Exclusive: Arsenal have forgotten how to defend, says Gunners legend

ARSENAL legend Peter Storey says Arsenal must get tough in defence if they want to get back in the race for the Premier League title. The 1971 Double-winning hard-man watched last weekend s defeat to Manchester United in dismay as Arsene Wenger s side wer

ARSENAL legend Peter Storey says Arsenal must get tough in defence if they want to get back in the race for the Premier League title.

The 1971 Double-winning hard-man watched last weekend's defeat to Manchester United in dismay as Arsene Wenger's side were dismantled by the current champions.

But with Chelsea dropping two valuable points at Hull in midweek, an instant opportunity has arisen to claw their way back into the title reckoning.

Storey says Arsenal can't afford another lame showing when they travel to their west London rivals on Sunday afternoon.

"All our mistakes were serious defensive ones against United," Storey - who played 501 times for the Gunners between 1965 and 1977 - tells Ham&High Sport.

"I still can't believe how easy their third goal was - why did Gael Clichy fail to come across and try and tackle Park Ji-Sung? It was surely the natural thing to do, so the fact he didn't attempt to tackle him was really strange.

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"Generally, as a team, we have to concentrate much more on our defensive work, especially against a side like Chelsea with so many attacking options, otherwise we could be in for another big defeat."

Without doubt, Storey knows what he is talking about.

For many older fans, he was exactly the kind of player who was missing in the Arsenal line-up last Sunday; a never-say-die defensive midfielder who gave his back four invaluable protection while breaking up opposition attacks.

Unlike anyone in the current crop, the Surrey-born battler, who won the Fairs Cup, FA Cup and league title at Highbury, forged a reputation for crunching tackles and a no-nonsense manner.

So Sunday's performance was alien to him.

"Arsene Wenger has done wonderful things but it is pretty clear he is not really interested in the defensive side of things and it is the one thing that lets him down," says Storey, 64, who now lives in the south of France.

"It is not his forte, but unless there is a radical change we will suffer because of it. The whole side has to be geared towards defending better and battling harder because, what we are finding out, is that we will struggle against the top teams because of it.

"Look at Wayne Rooney's goal; an attack broke down and we were caught. Nobody seemed bothered about tracking back and Rooney took full advantage - that was very frustrating to watch."

Storey is also disappointed that a top-class defender was not drafted in before the transfer window slammed shut on Monday.

"Wenger goes for stop-gap defenders such as Mikael Silvestre and, last month, Sol Campbell, but they are not the long-term answer. It's a stop-gap mentality," he adds.

"Thomas Vermaelen is a proper defender and has been excellent, but more like him are needed."

Gunners' skipper Cesc Fabregas, one player most fans will absolve from any blame for last week's loss after his heroics in recent weeks, issued this rallying cry ahead of the forthcoming trip to Chelsea and next Wednesday's home game with Liverpool: "We have to beat Chelsea to stay in the title race. It's difficult but we have to bounce back straight away.

"We have to be positive. If you don't believe, you don't win things. We are still there, definitely. We have to be strong, be together more than ever ..."

Storey agrees and points out Arsenal know how to win at Stamford Bridge.

"Chelsea have not lost at home in the league since November 2008 - but it was us who beat them on that occasion and I believe, despite last week's blow, we can go there and get another positive result," he adds.

"We have what it takes to go there and win, no doubt about it. It will be a different kind of tactical game to last Sunday. Also, let's not forget, there are still 14 games to go - that is 42 points, which is a lot to play for - and we are not far behind. It's retrievable and we know this side can go on a run.

"But we simply must not give easy goals away."

Wenger also realises a big improvement is needed - starting at Chelsea: "We need something special now to stay in the title race, of course. I am conscious of that. I believe we have to stick together now, recover and produce a much better performance on Sunday.