Paul Merson worries for Arsenal’s defenders when the season restarts behind closed doors, claiming they could make “mistake after mistake”.
Mikel Arteta’s side suffered a shock 3-2 defeat by Brentford in a practice match at the Emirates this week, with David Luiz looking less than assured.
And Merson believes the defenders will struggle to maintain concentration without fans in the stadium.
And the former midfielder believes the Gunners players will struggle to keep their concentration levels high without fans in attendance.
“I worry for Arsenal”, he said on Sky Sports’ The Football Show.
“I watched their goals that they let in against Brentford and I worry about them playing against closed doors.
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“When you’re not a great defender, and there are a few at Arsenal, I think the fans keep you honest, and I mean that in the way they keep your concentration levels.
“As defenders you need the fans there where you’re always going to concentrate. I don’t know if you saw one of the goals against Brentford, David Luiz tried to play out and flick it over the guy’s head, that’s not being honest.
“The fans keep you honest. For Arsenal it’s going to be a problem defensively, because I think they’ll switch off, behind closed doors, no crowd, there could be mistake after mistake.”
He fears they will struggle to rouse themselves to play to their maximum level without their own fans in attendance.
“We played in reserve team football and used to play at the stadium, if the club played away you’d play at home, and at Highbury there’d be one man and his dog there. Even though you psyche yourself up, and you think ‘right here we go, we’re playing in the reserves let’s go’, you still don’t get up for it.
“If you put Elton John or Robbie Williams at Wembley, in a concert in front of 100,000 people, you won’t see any better concert. They’re entertainers, they fly off the adrenaline.
“If I said to them a week later, ‘I need you to back to Wembley and play there but no one’s going to be there’, how hard is that for them to entertain exactly the same way without the fans there? I think this is a real leveller.”