Football: McLintock backs Wenger's revolution

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The Independent Online
Frank McLintock, the former Arsenal captain, believes Arsene Wenger can pull the Gunners out of their present slump and still inspire a Premiership title challenge by remixing his Continental flair with the British basics which worked so well under George Graham.

Wenger's French revolution at Highbury was all the rage earlier this season when Arsenal reeled off a dozen unbeaten League matches and defied the critics who said he still had too many players who were too old.

But Arsenal have lost four of the last six and were jeered off by their own fans at the end of a humiliating 3-1 home defeat by Blackburn Rovers last Saturday.

Wenger virtually admitted he does not know what has gone wrong, but McLintock, captain of the famous Arsenal Double winners in 1971 and still a passionate Arsenal fan, insisted: "What he does know is that they cannot have become a bad team overnight.

"I'm not going to knock Arsene Wenger because this man has a record and a reputation which shows he is one of the finest coaches in the world. I wouldn't dream of trying to tell him how to do his job because that is just an easy way for people to get headlines in the papers.

"But I hope he will understand that I'm speaking from the heart and with the best intentions for him and Arsenal when I say he's got to get back to the nitty-gritty of the team's traditional strengths to get them going again."

McLintock, now working as a pundit, added: "He has some tough decisions to make but I think he will be brave enough to make them.

"And I'm not talking about wholesale changes in personnel. It cannot be done just like that, no matter what money you have to spend. Everybody pointed to Arsene Wenger's quality when things were going well. Now he's got to show that the old ability to bounce back is still there.

"I've loved the way he has made Arsenal such an exciting team to watch. Change has to happen and he encouraged the players to show their creative ability, but Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright are still so important to that ideal and at the moment they are both off the boil.

"When that happens, as it does now and again to all top players, you've got to revert to the basics - and make sure that even when you are not playing well you are still difficult to beat.

"I think Blackburn have now got it down to a tee. To me, they are the new Arsenal or even the new Liverpool - the way Liverpool were when they won all their trophies under Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.

"The ideal is a balance between the best of British and European styles and it has been achieved by Alex Ferguson at Manchester United - playing with style but also competing with great desire.

"But Arsenal still have the players to be a force. I don't agree that they are too old yet because age doesn't matter if you show you can still do it.''