Football

Nigel Winterburn: Wenger needs title charge to win back Arsenal fans

Ex-Gunner Winterburn says supporters now want more after recent successes in FA Cup

THIRD ROUND
ARSENAL DONCASTER

The "Wenger out" cries are getting louder among the Gunners' faithful as they find their club 12th in the English Premier League after five games.

Former Arsenal left back Nigel Winterburn feels the only way for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and his team to get supporters back on their side is to put up a genuine challenge for the title they last won in 2004.

The 53-year-old, who is in Singapore to publicise November's Battle of the Masters match at the National Stadium, had no hesitation throwing his weight behind his former boss.

Winterburn played under the Frenchman from 1996 to 2000, during which the Gunners won the EPL and FA Cup double in 1998.

He said: "I know how dedicated he is to the football club. People are now saying that he is not passionate as he was before... he's completely passionate about the football club, he's dedicated his life to it.

"He still believes that they can win the league title."

Arsenal have made a poor start to the season, scraping a late 4-3 win over Leicester before losing 1-0 at Stoke and 4-0 at Liverpool.

Since then, Wenger appeared to have steadied the ship, by guiding them to a 3-0 home win over Bournemouth and a 0-0 draw at Chelsea on Sunday.

They begin their League Cup campaign with a third-round home tie against League One side Doncaster Rovers tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

Winterburn, who felt the fixtures list had thrown up a "very difficult" start, was encouraged by their performance at Stamford Bridge.

He said: "It was a good display against a strong Chelsea team.

"We just got to see that consistency from Arsenal, see where we are in the Premier League during Christmas and then take it from there."

Winterburn remains optimistic about the season despite a relatively disappointing transfer window that saw them miss out on Monaco's Thomas Lemar, lose Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain to Liverpool, but keep wantaway Alexis Sanchez.

He said: "I've said for the last couple of seasons that Wenger needs to start mixing up the squad, release some players that've been around for a good amount of time now, bring in some fresh faces.

"When you bring in fresh faces, it brings in a new challenge to the players around you."

Winterburn, however, also stressed that some of the more senior players need to show their commitment, too.

He was referring to the unsettled Sanchez, who saw a deadline-day move to Man City fall through after the Gunners failed to sign Lemar.

Said Winterburn: "To Alex Sanchez, give me 100 per cent, show me that you can play at the level you played last season and I'll give you your respect.

"That's all you have to do, just show the commitment to the club and to the supporters.

"If you decide to leave at the end of it, then you have to respect that.

"But while you're here, give me the form you've shown last season and you'll have everybody on your side."

Winterburn, who made 440 league appearances for Arsenal , agrees with the general sentiment that the two Manchester clubs are the teams to beat this term.

However, he does not feel that Arsenal will do as badly as some of their critics believe they would.

He said: "I've heard a lot of people say they're going to finish down in eighth, ninth, or 10th. They're too strong for that.

"They will be up there in one of the top six positions. We can at least have a shot for the title, but as I said earlier, with the way that the two Manchester clubs are going, it looks like the title will go to one of them."

TOMORROW'S OTHER FIXTURES

  • Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
  • Everton v Sunderland
  • West Brom v Manchester City
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