Arsenal legend Sol Campbell has urged Arsene Wenger’s under-fire players to embrace the Europa League clash against AC Milan ‘as if it is the last game in their career’, as he sounded a rallying call to the misfiring Gunners ahead of their trip to the San Siro on Thursday.
The calls for Wenger to bring down the curtain on his near 22-year reign as Arsenal boss have reached a crescendo in recent days after four successive defeats included a Carabao Cup final hammering at the hands of Manchester City and last Sunday’s defeat at Brighton, but Campbell believes the crumbling season could still be revived.
With Arsenal’s hopes of a top four finish in the Premier League now gone, the defender who a key figure in the iconic 2003/04 ‘Invincibles’ team that went through the entire season unbeaten has urged Wenger’s class of 2018 to save their manager with a season defining performance in Milan.
“The Arsenal players have to view this AC Milan game as the last game of their careers,” Paddy Power ambassador Campbell told Yahoo Sport.
“Give it their all, work their socks off and they could come out silencing the doubters and getting into a European quarter-final. I get that this is a very bad moment for Arsene and the players, but there is no point moaning about it. Go for it, give it everything and then assess it at the end of the season.
“They have one big chance left in the Europa League and they have to forget what has gone on in the last few weeks and get stuck into the challenge from minute one at San Siro. If they do that, anything is possible because there are still some very good players in that Arsenal dressing room.
“What they cannot do is start slowly, as they have done in recent weeks, because they are up against a good team here. AC Milan side revived by the arrived of Gennaro Gattuso as their new manager and he has the team playing in his style, mirroring the way he used to play. He has them fighting for every ball and Arsenal need to show they are ready and capable of competing with that.”
Campbell has urged the Arsenal players to shed their inhibitions in Milan, as he suggests their slump in confidence is partly down to a lack of discipline in key areas of the team.
“There are a lot of things going wrong for Arsenal at the moment and in these moments, you need to break it down piece by piece and do the simple things properly,” he continues. “When you are under pressure and lacking in confidence, you can forget to do the simple things, dropping off at the right time and not taking too many risks on the field.
“Cut out the mistakes and your talent will start to flow because we all appreciate there is a lot of talent in that Arsenal dressing room and they are just not performing as they should be right now.
“Everyone is panicking at the moment, but let’s wait until the end of the season and see where we are then. Let’s see what happens in the Europa League against AC Milan and then people can make decisions, Arsene included, on what should happen next.”
A lack of leaders on the field has been cited as one of the primary reasons why Arsenal have floundered in the second half of Wenger’s reign at Arsenal, with Campbell suggesting the great Arsenal teams he was at part of at the start of this century needed only gentle guidance from their manager as they secure a glut of major honours.
“We had so many leaders in our team,” adds Campbell. “I see myself as a leader, Patrick Vieira was, Dennis Bergkamp, Lauren, Marc Overmars, Martin Keown, Robert Pires, Ray Parlour…you can go on and on.
“This is different era for Wenger now and maybe he doesn’t have that kind of dominant personality in his dressing room. When I was at Arsenal, we had players who were fantastic in their position and all they needed was a system to play in and they would do the rest. We had experienced players who didn’t need too much help and everyone was working for the same goal.
“Top players working hard is a potent combination and that is why we were successful. We were also hard on ourselves and didn’t hold back if we felt one of the team was below standards. We were not afraid to dig each other out and say we needed to do better, but maybe that isn’t happening at Arsenal at the moment.
“You can be elegant on the ball at the right moment, but you also need to be tough and establish a foothold in a game to give you a platform for your talent to come out. Get your head in where it hurts, stick the odd tackle in where it is needed. That is what the Arsenal fans will want to see from their players against AC Milan on Thursday.”
Sol Campbell spoke to Yahoo Sport in association with Paddy Power. Read his football columns at http://news.paddypower.com