- Mikel Arteta insisted Willian and Nicolas Pepe gave their best despite failing to make any impact against Southampton
- The pair came under immense criticism from a section of fans who claimed they were underwhelming as the Gunners crashed out of the FA Cup
- The Emirates club will have to contend for another meeting with the Saints on Tuesday night, but this time in the Premier League
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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has refused to blame the pair of Nicolas Pepe and Willian after the Gunners' 1-0 defeat to Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The north Londoners were looking to defend the crown they won last season, only for them to be dumped out midway this campaign.
Gabriel's own goal in the 24th minute of the Saturday, January 23, the meeting proved decisive as the Saints held on to claim a vital win at home.
The victory was enough to send them to the fifth round of the competition, joining Man City on the stage among several other teams who have also qualified.
However, it was the lacklustre performances of Pepe and Willian that came into the fore, with a section of fans and pundits blaming the pair for Arsenal's defeat at St Mary's.
But when asked what he made of the players' display, Arteta said he feels they gave their best, insisting he will continue helping them to improve. Metro UK quoted Arteta saying.
"They try to give their best. The intention and willingness is there and after the decision making, the final pass is the end product and that’s the hardest thing in football. We’re going to keep supporting them as much as we can.
Willian, who joined the Gunners from rivals Chelsea in the summer is among the highest earners at the Emirates but has failed to justify his massive wages since his arrival.
Pepe, on the other hand, has failed to live up to his billing since his record move from Lille in 2019.
It now remains to be seen if the duo will play any role when Arsenal take on Southampton once again on Tuesday night, January 26, in the Premier League.
Legit.ng earlier reported that defending champions Arsenal are out of this season's FA Cup having lost to hard-fighting Southampton in the fourth round of the competition on Saturday afternoon, January 23.
An own goal in the 24th minute by Gabriel was enough to hand the Saints victory, in a tie many have tipped the Gunners to win.
The Saints' press discombobulates the Arsenal defence as the ball’s shuttled out to the right, with Walker-Peters entering the box and firing a shot through Cedric’s legs.