Arsenal boss Unai Emery told how to get Gunners into top four by Sol Campbell – EXCLUSIVE
That is the view of Arsenal legend and ‘Invincible’ Sol Campbell.
Arsenal were left to rue a poor finish to last season when they earned just four points from their final five matches to end the campaign one point outside the Champions League places.
The Gunners were then convincingly beaten by Chelsea in the Europa League final which means they will spend a third consecutive season in the second tier of European competition.
They’ve also lost significant names this summer in the shape of Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey.
But Arsenal have made a determined effort to respond to the disappointment of last season by strengthening in key areas during the transfer window.
The club’s transfer record was smashed with the signing of Nicolas Pepe from Lille while Kieran Tierney, David Luiz, Gabriel Martinelli and Dani Ceballos were also brought in.
Meanwhile out of favour Shkodran Mustafi and Mohamed Elneny could leave before the end of the month, creating space for promising young players like Buyako Saka, Reiss Nelson and Zech Medley.
Nevertheless, Arsenal’s main objective this season is qualification for the Champions League and Campbell believes Emery deserves time to get it right at the Emirates.
“It’s still early days. So early,” Campbell told Express Sport.
“He got to a final in his first season. It’s not bad. Just missed out [on the Champions League] on the back end of a few results. The one thing he has got to do is look back at the last five to eight games [of last season].
“That mini run-in got to be a lot more ruthless and then I think he’ll be able to get one of the Champions League spots. It is all about progression. They need to progress and that’s what they are doing. Whether it is the right pace, only time will tell.
“They are building for the future in the sense that they want to keep on pushing, getting the right player in and they are going for it.
“Obviously Manchester United and City have huge budgets but Arsenal have to catch up. I’d rather them buy one or two players of real quality and edge it forward. Instead of splitting the money and buying four players.
“I think that’s the best way to do it. Buy one or two players per year and hopefully over two or three years, you’ve got a real squad.”
If Arsenal, who open their Premier League campaign with a tricky away tie against Newcastle today, are to be successful, much will depend on their defence.
For the second consecutive season, Arsenal conceded 51 goals, which is the most they’ve allowed in the Premier League era.
It is hoped the arrivals of Luiz and Tierney will add quality to a porous backline while the imminent return from injury of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding should also give Emery a welcome boost.
However, Campbell feels the Arsenal defence won’t get better until players start taking individual responsibility.
“At the back end of lack season, it was a bit of ‘your ball, no it’s my ball, your ball’ type of confusion,” he said.
“And that confusion has to come out. Once that confusion comes out, then you can see what kind of players you’ve got. Last season, it was all pointing fingers. No-one standing up for their own mistakes. That has to change.
“A bit more accountability and once that and the honesty is there, then you can start accessing what players are really doing. Because at the moment you could say ‘he did a mistake, I thought it was your ball, my ball’ whatever.
“Get that out of the way and defend, then you can see what you’ve got. I think it is done individually and as a team. Sometimes not even on a training field. It’s having a serious conversation between the players and management to address the situation.
“Everybody has to take accountability. Once everyone has that, everybody is on the same level and there’s no second-guessing anymore and then in games, you can see who’s who.
“At the moment I don’t know if it is communication or a lack of leadership because it is all mixed up.”
Sol Campbell was speaking at the finals of the #BetRegret Cup, part of the nation’s largest safer gambling campaign, Bet Regret. For more info, visit https://www.begambleaware.org/betregret/