Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit has said that Arsene Wenger is the only solution to the Gunners’ problems and he is relieved that his countryman wasn’t fired by the Arsenal board when the club was going through a dark period earlier this year.
Before their resurgence in league form that began with the 7-1 mauling of Aston Villa at the Emirates on February 4, Wenger was under immense pressure from Arsenal’s own fans, who had grown disillusioned with their club’s deteriorating results and their trophy-drought that is now almost seven-year long. The fans were so distraught that the 62-year-old manager’s sacking seemed like a genuine possibility for the very first time in the last 16 years.
Petit, who spent a large part of his professional career playing in Wengers’ teams (Monaco and Arsenal), believes that if the board had bowed down to the fans’ wishes and fired their long serving manager, then that decision would have come back to haunt Arsenal.
Speaking at the Soccerex conference earlier today, Petit said: “Sacking Wenger would have been the biggest mistake Arsenal could have made. He is the solution for Arsenal. He just needed to change a few things, then it would come back again.
“Arsene Wenger’s contribution to the Premier League is huge. Football has changed so much in England, Arsene has been part of that. He is like the stone of Arsenal, if you kick him out you don’t know where they will go.”
Petit then urged the Gunners to splash some cash so that their talismanic captain Robin van Persie would extend his stay at the club by signing a contract extension.
“…I do hope Robin will stay. I would understand it if he left because players like him need titles on their CV. Arsenal have to pay the loans back but if you want to fight for titles, you need to find the right mix. That is why the criticism of Arsenal this season has been justified and they need to try everything they can to keep him,” he said.
But in spite of his emotional backing for Wenger, Petit rued the late timing of Arsenal’s resurgence and said that if Arsenal players had improved their form a little earlier, then they would have been alive in multiple cup competitions, with a chance to end their title drought this season.
“Arsenal received huge criticism after the AC Milan disappointment. This affected the belief and ego of the players, which is why they came back with such a big hunger to show to everyone they were wrong. The performances since then have been magnificent. But I am disappointed as well. Why did they have to wait for the criticism to show people what they can do? I am quite frustrated because it proved they can do more,” the World Cup-winning defensive midfielder said.
He then again advised the North London giants to scrap their traditional transfer strategy of buying young and said that for future success, Arsenal must go for experienced players with proven pedigrees.
“It always seems to be the same news. You believe Arsenal will sell their best players every year. I understand they don’t want to be paying the same transfer fees as some clubs, it is nonsense to pay £40million for a player. But betting all your money on a young team? You need experienced players at some point in the season. Maybe this team have discovered themselves mentally now but you can’t wait for outside help, you have to take your pen and write your own history,” Petit added.