Former Arsenal star Gilberto Silva has cited the premature exits of top talents such as Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie as a huge factor the club's demise under Arsene Wenger.
Wenger won three Premier League titles — including in 2003-04 when his ‘Invincibles’ went unbeaten for an entire season — and seven FA Cups during his time as Gunners’ boss.
But towards the tail-end of the Frenchmen’s tenure, he oversaw multiple departures of world class players in a bid to keep Arsenal cost-efficient and pay off the debts owed over the club’s luxurious Emirates Stadium.
Ultimately, the Gunners struggled on the pitch and Wenger's reign was brought to an emotional end two years ago.
Silva, speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes at its launch of the 5-A-Side Bet on Tottenham V Arsenal, claimed: "If you analyse Arsenal over the last few years, even if you go back to when they moved from Highbury to the Emirates, the group of players that were preparing to replace my generation all left the club, so as Arsene was trying to rebuild the team, many of the players who he brought in to replace the previous generation had decided to move on and it was hard for Wenger to build chemistry.”
“You can say Samir Nasri, Alex Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Alex Song, you know, those players were supposed to replace my generation. And the moment they started progressing at the club, they left. This was tough for Arsenal to respond to.
“Meanwhile, the other clubs in the division are continuing to invest heavily in top players and improve and Arsenal could not compete.
"They were always one step behind. Combine the changing of stadiums and the financial restrictions that came with that, with the drop in quality of players and it explains why Arsenal started to fall off.”
Reflecting on more recent history, Gilberto admitted Unai Emery’s ill-fated 18-month reign in the Arsenal dug-out struggled largely in part to the lack of bond he had with the Emirates faithful.
He added: “Then after Arsene was replaced by Unai Emery, it seemed like his life in England was quite hard. People didn't really accept him and he didn't build good chemistry with fans – despite the fact he had a good first season.”
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The former Premier League champion did, however, call for patience amid mounting pressure on current Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
“The thing for me now is that this will take time. You can't expect change overnight. You have to give Mikel Arteta time.
“I'm really positive about him but in the meantime I think they need to sign a few more players to make them more competitive.”
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