Arsene Wenger defended Jack Wilshere after Roy Keane labelled the Arsenal midfield "probably the most over-rated player on the planet".
Arsenal slumped to an embarrassing 2-1 defeat at home to Ostersunds in the Europa League on Thursday, advancing to the last 16 by virtue of a 3-0 win in the away leg.
Wenger shuffled his starting XI with an eye on Sunday's EFL Cup final against Manchester City but Wilshere captained the side and conceded afterwards the Gunners "weren't good enough".
That did not spare the 26-year-old - who has re-established himself at Arsenal this season after a year on loan at Bournemouth and persistent injury struggles - from Keane's wrath.
Speaking on ITV, the former Manchester United great said: "You look for your senior players to lead by example…when Wilshere is your captain, to me, he is probably the most over-rated player on the planet."
Wenger adopted a weary tone when the matter was raised at his news conference to preview the EFL Cup final.
"Who said that?" he asked before exhaling at length when informed Keane was the pundit in question.
"It's very difficult. I personally rate Jack very highly," he answered. "After that, you can have opinions.
"Jack was in a team that did not perform well, so it was not easy for him.
"It was not his best performance but Roy Keane knows that can happen to everybody."
One midfielder who does not have to look too far for praise this season is Kevin De Bruyne.
The Manchester City star has been a key factor in Pep Guardiola's side establishing a dominant 16-point lead in the Premier League and is viewed as a front-runner for the end-of-season awards in England.
"He's had an exceptional development," Wenger said. "One of the big strengths of Manchester City is De Bruyne.
"He is a modern midfielder for me, he can be decisive in the final third.
"He works very hard; he is right footed, left footed, a fighter as well. Overall, I am not surprised [by De Bryune's performances]."
Wenger added: "They have so many players that you could think about how to stop that it is better you focus on the team plan rather than any individual."
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