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Former Arsenal attacker Paul Merson believes the club are “20 years” away from winning the Premier League title again.
The Gunners last lifted the trophy in 2004, and Merson isn’t convinced they can do so again in the near future.
When asked for his thoughts on when Arsenal might win the league again, he told Sky Sports’ The Debate (h/t MailOnline’s Joe Strange):
“What do you think? 20 years. They’re a million miles away at the moment and the way it is going right now they probably need seven players to compete. I don’t see them winning again for a long, long time.”
Merson also bemoaned the impending departure of Aaron Ramsey on a free transfer as “bad, bad club management” and “a football crime.”
As Football.London’s Charles Watts noted, the Gunners have not managed recent departures from the club well:
Charles Watts @charles_watts
Come the summer, Arsenal will have lost Ramsey, Wilshere, Welbeck, Szczesny and Gnabry for about the price Liverpool have just got for Solanke. https://t.co/MGhMQHq5im
Merson also questioned the decision to hand Mesut Ozil—who has made just 16 appearances in all competitions this season under Unai Emery—a deal thought to be worth £350,000 per week in January last year:
“Now they have got to replace [Ramsey] and that will cost money but until the Ozil problem gets sorted out they are going to find it difficult to bring in players.
“Because if they bid £50 to £60 million for someone, the first thing the player will say is ‘well I want what Ozil is getting.’
“And when the club says you aren’t getting that then the player will just say “well I’m not coming then”. And that is what happened with Ramsey.”
The Gunners waved goodbye to Arsene Wenger after 22 years last summer following years of decline.
Arsenal are still way off the pace of the Premier League title under Emery, as they’re 13 points behind leaders Liverpool.
The Reds showed the gulf between the two sides with their 5-1 thrashing of the Gunners in December, prompting The Times‘ Henry Winter to call for investment in the north Londoners’ squad:
Henry Winter @henrywinter
A lot of understandably angry Arsenal fans tonight. Emery not the problem. Kroenke has to wake up and invest properly to address the long-standing flaws in the squad, starting at the back. #afc #LIVARS
Arsenal’s mismanagement of player exits means they’re getting far less income from sales than they could be. That’s money that could be put back into the team, which is in sore need of a revamp in defence, as Winter noted.
Ozil’s situation needs to be addressed. He’s currently failing to justify his enormous contract, and the Gunners can’t afford to be paying that much to someone who isn’t a key part of the side.
There’s much work to be done to reverse the team’s slide under Wenger, but it’s not all doom and gloom at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners have revamped their backroom staff over the past couple of years, with Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi joining the club as the new head of recruitment and director of football, respectively.
It’s clear there’s much investment required in the squad, but in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, they have two outstanding goalscorers, while Lucas Torreira has added some much-needed steel to their midfield.
With the right recruitment, the Gunners could be capable of challenging for the title in two or three years.
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