THE BIG KICK-OFF: George Graham on changes at The Emirates
George Graham has hinted Arsenal must be willing to smash their rigid pay structure if they are to overhaul champions Manchester United at the premier league summit. The former Gunners manager admits he is concerned Arsene Wenger s squad is weaker than la
George Graham has hinted Arsenal must be willing to smash their rigid pay structure if they are to overhaul champions Manchester United at the premier league summit.
The former Gunners manager admits he is concerned Arsene Wenger's squad is weaker than last season after four big-name departures since May.
But despite losing Jens Lehmann, Gilberto Silva, Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb - and only drafting in French youngster Samir Nasri and Welsh teenager Aaron Ramsey - he is hopeful Wenger has a few aces up his sleeve with the big kick off against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday fast approaching.
"Am I concerned and do I think the squad needs strengthening? Yes on both counts," the 65-year-old Scot told Ham&High Series Sport.
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"If I'm being honest I am surprised there has not been more transfer activity. The club needs new players. I would certainly be looking for a new keeper, a top drawer centre-back and a big, strong - I mean mentally and physically - midfielder too. That's for a start. But I'm, pleased Emmanuel Adebayor's long-term future at the club - has been sorted."
Adebayor, in particular, impressed Graham last term after hitting 30 goals in 48 games.
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"What surprised me last year was that some fans gave him stick and I could not see why," he said. "He got 30 goals for the Arsenal, for goodness sake. That's a terrific haul for a young player who, I believe, will improve in the coming years - I'm just pleased he'll be doing it in north London."
Graham, though, is hopeful that whether or not anyone departs between now and August 31, there will be more players coming in.
"It never ceases to amaze me just how many deals are done in the final few days before the window slams shut," says Graham, who managed Arsenal to six major trophies between 1986 and 1995.
"Managers, agents, players - they all go right up to the wire for many reasons. Wages have to be sorted, budgets looked at again, new players quickly become available who perhaps weren't on the market a few weeks earlier.
"I like to think Arsene has players in mind and that new arrivals are on the horizon. The fans clearly want it and, yes, I believe his squad needs new faces. Quality new faces."
And after three years without any significant silverware making its way into The Emirates trophy cabinet - indeed, the Gunners have won nothing since their high-profile move from Highbury - Graham says Wenger is under pressure to deliver trophies, but not from his bosses.
"Arsene enjoys a first-class relationship with the board," added Graham, who later led Tottenham to their first trophy in eight years with a League Cup triumph in 1999.
"And I know that Arsene is under absolutely no pressure from the board. None whatsoever. They know what he can do and what he has done for the club.
"But," he warns, "some fans are now getting restless and want silverware. That is only natural - we all want to see Arsenal winning the big trophies. For most supporters Arsene remains something of a God. But after seeing all this glorious, wonderful attacking football, some are demanding a trophy to go with the entertainment they see week-in, week-out."
So to The Emirates' wage structure. In Graham's nine years as manager at Highbury, he was also accused of not paying players the big bucks - an accusation he has often denied.
But he says now the board must free the purse strings to compete at the top. "If Arsenal want to go head-to-head with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool next season and beyond, they have to pay the money," he said.
"Chelsea, as we all know because of their circumstances, are a different proposition. You can forget about competing with their financial muscle - any club in Europe can. But Arsenal have to be in the market though to attract the best. And that means paying for the best. Arsene has done remarkably well so far.