Emmanuel Petit has launched a scathing assessment of his former club Arsenal, branding it a “retreat” for “average” players as he urged Mikel Arteta to have a summer clear out.
Standards have slipped dramatically at the club since the days Petit was controlling Arsenal’s midfield in Arsene Wenger’s trophy-laden period.
The Gunners are now languishing in 10th position in the table following their dismal 3-0 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday and look set to miss out on European qualification for the first time in 25 years.
And Petit has now laid into the elder statesmen in Arteta’s squad and feels only four players have emerged from their recent slump with any credibility.
Speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes at its launch of the 5-A-Side Bet on Crystal Palace v Chelsea, Petit said: ‘”When I look at the older players in Arsenal’s team, it’s like they think it’s a retreat football club, somewhere you just go for a vacation.
“They have ambition, but I don’t really expect them to win big games anymore.
“If you took away the name ‘Arsenal’ and looked at that group of players… average. At the end of the season, if I’m Arsenal, if I’m Arteta, if I’m on the board, to be honest with you, I think my main concern is getting half of the dressing room out. Honestly.
“I try not to get emotional anymore when I look at Arsenal. I try to step back and put away my emotions. I try and look at them like a normal team. I have to tell myself ‘don’t expect anything special from them today.’”
Pressed on which players he was referring to, Petit replied: “The question is simple; how many Arsenal players would you look at and say ‘they’re one of the best in the league in that position?’
“For me, if you look at the last two or three seasons, how many players are exempt of any criticism? Three or four, probably: Kieran Tierney and Bernd Leno. I really like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe; the way Smith-Rowe plays really reminds me of Paul Gascoigne.”
Arteta now faces a real test of his leadership with eight league games remaining and a mountain to climb to ensure a place in Europe next season.
Their best bet now looks to be in the Europa League where they face Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals this week and are currently among the favourites to win the competition outright.
That would only gloss over what has been a tremendously disappointing season for Arteta, who has as yet been unable to build on their FA Cup triumph last year.
Arteta has managed to cut adrift several experienced stars who were no longer part of his plans, including Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi, with more expected to depart this summer, but Petit feels the challenge is just as much about bringing the right players in.
“I like the young players, but they need to be surrounded by Lee Dixons and Tony Adams’, those personalities. It’s a simple science but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt as a footballer, it’s that you become a better player when you play with better players!” he added.
“There are some intelligent players in that team but for me there’s a real lack of characters, of leaders.
“I think too many of their players let their heads drop when they go down and it’s rare you see the team playing with any real desire.
“If they can do it against very good teams as we’ve seen, why can’t they do it in every single game?”