Nigel Winterburn fears Arsenal’s players have lost their winning mentality.
Gunners legend Winterburn gave a fascinating insight into the mindset of a successful team and is convinced Arsene Wenger still has the desire to win trophies.
But Winterburn , who won the Double under Wenger, believes some of the current squad are “frail” and do not have the right experience or mental strength which is the reason behind their disappointing campaign.
Winterburn said: “I played with teams that were used to winning, winning trophies every single season. We had that mentality and belief and that helps so much. You knew deep down that everything was there for you.
“But with this team, they’ve won a couple of FA Cups but they haven’t been that close in the league when it’s come to the nitty gritty of April and May.
“Sometimes you look at the mentality of a player and maybe they are affected by the results too quickly. When you’re confident, you move the ball quicker, your play is sharper and the team plays well.
“I don’t agree with this idea that players are not trying. Players always try. But when you’re not confident, your movement is not as sharp, you make silly mistakes, you’re hesitant, you think about things a lot more. That’s different to not trying.
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“Ability-wise, I’m 100 per cent sure that there were a lot of players out there who had more individual ability than I had. But I just refused to accept defeat. At weekends, if I lost a game of football, we definitely didn’t go out.
“It’s hard when you’re not there every single day to understand what they are really like. But they do seem a little frail and I think that comes through maybe not winning league titles and so you don’t have that real belief that you can pull it round quickly.
“We had some strong characters so you definitely didn’t stay down for too long.”
Winterburn won the title and FA Cup in 1998 under Wenger but also had glorious times under George Graham and played in the first Wembley FA Cup semi final in 1991 when they lost to Tottenham.
Two years later Arsenal avenged that semi final defeat to Tottenham and went on to win the domestic cup double.
These days even the FA Cup does not appear to be enough for Wenger but, as the Frenchman prepares to sign on for another two years, Winterburn does believe his former manager is still hungry for success.
Winterburn said: “I’ve done Q&As with Arsene before and been asked about it. From my point of view, finishing in the top four is an achievement that they should be proud of. But as a player when I was at Arsenal, I was only interested in one thing. That was being No1, winning.
“I wasn’t interested in being second. Finishing second shows that you are consistent but one team has been better than you over the course of a season.
“We’ll never know fully about Arsenal until after Arsene Wenger has left, a new manager comes in and then we’ll see where the club are. That will be fascinating.
“They have been very consistent during his period, they’ve also been successful but I don’t know what the new stadium did for restrictions on spending and budgets.
“If Arsene Wenger stays, I would love to see them spend a significant amount of money on the squad. You’re probably looking at needing to bring in three really strong players.
“There are now six teams that can win the league but I played, if you finished above one, maybe two teams, you were pretty confident that you were going to win the league. It’s definitely more competitive now.
“People throw in the remit that he just wants to finish in the top four. Of course the top four is lucrative in terms of money for the club.
“But look at his reaction when he loses games. He almost can’t look the opposition manager in the eye, doesn’t want to shake hands and that says to me that inside the manager is hurting. Anybody who says he’s not bothered whether he wins the league or not is just crazy. Of course he is.
“It’s the same with the FA Cup. I just can’t entertain that idea that he’s not bothered about winning. It’s just a cheap line that people have used because it’s been so long. No-one has thrown that at Liverpool managers over the last 20 years.”