, we added more quality. We became more dominant and created chances, but it wasn't enough."

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