Arsene Wenger’s image has been damaged by Arsenal’s failure to be realistic Premier League title contenders for a decade, according to the club’s former midfielder Emmanuel Petit.
The manager’s lack of spending in the transfer market has also been a negative aspect of his record according to Petit, who played for the Gunners between 1997 and 2000, winning the title in 1998.
At the start of the season the 45-year-old believed Arsenal would push on from back-to-back FA Cup triumphs to win the league, which he thinks Wenger badly needs to restore his reputation.
Petit does not think that goal is beyond the Gunners, but urged them to produce a statement with their performance against league leaders Manchester United on Sunday.
He told Omnisport: “I think his image was a bit damaged – for a decade now they have not been title contenders.
“They were not a team you can seriously consider to win the Premier League. For this season, I put my bet on them after they won the FA Cup two times in a row. They beat Chelsea during the [Community Shield].
“Frankly, they still have a chance but the game against United is extremely important as they are three points behind.
“They need to pound the table and send the message ‘we are not dead yet, we are still here, we can win against the leaders and pass them’.
“Indeed, Arsene needs to win the Premier League this season or do well in Champions League.”
Petit agrees with the assertion from Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho that Wenger is protected from pressure in his role at the Emirates Stadium compared to some of his managerial rivals.
“It is true that he is in a comfort zone,” said the former France international, who won the World Cup in 1998. “The shareholders don’t question him as he has qualified every year for the lucrative Champions League.
“As long as he enables the club and the very rich shareholders to earn money, there is no need of change at Arsenal. He is protected. But there is a trademark of good football at Arsenal, which is remarkable. It shows the credibility and what Arsene accomplished at the club.
“The other issue is that he is stingy despite the fact that Arsenal is a very rich club – the revenues are reaching the level of the top European clubs. They are just below the €500million mark. So yes, they are close to the clubs who dominate European football. So it is all good in terms of finance.
“I can understand that they don’t want to spend €80m like Manchester United did with Anthony Martial and I appreciate this but it has been a few years that he has been stingy. It would be good for Arsenal to recruit a centre-back and a holding midfielder.”
Petit – who also previously played for Monaco, Barcelona and Chelsea – added that he does not think the Gunners’ Champions League hopes are over despite the shock defeats to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos in their first two group games.
“In Champions League, they failed but now they need to pull together,” he said. “Yes, they didn’t start well but I think they can still qualify.
“They need to get a result against Bayern Munich then finish well against Olympiacos and Zagreb.”
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