London, Aug 29 (IANS) Over the years, Arsenal have fielded some of the most technically gifted squads in the English Premier League (EPL), but former Manchester United star Gary Neville feels that the north London club lacks the crucial qualities needed to be successful at the top level.
According to Neville, the present arsenal squad lacks players with strong physical qualities and the former EPL champions will find it difficult to regain the title without improving their defensive structure.
“We cannot be blind to the hard facts of football over 30 or 40 years. Pure football has never prevailed, though I would be delighted to see it happen for (Mesut) Ozil, (Aaron) Ramsey, (Alexis) Sanchez, (Oliver) Giroud and (Francis) Coquelin, who together can summon a great deal of technical ability but not much pace, power, height or strength. Giroud cannot challenge the space behind defenders. Coquelin is the only one amongst those who has any true defensive intelligence,” Neville wrote in his column for the Telegraph.
“When the screw really begins to turn I expect them to come up short on strength, power and pace,” he added. “The league has never been won by a team without these characteristics in abundance.”
Arsenal have been far from impressive in their start to the season, losing their opening game to West Ham United before a win over Crystal Palace and a draw against Liverpool saw them take the ninth spot on the table after three matches, five points behind leaders Manchester City.
Neville also felt that Wenger was being naive if he believed that players with flair and technical ability alone would win the EPL, adding that players with big personalities and high work rates are the hallmark of all successful teams.
“In every one of the last 10 seasons Arsenal have finished either fourth or third. Those facts are pretty clear and suggest a lack of improvement. If you refuse to change your ways – and those ways don’t take you to the top – naivety certainly comes into play,” he wrote.
“To see a team out-football everyone for a whole season, and never have to rely on grit or determination four or five times to keep them in contention, would be an amazing breakthrough.
“The Liverpool teams of the 1970s and 80s; all the Manchester United sides of the 1990s and 2000s, the Arsenal XI of Petit and Vieira and Jose Mourinho’s first Chelsea team of Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Claude Makelele,” Neville added.
“The Manchester City of Kompany, De Jong, Yaya Toure. You see power, character and a winning urge. There are no exceptions to this rule.”