Video: Gary Neville, Thierry Henry and Jamie Carragher argue over Arsene Wenger's midfield combination
Ahead of Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool, Sky Sports pundits Gary Neville, Thierry Henry and Jamie Carragher discussed the Gunners’ midfield and whether it was good enough to win the league. Arsene Wenger has been criticized in the past for not signing a physical and powerful defensive midfielder to sit deep and protect the back four, and it was an issue that was discussed at length by the former EPL rivals.
Although he has great respect for Arsenal as a club, a point he stressed repeatedly, Neville was adamant that the Gunners would not win the league with midfielders like Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla paired up in central midfield. He spoke about how Wenger has made the same error by using midfielders not suited to the role, citing Cesc Fabregas and Mikel Arteta as examples.
Neville’s point of view was that Wenger should have signed stronger midfielders to play alongside the technical ball players and called the French manager “naive or arrogant” for not fixing what he saw as a glaring error in his transfer strategy.
“I think it’s arrogance. I really do,” Neville said. “To think that you are not going to adapt your team, to change to impact on the other teams that you’re playing against and their strengths.
“It is either naive or arrogance because they keep losing this way. It is misheld belief.
“I just cannot get my head around why he would not sign players of power to assist these talented players that you’ve got to enable them to win the league.”
Henry jumps to Wenger’s defence
On the other hand, ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher and ex-Arsenal striker Thierry Henry did not accept Neville’s argument. They pointed out that the same midfield partnership was used when the Gunners beat Manchester City at the Etihad last season and Chelsea in the Community Shield earlier this month.
Henry said: “I played there. I don’t think it’s arrogance. I think that it’s belief.
“Arsene and the players believe they can play like that and they can outplay teams at times. Whether people like it or not, it’s belief.”
Carragher also spoke about how the same midfield combination was praised last season, especially after the Gunners’ 2-0 win at the Etihad where Cazorla was the man of the match.
“Last season we spoke, how long we were eulogizing about them on the show, about the Man City game. When they went there, Cazorla played in central midfield. It was a massive change, wasn’t it?” Carragher said.
“In the Charity Shield as well, second half, they defended deep, they looked to counter-attack against Chelsea.”
If not United, I’d want Arsenal to win the league: Neville
But Neville was still not convinced and said, “If it wasn’t (Manchester) United to win the league, Arsenal would be the football club I’d want to win the league.
“They’re the ones at the top, absolutely. For the respect, great football club.
“I just wish they’d correct this issue of lacking power and strength in the middle of the team,” he concluded.