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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

Gary Neville: Arsenal title win with THAT squad would redefine history

‘Arsenal are a soft touch – when the screw turns they lack strength, power and pace.’

Neville was critical of the Gunners on last week's Monday Night Football.
Neville was critical of the Gunners on last week's Monday Night Football.
Image: Nigel French

ARSENAL WILL NEED to redefine history if they are to win the Premier League without improving their defensive structure, according to former Manchester United defender Gary Neville.

Neville criticised Arsene Wenger after the club’s draw with Liverpool on Monday, claiming the 65-year-old is either naive or arrogant to rely on flair players alone to win their first title since 2003-04.

Wenger later claimed Francis Coquelin is statistically the best defensive midfielder in Europe, yet Neville – while praising the youngster’s talents – reiterated his stance and believes that he is still not enough.

“We cannot be blind to the hard facts of football over 30 or 40 years,” he wrote for The Telegraph. “Pure football has never prevailed, though I would be delighted to see it happen for [Mesut] Ozil, [Aaron] Ramsey, [Alexis] Sanchez, [Oliver] Giroud and 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.

“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.

“Precedent suggests it will never happen. To win the league with the front six he played against Liverpool would require history to be redefined.

“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.

“When I think of my own experiences of playing Arsenal I recall facing champion teams, champion players; teams you would be happy to draw against after a massive struggle. Arsenal exhausted you.”

The Gunners face Newcastle in the weekend’s early kick-off at 12.45pm.

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