Graeme Souness predicts a “painful trip” ahead for Arsenal and manager Mikel Arteta following a second straight defeat to start the new campaign.
The Gunners followed up their opening-day loss at Brentford with a 2-0 reverse at home to Chelsea, who rarely got out of second gear after the break at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal were once again badly affected by an outbreak of coronavirus cases in the camp, with Ben White, Willian and Alexandre Lacazette absent while captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was only fit enough to feature off the bench.
Souness, who was also tasked with trying to rebuild a club following years of success during his tenure as Liverpool boss in the 1990s, told Sky Sports: “I look at this Arsenal team and it might be the team for the next manager.
“As a manager, I have said time is not your friend.
“I see a difficult couple of years for Arsenal and it depends on how these young guys progress but, if they are sticking with Arteta, it will be a painful trip.
“But it doesn’t matter if it is Arteta or someone else, it will be a painful trip because I don’t see these guys being an influence when Chelsea come to town, when Man City come to town, when Liverpool and United come to town – and this is Arsenal Football Club.
“Arsenal in recent history under (Arsene) Wenger enjoyed success and turned up most Saturday and Sunday afternoons and saw a team winning so it is a hard pill to swallow for the fans right now.”
Sol Campbell won two Premier League titles during his five years with the Gunners and admitted it looked like his old side had lost the characteristics that made them so feared during their heyday.
“Even when the players do come back in, it seems to be the same situation,” the former centre-back said in his role as a pundit.
“I don’t want to say… has the bite gone out of Arsenal? I hope not! I hope there is more steel in there because I like to see that. Arsenal was built on that type of football, skilful and strong. I want to see more of that and more character.
“With Arteta, they have been chasing him for a long, long time. I think they will look at it and say let’s see what this guy can do but there is always a time limit.”
Roy Keane called for the Spaniard to be given more time after leading Arsenal to back-to-back eighth-place finishes during his two seasons in charge.
He insisted: “I would give him longer, you have to give the manager longer. We have seen it in Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer), he needed two or three years before he started to make progress. Jurgen Klopp was an established manager but it does take time. Arsenal have a lot of very good, young potential players but it is just potential.
“This is where you need your senior players to help the young kids along and I don’t think Arsenal have the real, top senior quality players who have good habits that will help the young lads.
“There are players at Arsenal on massive wages and you can’t shift them. They won’t want to leave Arsenal because they are settled in London, they have a cushy life and you talk about clubs when we played, players were hungry and had a desire to win football matches week in, week out.
“But you have players here who probably the manager doesn’t want nothing to do with, but the club can’t shift them because they give out silly contracts.”