Belfast Telegraph

Petit backing for Wenger

Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit believes the current players have become disillusioned and lack mental strength, but insists parting company with manager Arsene Wenger would be the "biggest mistake" the club could make.

The Gunners look set to finish this season trophyless for the seventh straight campaign after crashing out of the FA Cup at Sunderland on Saturday - three days after losing 4-0 at AC Milan in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Petit, who formed a formidable partnership with Patrick Vieira in the early stages of Wenger's reign, is convinced his fellow Frenchman remains the right man to get the Gunners back on track, telling BBC Sport: "I think that will be probably the biggest mistake at Arsenal."

He added: "If Arsene has to leave the club they need to find a big manager to settle down and that would be very difficult for the next manager.

"I think Arsene's still the solution. They need to change a few things in the transfer market, change a few things in their politics to bring a competitive team."

Petit, who joined the north London club in 1997 and helped the team win the Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season, highlighted last season's Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham as a turning point and says the club need a change of tack in the transfer market to get more leaders on board.

"I think it's mentally that the team is very weak," Petit said. "I think Arsene Wenger and Arsenal did build many successes. Arsenal won many trophies.

"They had experienced players with big characters and all of a sudden Arsene Wenger decided to change completely the team, decided to put confidence in young players and we have to admire that because I think with the new regulations I think financially Arsenal's politics in the transfer market have been right so far in terms of not making big speculation on players.

"I was a big admirer of Arsenal's politics for five years. They were probably the best team after Barcelona in terms of football. But unfortunately for them last season was the final cut, especially the Carling Cup final against Birmingham."

He added: "They need more experienced players, more big characters in the team because the quality is there and they need some players to be the mentors in the team."

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