Sol Campbell has dismissed the current Arsenal team as lacking in leaders and suggested that 21-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere is carrying the club at present.
In a withering assessment the former defender said Arsenal
“haven’t got the same characters” as when he played for the club and urged manager Arsène Wenger to “get back to the good old days” by buying “some good British players”.
“They have very good footballers for sure,” the 38-year-old said of the present Arsenal squad. “People like Jack Wilshere – he’s fantastic, he’s great for the future. He knows what it means to play for Arsenal and what it means to the club to win. He’s grown up seeing Arsenal win things and compete. So you do need a lot more of his kind of calibre, in different positions.
“They’re a great footballing side, Arsenal. They play fantastic football. But it comes down to those final moments where you need leaders. And not just one leader, you need five leaders up and down the pitch. It’s too much for one guy. You need four or five leaders to cement that winning mentality and hopefully make it change.”
The central defender was part of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ team that won the Premier League in 2003-04 without losing a match and was also in the side that won the club’s last trophy – the FA Cup in 2005.
“In my era we policed it ourselves,” he said of the players he played alongside such as Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams, Thierry Henry and Martin Keown. “We policed it to make sure no one’s level dropped. You can’t play great in every single game but you don’t want a slump leading on for five, 10 games, a whole season. You’ve got to keep those standards up. You need a lot more guys to help you out. One guy with a lot of passion is not enough.
“Arsenal need to get back to the old days. Get some good British players and mix it with some foreign guys.
“What Arsène did in the early days has been copied up and down the country. He started off having that great back five – including David Seaman – of great home-grown players who know what the English game is all about. And then he added finesse to it.”
Campbell said that the Arsenal board “need to invest” in the January transfer window if the team is to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
“I know they don’t want to spend the money, they want to put it back into the club,” he claimed. “But it’s going to be very hard to win things if you don’t push the boat out now and then.
“I’m sure they’re not happy just coming fourth. Arsenal cannot be thinking like that as a club. You’ve got to every season be saying ‘we have a chance of winning the championship’.”
Campbell, however, absolved Wenger from blame. “Arsène is a winner,” he added. “He wants to win.
If he knew he couldn’t win at the club I don’t think he would be there. He’s a winner and he has proved that in the past.”