Arsene Wenger has been too soft for too long at Arsenal

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 25 September 2017, 12:04

KIERAN GIBBS has every right to question his career at Arsenal having quit for West Brom.

The left back claims he will become a better player for it - he will certainly be busier. Maybe even tonight when he goes back to his former club.

In his last two seasons under Arsene Wenger Gibbs, a full England international, played 11 Premier League matches and before that just 15.

Less than half the season in each of the past two years. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s tactical switch to a back three and his preference for Nacho Monreal was the writing on the wall.

Gibbs left the Emirates pretty much in the same taxi as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who felt he wasn’t being used to his full potential under the Frenchman.

Fair enough for both of them.

But as is his way Wenger has a wonderful habit of putting grumpy players in their place and points out that in his opinion Gibbs was too frail to make the grade with The Gunners. Ouch - that’s gotta hurt reading that.

Wenger goes on to claim that Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ‘attitude’ may not have been spot on all the time, with persistent whispers that he was unhappy at his position in the team.

Whoever you believe, the experiences of Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain merely underline an endemic problem which exists at Arsenal and this is a rod Wenger has made for his own back.

There is a widespread belief in the game that a ‘comfort’ zone exists at Arsenal. That there is a gaggle of richly-rewarded Premier League players who earn way north of £70K a week and are happy with their lot.

And in return Wenger will never criticise them in public, never dig them out and that he is on the whole, way too patient with a group of stars happy to underachieve.

There are some on the inside at Arsenal who feel that players like Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain should have left two years ago.

They should have senses that the only way to test and challenge themselves was to leap into the unknown - test their talent.

Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Mezut Ozil. Players who never quite hit the heights at Arsenal but who had the tall, avuncular figure of Wenger watching their backs and maybe being a bit too kind.

This in turn may explain why Arsenal haven’t won the Premier League since 2004. Wenger needs to chisel away at this comfort zone which exists in his dressing room and be a bit harder on some of his players.

At least Oxlade-Chamberlain has got the message and took a pay cut to join Liverpool.

Fans know when one of their players hasn’t turned up. Ozil has a reputation on the terraces for going missing in big away games. Paolo di Canio had the same image at West Ham.

What it needs then is a manager who can turn a bit nasty and remind his highly-paid players of their duty and of how well they remunerated.

Gibbs will say he left because he wanted to play more. Arsenal say he had fitness worries and wasn’t offered a new contract.

But most of us know that Wenger could do with getting a bit tougher on some of his stars to get more out of them.

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