Wenger transfer policy under fire
FA CUP SEMI-FINAL
Venue: Wembley Stadium Date: Saturday, 18 April Kick-off: 1715 BST
Coverage: Score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live and text commentary on BBC Sport website
By David Ornstein
Flamini left Arsenal for AC Milan last summer
Ex-Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit believes Gunners boss Arsene Wenger should rethink his transfer policy.
Without a trophy since 2005, Arsenal have lost players like Mathieu Flamini because of a strict wage structure.
“It’s a relationship on the pitch and you have to spend money to keep it,” Petit told BBC Sport.
“You don’t have to go out and spend money when you’ve got the players already, but you need to show the players that you want them to stay.”
Arsenal are in the semi-finals of the Champions League and the FA Cup, but Wenger’s side have been unable to sustain a challenge for the Premier League this season and have not a won a trophy since they beat Manchester United on penalties in the FA Cup final four years ago.
Petit attributes that failure to the loss of key players like Flamini, who went to AC Milan on a free transfer last summer, while Alexander Hleb was sold to Barcelona in a £11.8m switch.
“After the departure of Flamini, at the beginning of the season Cesc Fabregas was like an orphan. He was looking everywhere for Flamini but he was at Milan,” said Petit, speaking ahead of Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final with Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.
As well as a strict wage policy, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists any player over the age of 30 should not be offered any deal longer than two years.
But Petit believes that contractual policy has allowed the club to lose key experienced players like Robert Pires, while veteran internationals such as Gilberto Silva and Jens Lehmann left last summer.
“Before the start of the 2008-09 season they made some mistakes in terms of transfer policy,” said Petit.
Petit played for both Chelsea and Arsenal
“I understand the transfer policy at the club, but when you’ve created a team you have to make an effort to keep it.
“Let’s say I’m an Arsenal player. When I look back on last season I see we were magnificent.
“In the summer transfer market I see Chelsea, Liverpool and co spending millions to buy new players to build a stronger team, but when I look at my club they are spending almost nothing on new players and letting some key players go.
“Now the young players are growing very fast, showing great attitude and great character on the pitch, but they are still missing experience.
“It seems they’ve got back the routine they had last year, but you can’t afford to be very good for six months and then average for three months when you want to win things.
“You have to be good from the beginning until the end but you can’t learn that without experience. Yet, in turn, experience is very rare and expensive because it’s like a good wine – you have to give it to develop and gain knowledge.”
But Petit acknowledges that the injuries have played a role in scuppering Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes this season.
“The key for Arsenal is to avoid injuries because players such as Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott are capable of so much on the pitch, but they are always injured,” said Petit, who also played for Chelsea, after a brief stint with Barcelona following his departure from Arsenal in 2000.
“The injuries have put Arsenal under so much pressure. Even when they got players back they lost three four defensive players in two games. You cannot build a team and result when you are always handicapped by such injuries.”