Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger are facing a barrage of criticism from club legends after seemingly falling out the Premier League title race with Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City.
Former Gunners players Lee Dixon and Emmanuel Petit both took aim at Wenger’s tactics and the team’s stagnation under the long-time boss, while ex-manager George Graham vented his frustration with the club’s board.
Graham told The Guardian in an interview that “there is no board at Arsenal” and that “nothing changes” despite the team’s lack of success in the league.
It was a response to the club’s recent annual general meeting, which ended in turmoil and boos from shareholders after chairman Sir Chips Keswick refused to answer questions from the floor.
“There are questions they’re obviously not going to answer,” Graham said. “I heard [chief executive Ivan] Gazidis say they were over-performing. Over-performing?”
The loss at City was Arsenal’s fourth away defeat in the league this season and left them 12 points behind the runaway leaders in sixth place.
Graham, whose teams were known for their defensive tactics, also said the problem with the current Arsenal side is that they “have very poor defences now.”
However, he added that Wenger himself has “been great for the English game, great for Arsenal.”
Dixon, who won two Doubles under Wenger, was less charitable toward the manager, saying that Arsenal’s problems are “unfixable” as long as he remains in charge.
“He has created an environment that doesn’t really know what they’re doing without the ball,” Dixon told BBC Radio 5 Live, adding that Wenger’s pressing tactics at the Etihad Stadium were totally inefficient. “Just running willy-nilly at the ball is a disaster against Man City.”
Petit, who was part of Arsenal’s 1998 Double-winning side, struck a similar note.
“At the moment, every time Arsenal have the ball, they are a danger to themselves, because as soon as they lose it, they look disorganised. There is no balance in this team — they lack concentration,” Petit told Paddy Power.
“The fault for this lies not just with the manager, but also with the players. They’ve been making simple mistakes and consequently allowing the opposition an easy ride. It has been a long time since I saw Arsenal play well from the first minute to the last — this is surely down to a crisis of confidence among the squad.
“Arsenal’s problems are mostly mental, not technical. Motivation is a major problem for several of Arsenal’s players — it’s clear that they aren’t always giving 100 percent out there. When the chips are down, several of them keep going missing. Sometimes talent wins you games, but sometimes spirit is also vital.”
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.