Football News

Robert Pires: Arsenal need English players to help with mentality

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:58, 22 November 2019

Former Arsenal midfielder Robert Pires believes the Gunners need English players in their squad to help with their mentality.

The Gunners have come under a lot of fire recently, with manager Unai Emery’s job in doubt after an underwhelming start to the 2019/20 campaign.

Perhaps the largest topic of discussion, however, has been the falling out between Granit Xhaka and the Arsenal fans. Xhaka, who was captain at the time, was booed by Arsenal fans after taking too long to walk off the pitch in their 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last month.

Why do Arsenal need English players? Five things to know…

  • Arsenal have underwhelmed this season with Emery’s job in doubt.
  • The Gunners have also seen Xhaka removed as captain after falling out with fans.
  • Former Arsenal midfielder Pires believes the club need more English players in their squad.
  • He believes their importance comes through their mentality having grown up in England.
  • Arsenal have played six Englishmen in the Premier League this season.

Xhaka responded by swearing at the fans and taking his shirt off before walking down the tunnel, further adding to the discord at the club. The Swiss midfielder has not featured for Arsenal since and was stripped of the captaincy, being replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

As a result, the mentality of the Arsenal team has come into question, with many wondering whether the Gunners can recover from this negative period. And Pires, who spent six years at Arsenal between 2000 and 2006, believes the club can benefit from having English players in the squad.

“The team needs so many ingredients in the squad,” he told The Athletic.

“Physical, technical, some players with intelligence, of course we need leadership, and we need English players.

“We need English players because we are in England and nobody else has grown up with this mentality.

“You need to be born here. It’s very nice when you get to discover new countries but for me, when you play in England, you need English players.

“It’s a different time. But I used to play with David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ashley Cole, Ray Parlour.

“We’re talking about six English players in the team. We need similar players.

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“Of course, I respect the Arsenal philosophy but we are in the Premier League and it’s so tough every weekend.”

So far this season, Arsenal have given Premier League minutes to Calum Chambers, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson and Rob Holding among their English contingent.

However, only Chambers and Maitland-Niles have started at least half of Arsenal’s Premier League games this season – still some way off the English core Pires played with during his time at the club.

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