BANGKOK, Thailand, Jun 16 – Arsenal must spend more on wages if it hopes to keep players away from global competitors, former midfielder Emmanuel Petit told AFP Friday, adding fans also needed to lay off embattled manager Arsene Wenger.
It is 13-years since Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ won the last of his three Premier League titles and the club has just come through their worst season in two decades.
Former French national Petit was at the heart of Arsenal’s glory days under Wenger but he said fans risked fixating on that era without understanding the present.
“I think that at times it has gone much too far (criticism of Wenger),” he told AFP in Bangkok where Petit was taking part in the first-round draw of the EFL’s newly rebranded Carabao Cup.
“I think that, once again, people have been suffering from amnesia. I think that they tend to focus on what happened in the past, rather than the whole picture.”
Wenger has spent much of the last year facing down a growing fan rebellion against his long tenure that looks unlikely to subside unless the team returns to their winning ways.
A surprise FA Cup win against Premier League champions Chelsea last month briefly lifted supporter spirits and was followed by the news that Wenger had signed a new two-year contract.
Wenger now faces a tough task of attracting new talent and keeping his best players.
For starters, he has to persuade Alexis Sanchez to sign a new contract amid rumours the Chile forward will attract offers from Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
Sanchez and team-mate Mesut Ozil are both holding out for weekly wages of around £300,000-per-week and have just one year left on their current deals.
Petit, still sporting his trademark ponytail, said Arsenal has no choice but to compete on wages.
“I think it’s time now for Arsenal to be competitive both in the transfer market but also in terms of its wage structure, because all the big European clubs are forced to spend crazy sums of money now,” he said.
“There’s so much competition nowadays, you see it with China, where you have clubs which are able to offer 40 million a year to the top players in Europe, obviously that upsets the market.”
Wenger’s transfer mishaps have left Arsenal lacking presence in midfield and bereft of an instinctive finisher, while their myriad defensive woes were exposed time and again.
Majority shareholder Stan Kroenke is ready to give Wenger £100 million ($128 million, 114 million euros) to spend, with Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez, Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe and AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca all linked to the Gunners.
Asked what he thought about Mbappe, Petit replied: “A kid who no-one had heard of six months ago and now is worth more than a hundred million euros, you know what I mean… things move very fast in football.”