Arsenal legend Sol Campbell has urged the club’s angry supporters to give Arsene Wenger one final chance to save his crumbling season in Thursday’s Europa League clash against AC Milan at the San Siro.
The calls for Wenger to bring down the curtain on his near 22-year reign as Arsenal boss have reached a crescendo in recent days after back-to-back defeats against Manchester City were followed up by a miserable 2-1 loss at Brighton on Sunday.
Yet Campbell – who has a key member of Wenger’s Arsenal side that went through the entire 2003/04 season unbeaten – has told Independent.ie that his old boss has earned the right to have one final crack at glory before the curtain falls on his time at the club.
“Everyone is in panic over Arsenal at the moment and this frustration has built up over several years,” Paddy Power ambassador Campbell told us. “The FA Cup wins in recent years have been great, but the Arsenal fans demand more and that is partly due to the expectations Wenger built up in his first few years at the club.
“What has changed now is that he is nowhere near the top four this season and that has compounded the pressure, but this man has given so much to Arsenal for the last two decades and I believe he has earned the right to have one final crack at trying to save this season in the Europa League.
“The light at the end of the dark tunnel they are in at the moment is the Europa League and that could turn around the whole season. They really need to go for that now and if they can galvanise themselves for the AC Milan game on Thursday, they could do what Man United did last season and save their season by winning that competition and getting into the Champions League.
“If they win the Europa League, people can sit back at the end of the season and decide what should happen next, but the first step has to be trying to stop the rot by getting a position result in Milan on Thursday.
“What happens if it goes the wrong way against Milan? I have always been the type of person who goes into a massive game like expecting a positive outcome and it could still happen for Arsenal.
“So even though there is a lot of people upset at the moment and calls for change are ringing loudly, I’d say let’s what an see where we are after the AC Milan game. That is the glimmer of hope.”
Campbell believes Wenger has a set of players who have the ability to challenge for trophies, but he suggests they are not giving themselves a chance to display their talents for a variety of reasons.
“When I started playing this game, all the coaches I worked with used the same line; you have to earn the right to play,” adds Campbell.
“The Arsenal players are not doing that at the moment. You have no God-given right to go out on the pitch, play wonderful attacking football and win 4-0. You have to earn the right to play that kind of football and you cannot just rock up on the pitch to win.
“Earn the right to play and then your skill will come out. That means working hard, running your socks off, strong tacking when it’s needed and then you can break the opposition. You might need to work hard for 30 minutes or 60 minutes to get a chance to express yourself then so be it.
“The big problem in a lot of the Arsenal games I have seen of late is how they are starting games. The don’t seem to be mentally ready at the of start games and we saw that from them against at Brighton on Sunday. It is not good enough, but they have one last chance to put it right in the Europa League.”
Sol Campbell spoke to Independent.ie in association with Paddy Power. Read his football columns at: www.paddypower.com