Andy Cole criticises former club Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger, and says the club are cheating fans.
Arsenal will not win the Premier League for as long as Arsene Wenger buys the players that he does. The team have been crying out for a dominant centre-half for years, but Wenger buys tricky attacking midfielders like Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey. They’re all decent, but Arsenal have too many of the same type of player and Wenger’s stubbornness is costing a great club.
Players reflect their manager’s attitude and Arsenal’s players reflect Wenger, an old man who thinks he’s a prophet. He’s been saying ‘I believe’ for years about his faith in his side’s ability to win the league. Then he disbands those very sides after they’ve won nothing.
Arsenal fans are being cheated. They pay more than almost any other fans to watch their team, they average 60,000. Their club have done very well to move to their new stadium and pay it off and fill it every week, but they deserve better than to finish third or fourth each season and reach the Champions League knockout stage…before being knocked out.
They’ll be lucky to get that far this season after losing their opening two group games for the first time. Against Olympiakos on Tuesday, Wenger again baffled by not starting Petr Cech, the goalkeeper his side needed. David Ospina made mistakes against Olympiakos but while he’s being hammered, he actually did very well for Arsenal last year. He’s still not the best goalkeeper at the club, though, so why not start Cech? If he’s good enough to be on the bench then he’s good enough to play.
Arsenal also still need that centre-half, someone like Tony Adams or Sol Campbell. Thomas Vermaelen was excellent, though injury prone, yet Wenger played him out of position. He does it a lot, tries to fit square pegs into round holes. Arsenal need a holding midfielder. Cazorla isn’t that player and shouldn’t be forced into playing that role, any more than he should be pushed into wearing different coloured football boots on each foot.
Mathieu Flamini, 31, is a good player but the job of central midfield for Arsenal is past him. Same with Mikel Arteta, now 33. Francis Coquelin has done well there, but if Arsenal want to compete with the best – and a club of their stature should be competing with the best – then they need to be buying better players. This is a club who once had Patrick Vieira and Manu Petit in the middle.
With the stadium paid off, Arsenal need to invest in players, yet Wenger’s stubbornness means they don’t, leaving fans rightly disillusioned. I’m surprised he’s still in a job and unsavoury as their spat was, Jose Mourinho had a point when he says other top four managers would have lost job after winning as little as Wenger. Roberto Mancini wasn’t my cup of tea, but he went from Manchester City a year after winning the league. Carlo Ancelotti was ousted from Chelsea after winning the double.
FA Cups alone are not good enough for Arsenal and I don’t get the reluctance of a club with two billionaire shareholders to spend. There seems to be conflict behind the scenes, with one of those shareholders being prepared to spend and the other adopting the opposite stance. Being on the other side of the world from where the club operates can hardly help on a day-to-day basis either and it all leads to a lack of cohesion and the same old for Arsenal, season after season.
Arsenal’s next game is a huge one at home to Manchester United on Sunday. Knowing Arsenal, they’re the type of team who’ll play brilliantly and win that one, before losing to Watford the following week. My point is that they’re not consistent enough to win what is a poor Premier League, that they don’t have the players like those I faced when Arsenal did win titles, when they had several on the pitch who would make life very difficult for you. They had the mind-set of winners; they’d help each other out. They were a great team.
When I played, Arsenal expected to win the league and had the talent to back up those expectations. Two years ago, I saw Arsenal’s players celebrate like they’d won the title after beating Newcastle away at the end of the season. Their triumph? Reaching the Champions League at the expense of Tottenham. That’s the aim for Arsenal, a top four finish to reach the Champions League season after season, taking the money and then doing very little with it.
The stubborn Mr Wenger needs to change the mentality otherwise his club will no longer occupy its customary top four berth. Chelsea and City have already gone past them because their owners actually want to spend money, to grow their clubs. They’ve done that. Tottenham are building London’s biggest ground and will enjoy the same revenues as Arsenal’s in the long run. They might even spend some of theirs, while Arsenal’s billionaires sit counting their coins.