‘They think it’s a retreat!’ – Emmanuel Petit slams senior Arsenal players and calls for Mikel Arteta to axe ‘half of the dressing room’

Petit pulled no punches when discussing the state of his former club
Petit pulled no punches when discussing the state of his former club (Picture: Getty Images)

Emmanuel Petit has taken aim at Arsenal’s senior players for treating the club like a holiday destination and urged Mikel Arteta to sell ‘half’ of his squad in the summer transfer window.

The Gunners have endured a difficult season and find themselves down in 10th place in the table and 10 points off the top four with eight games left to play.

Their humbling 3-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool last weekend prompted widespread criticism, with the likes of Gary Neville labelling Arsenal’s front six in the game, bar Martin Odegaard, a ‘joke’.

Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League
Arteta’s side are down in 10th in the table (Picture: Getty Images)

Arteta’s bright sparks this season – youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe – missed the loss at the Emirates through injury, and the Spanish boss will be sweating on their fitness for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie against Slavia Prague on Thursday.

Speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes at its launch of the 5-A-Side Bet on Crystal Palace v Chelsea, ex-Gunners midfielder Petit gave a damning assessment on the state of his former club’s squad and called for half of them to be axed.

The French World Cup winner said: ‘I still believe they have some quality players available to them. Do I think they have many quality players? No.

‘They have a good group of young players, though that are still learning. I think some of those youngsters can become very good in years from now – but to do that, they need to see an example being set by the senior players.

‘It shouldn’t be at a club like Arsenal that the younger players are the only ones showing passion, fight and aggression. It needs to come from the older players who should lead by example.

‘When I look at the older players in the team, it’s like they think it’s a retreat football club, somewhere you just go for a vacation. They have ambition, but I don’t really expect them to win big games anymore.

‘If you took away the name ‘Arsenal’ and looked at that group of players… average.

‘At the end of the season, if I’m Arsenal, if I’m Arteta, if I’m on the board, to be honest with you, I think my main concern is getting half of the dressing room out. Honestly.

‘The question is simple; how many Arsenal players would you look at and say ‘they’re one of the best in the league in that position’? For me, if you look at the last two or three seasons, how many players are exempt of any criticism? Three or four, probably: Kieran Tierney and Bernd Leno.

‘I really like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe; the way Smith-Rowe plays really reminds me of Paul Gascoigne. I like his behaviour on and off the pitch.

‘I like the young players, but they need to be surrounded by Lee Dixons and Tony Adams’, those personalities.

‘It’s a simple science but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt as a footballer, it’s that you become a better player when you play with better players!’

MORE : Slavia Prague face defensive injury crisis ahead of Arsenal Europa League tie

MORE : Martin Keown urges Mikel Arteta to drop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to set example to Arsenal squad

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