Sol Campbell calls for leaders on the pitch at Arsenal
Sol Campbell, a member of Arsenal's "Invincibles" team of 2004, has accused the current side of lacking characters and leaders, and is urging Arsène Wenger to sign one or two players in the remaining 12 days of the transfer window. But in the run-up to today's London derby at Chelsea, Wenger would admit only that the squad may need greater aggression on the pitch.
Campbell required strength of character to withstand the abuse from Tottenham fans after moving between the North London clubs in 2001. He was an unused substitute in Arsenal's last trophy win, the 2005 FA Cup, but led Portsmouth to victory in the 2008 final. Speaking at the Football Association's 150th anniversary launch, he said of the current team: "They play fantastic football. But it comes down to those final moments, where you need leaders. And not just one leader, it's too much for one guy. You need five up and down the pitch to cement that winning mentality. They need to get back to the old days. Get some good British players and mix with some foreign guys.
"They need to invest," he added. "The landscape has changed and it costs a bit more money now. I know they don't want to spend the money, they want to put it back into the club. But it's going to be very hard to win things if you don't push the boat out now and then."
As an admirer of Jack Wilshere, Campbell would like to see more players like him in the side to avoid humiliations like the Capital One Cup defeat by Bradford City of League Two.
"It's bringing in the right type of players, who understand the game here and what it means going up north to a wet, windy Yorkshire night when you've got to win the game."
Wenger responded: "They are all characters. [Per] Mertesacker and [Thomas] Vermaelen, they are characters. The goalkeepers are characters. They are physical players. We have to restructure the balance of the team a little bit. Maybe we have to be not less technical but a bit more physical and aggressive. The players have the character to do it. The [likes of] Wilshere are technical players but they are also physical players."
Like Chelsea, Arsenal have been more assured in away games than at home, where Wenger feels they can be weighed down by expectation. "There's a fear not to be at the expected level," he said. "We have played a little bit inhibited, especially at the start of games.
"It's important that we get that out of our system. I feel the potential is there if this team can play without inhibition."
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