KENNY SANSOM: Gunners have everything they need to win title

BY JEM MAIDMENT Arsenal legend Kenny Sansom believes the Gunners defence can help bring the title back to north London after a four-year absence. While Arsene Wenger has an embarrassment of riches up front – and will be further strengthened when Eduardo


Arsenal legend Kenny Sansom believes the Gunners' defence can help bring the title back to north London after a four-year absence.

While Arsene Wenger has an embarrassment of riches up front - and will be further strengthened when Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky return from injury later in the year - the much-maligned defence has faced criticism.

Mikael Silvestre's shock move from title rivals Manchester United last week may have done little to appease fans looking for big-money signings. But Sansom feels some much-needed experience is all that could be needed to wrest the title from Old Trafford.

In fact, Sansom, the most capped full-back in England's history with 86 appearances for the national side, has sprung to the defence - of the defence - despite Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Fulham.

"That backline is key to our title aspirations," Sansom, 50, in September, told Ham&High Series Sport. "We needed to add experience and Wenger has done that by getting Mikael Silvestre.

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"I think his arrival can only be a good thing as it bumps up the average age of the side. It is a very good unit which is improving. I would still like to see another experienced defensive player drafted into the squad before the transfer window ends - but we're better off now than we were."

That window, which closes on September 1 at 11.59pm, is the last chance for Wenger to recruit adequate back-up for his young squad before January.

But Sansom, who made 314 appearances for Arsenal between 1980 and 1988, is quick to point out the current Emirates roster does not need wholesale changes.

"It amazes me some of the criticism we got last year - it's barmy," he said. "We finished third with very little investment and a squad made up of kids.

"We should have beaten Manchester United away in the league - remember, we battered them on their own pitch for most of the game - and were leading at Chelsea too.

"If we had won those games, we'd have won the title. It's that simple - we finished just four points off top spot in May and that, for me, was quite an achievement. Let's also not forget we should have beaten Liverpool three times in a week too - just look back on those games and remember how well we played.

"It's not an easy excuse to say our injuries were horrific - it's pure fact. It did, for me, make the difference between champions and third spot. The gap, though, is so small. We must continue our good start to the season. We won scrappily against West Brom, but three points is three points.

"United dropped two points straight away at home to Newcastle. There's no doubt about it, the squad needs to be bigger. But let's just wait and see what happens before the window closes - more may be coming in."

And while Alan Hansen famously once said you can never win the title with kids - before being forced to eat his words when a youthful Manchester United walked the Premier League - Sansom is not so foolish to discount the potential of Arsene Wenger's young Guns.

"I was in Wales recently talking to some of the Cardiff coaches and they said Aaron Ramsey is immense - they could not stop praising him," he added.

"From what I have seen of him I agree. As for Jack Wilshere, well - wow. We're talking pure talent here. He can step up this season, let alone next season, with the brain and talent he possesses.

"But the one guy who can really do the business is Theo Walcott. This is a massive season for him. This is his season."

The three mentioned are all talent from these shores which makes Sansom happy. "I do think we have missed an English, or British, core.

"That for me is important and as the English influence has continued to be diluted, the ability to mix it up has also gone. If we can get some of that fighting spirit back - and I believe we can - that will make a big difference."

And as a man seen by many as the club's greatest ever left-back, he has some words of advice for the current incumbent Gael Clichy, who was given a massive vote of confidence last week when Armand Traore, his younger rival for the position, was loaned to Portsmouth for the entire season. "I am very impressed with Clichy," he said. "He is fantastic and pretty much the same as Ashley Cole. What I want to see is Clichy concentrate for the entire 90 minutes even when he is not being tested.

"I know exactly what it is like - you are up against a weak winger and then you switch off and, bang - you are punished. He has switched off before on occasions but I really see him improving his game - he is maturing into a fine player."

Sansom has just released a damning, warts-and-all-autobiography called To Cap It All, an honest read detailing his alcohol addictions and "colourful" private life. "I felt it was the right time to write it," he admitted.

"Things have been tough - I'm still a bit of a mess at the moment - but I'm honest and it needed to be written.