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Premier League

Arsenal must tell Andrei Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky 'thank you, but goodbye' says Emmanuel Petit


Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit has warned the club need to get rid of a host of their big names and sign six established players if they are to return to their former glories.

The French World Cup winner admitted he fears for the future of the Gunners following last night's Champions League debacle.

Petit, who formed a formidable partnership with Patrick Vieira in his three years in north London from 1997 to 2000, claimed the likes of Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott were simply not good enough.

"I asked myself what has become of the team that I knew. It's worse than I thought, they haven't recovered from the departures of (Cesc) Fabregas (to Barcelona) and (Samir) Nasri (to Manchester City)," Petit told www.sofoot.com.

"It's a gulf which is confirmed weekend after weekend.

"And what is perhaps the most worrying thing is the club won't do anything this summer to reverse the trend.

"They don't want to go back to overspending in the transfer market, and I think they're right. But for two seasons, the level of the team has only gone down."

The Gunners went down 4-0 at the San Siro in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in a performance branded "shocking" by manager Arsene Wenger.

Petit added: "The problem is that previously the club compensated for its lack of physical strength with Fabregas. With him, Arsenal were the most attractive team to watch in Europe behind Barcelona.

"There, in midfield, there isn't anything now, the defence is constantly under construction. It's fortunate that (Robin) van Persie is up front.

"Certain young players haven't done enough to justify the confidence that Arsene has in them. Walcott - somehow he's going to have to reach the next stage. It's been years that he's been at the same level.

"(Aaron) Ramsey, against Milan, I got the impression it was his (twin) brother on the pitch. In the way they behave, in their body language, we see they're not there anymore.

"We shouldn't hesitate to talk about the end of the cycle. Regardless of age, we have to look seriously at certain players. Right now.

"You have to send out a strong signal. You have to say to Arshavin, and to Rosicky: 'Gentlemen, thank you, but goodbye'. And soon."

Petit also cast doubt on whether Lille's Eden Hazard would be a suitable signing, claiming the club need more experienced players.

"I like him a lot but what has he done at a high level?" Petit said. "Has he been good in the Champions League? We haven't seen him. Has he been good for Belgium? He's sometimes even a substitute.

"What's needed is five or six players of real stature, great experience. Players who are 27 - 30 years old at most.

"Players with technical qualities, obviously, but also strong character. A group of guys who refuse to accept defeat, who inspire confidence in the rest of the team."

Meanwhile, former Arsenal full-back Lee Dixon has slammed last night's display and questioned Wenger's decision to start with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench.

"Everything that could go wrong in the game did and it was a really, really poor performance," Dixon told betting exchange Betfair.

"There are not a lot of positives, to be honest with you. It'll be difficult for Arsene to pick the players up before a massive FA Cup tie at Sunderland this weekend. He's got his work cut out."

Dixon added: "I was surprised Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn't starting the game. He's been the man in form.

"Yes, he's a young lad but he's shown he can handle the big occasions. We saw after 60-odd minutes what he can do, and he certainly asked questions of the Milan defence."

Looking ahead to the return leg at Emirates Stadium, Dixon said: "I don't think [Arsenal] will keep a clean sheet.

"Milan have got enough about them to score at the Emirates which will make the task impossible. I think it's beyond them now."