Former Arsenal forward Charlie Nicholas has reacted to Arsene Wenger signing a new contract, insisting the Frenchman must now lead the Gunners to the Premier League title, or at least come close.
Nicholas had a five-year spell at Arsenal in the 1980’s and was named their Player of the Year in 1984.
The Scot was asked to give his opinion on Wenger to Sky Sports alongside fellow Soccer Saturday pundits Matt Le Tissier and Phil Thompson.
He did so by saying:
“He needs to win the Premier League, or at least get close. He could come back to me and say he finished second the season before but they never challenged for the title, really.”
Wenger not making a decision on his future earlier was criticised by Nicholas, whilst he also said the FA Cup win does not take away from the pain of missing out on Champions League football. He also gave his opinion on the fabric of the team and Wenger’s tactical shortcomings during the last season.
“I’m grateful for the FA Cup and there’s a winning mentality to head into the new season, but it doesn’t take all the pain away from missing out on the Champions League.
“He should have made this decision three months ago because it would have taken a lot of the stress and frustration away.
“The fabric of the team is in Wenger’s style and this is the strongest group of players he’s ever had so there are no excuses. He must identify the problems, (one of) which is clearly the defensive structure.
“How did it take him this long to work out a back three was required? He bought centre-backs that can’t play in a back four and they were exposed for too long.”
The subject of buying and selling players came next, with Nicholas saying the deadwood needs to be sold and replaced with top players instead of squad players.
“He’s got to face the music now and this is the strongest group but it’s still not good enough, so he needs to unload six or seven of the weaker players and, rather than signing more squad players, he must bring in another world-class defender, a top midfielder and a 20+ goal striker.
“He needs another top midfield player with Santi Cazorla out. Raphael Varane or Virgil van Dijk would be ideal at centre-back and Alexandre Lacazette is the striker I wanted, but all this contract delaying has probably meant we’ve missed out on him.
“We need a solution to Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil now. I think Ozil will stay but Sanchez will probably go and losing 30 goals is really damaging.”
Finally, Nicholas gave his opinion on the Europa League and what he feels should be the priority next season.
“He must treat the Europa League like the Capital One Cup and go for the title now and get back in the Champions League.”
Former Southampton striker Le Tissier said he wasn’t surprised by Wenger extending his contract. He also echoed Nicholas’ opinion on transfers by saying:
“I think they need a world-class centre-forward, somebody to strengthen the centre of their defence and then a holding midfielder as well.”
Thompson was outspoken on his criticism of Wenger and feels he was given a new contract out of loyalty.
“He’s been allowed to stay out of a feeling of debt to him because he’s been such a great manager, but he’ll have to take what is coming to him from now on as there’s no more time for sentiment.”
Regardless of what the pundits have said, Wenger will know he’s on borrowed time with the Arsenal fans. Unless he delivers major new signings and success on the pitch, the hate he received last season will get even worse.
Peter Reynolds, Pundit Arena