Arsenal need Vieiras: Pires

In this 4-1 Europa League final defeat by Chelsea on May 29, Mesut Ozil struggled to make an impact, as he did all season. Former Gunner Robert Pires is urging Arsenal fans to be patient with the enigmatic playmaker, who can help his own cause by sco
In this 4-1 Europa League final defeat by Chelsea on May 29, Mesut Ozil struggled to make an impact, as he did all season. Former Gunner Robert Pires is urging Arsenal fans to be patient with the enigmatic playmaker, who can help his own cause by scoring more. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ex-winger tells Gunners to spend on 'great' players for title tilt; open to joining as coach

Robert Pires was part of the "Invincibles" Arsenal team who won the 2003-04 Premier League title without losing a league game the entire season.

Since then, the Gunners have not come close to adding a 14th English title. In fact, for a third straight season, they will not play in the Champions League after failing to finish in the top four last term.

With Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang combining for 50 goals in all competitions last season, the former winger Pires said the Gunners are "perfect" in attack. But they need "more Patrick Vieiras" in midfield and quality defenders at the back.

Arsenal are linked with Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha and Monaco winger Keita Balde while they had a £15 million (S$25.7 million) bid rejected for Celtic's Scotland defender Kieran Tierney.

Frenchman Pires, 45, told The Straits Times in Johor Baru ahead of Sunday's Johor Darul Ta'zim All-Stars charity game: "The important thing is to find the players to rebuild the team because it is important for Arsenal to win the Premier League. I know it will be very difficult, but I believe.

"We need some fresh players or maybe more English players. It is very difficult to find quality players like Patrick Vieira, but we need to.

"I hope Arsenal will spend money for some great players."

OPTIMISTIC

The important thing is to find the players to rebuild the team because it is important for Arsenal to win the Premier League. I know it will be very difficult, but I believe.

ROBERT PIRES, former Arsenal midfielder,

In his first season, manager Unai Emery impressed with his tactical flexibility and faith in young players. But he also struggled to coax the best out of playmakers Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan as they finished fifth.

Pires urged Arsenal fans to be more patient with the enigmatic Ozil, saying: "I think he needs to contribute more. Maybe he needs to shoot more on target because he has the qualities to score goals.

"I know him, I see him in training sessions, he is a big professional, he loves Arsenal.

"The Premier League is very difficult and, sometimes, you need to be patient with the players."

The 1998 World Cup winner, inspired by former teammate Freddie Ljungberg's appointment as Arsenal's assistant first-team coach, has issued a come-and-get-me plea to Emery to join his backroom staff.

Pires said: "We need ex-players like Freddie with a lot of experience. He did very well with the Under-23s to win the title (in 2017-18).

"If Arsenal call me tomorrow and say, 'We need you in the staff', I will say okay. I will be very happy because this is my club and we won together some great titles."

If the Gunners are looking to splash some cash, the same cannot be said of London rivals Chelsea.

They have lost star attacker Eden Hazard to Real Madrid but are banned from signing players in the next two transfer windows until the end of January next year.

They will also have a new manager after Maurizio Sarri left to join Juventus. Former midfielder Frank Lampard is the front runner to replace the Italian after Derby County excused the 41-year-old from pre-season training yesterday and today to give him time to negotiate a move to Stamford Bridge.

Despite the upheavals, former Blues Claude Makelele and Florent Malouda believe the club are still capable of winning trophies next season, as they proved with the Europa League final triumph over Arsenal last term. Chelsea have won a major title in all but three seasons since their first EPL title in 2005.

Malouda told ST: "When you are in the best league in the world, when you lose a game, people will say your season is bad.

"But, when you look at Chelsea's season, they won a trophy. History is all about trophies, not about whether you play well or not."

Makelele also told ST: "There have been a lot of changes. It also happened at Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool.

"But Chelsea are still one of the best in Europe. Next season will surely be better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2019, with the headline 'Arsenal need Vieiras: Pires'. Print Edition | Subscribe