Robert Pires has backed Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger – but has warned him his team lacks balance and that he must target domestic cup success.
The Frenchman spent six years at the north London club, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, and he admits he is suffering as much as any fan in the stands because of the team’s current difficulties.
But he is adamant Wenger remains the man to lead the Gunners back to glory.
Pires said: “Arsenal goes with Wenger like Wenger goes with Arsenal - you can’t have one without the other. That said, the results this season have simply not been good enough.
“But you can’t forget Arsenal have high expectations because of Arsene Wenger. He has done such a good job over all these years. You cannot forget what he has done for the club and neither should the chairman.
“It’s unfair to compare what we did between 2000 and 2006 - we had a great team, a great mix of English, Spanish, Brazilian and French players. But now a lot has changed. The club’s philosophy seems different.
“Wenger’s strategy has changed, he wants to play with a young team but you can’t win things like that, it’s very difficult.
“[Sir Alex] Ferguson seems to have found the right balance between the mix of ‘old’ and experienced players alongside the young ones and I think that’s what’s missing right now at Arsenal.
“Arsenal’s problems are a result of this policy. The team lacks balance and for the new players who have arrived, such as Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski, this puts them under a lot of pressure.”
Wenger has recently stressed that finishing fourth in the Premier League and qualifying for the Champions League is as good as winning a trophy, but Pires insists the fans want something tangible to show for their support.
“We all know the view on this subject varies between fans, players and managers,” he added. “On the one side you have Wenger telling fans that Champions League qualification is a trophy, and economically he is right.
“But the most important thing for fans and players is winning titles, be it the FA Cup, the League Cup or the Champions League. So on the one hand Wenger is right, but he is also wrong. To fans and players, we know what matters most, and that’s winning trophies.
“The league title [challenge] is over. It’s November and Arsenal are 11 points behind Manchester United and that’s too much. That leaves the Champions League, which I think a Spanish team will win, so that leaves the FA Cup and the Capital One Cup which Arsenal can.
“It’s been years without a trophy and I know that is very frustrating for Wenger. That should be the number one priority this year.”