Arsenal legend urges Wenger to sign Celtic’s Victor Wanyama
11:58 30 May 2013
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Exclusive: Former Arsenal star Perry Groves has joined the growing chorus urging Arsene Wenger to invest heavily this summer – and he believes Celtic’s star midfielder Victor Wanyama should be his first transfer target.
Arsenal finished the season on a high by taking fourth place, and denying bitter rivals Tottenham the final Champions League spot – but two-times title winner Groves says his old club must aim higher next term and beyond.
“I honestly believe the second half of the season – losing just one in the last 16 and winning eight in 10 games after losing to Spurs – has been Arsene Wenger’s best coaching performance in the eight years since we last won a trophy,” said Groves.
“He was under intense pressure from Tottenham, from the media and from his own fans, so to produce that kind of title-winning form in the latter part of the season – changing things around and making bold decisions – was superb.
“Now we need to look long and hard at this squad and ensure that we look up rather than over our shoulder. No disrespect to Spurs, but we must look at the three sides above and see how we can really make a meaningful challenge for the title next season.
“The two Manchester clubs and Chelsea will all have new managers next season. Arsenal have continuity and a settled squad that is clearly beginning to gel.
“I’m not saying we can buy three or four players and win the title next season – there was still a big gap between us and the champions Manchester United – but with the right reinforcements I believe we can make a real fist of it next year.”
And the acquisition of long-term target Wanyama – Scotland’s young player of the year – would be a good start, says Groves, who is a cult hero among Gunners fans after a six-year stint at the club between 1986 and 1992.
“We need big players who can step up to the plate and make an impact against the bigger teams, because that is what let us down last year – we had a woeful record against the other teams in the top four,” adds Groves.
“We need strong mentalities, players who can impose themselves. I would like to see experienced lads who can come straight into the starting XI, not players who take time to gel.
“I really like Wanyama – he is destined for big things. He may be young but he plays for a massive club, has lots of experience for a young player, and he fits the Wenger model – he is hungry, strong and technically very good.
“I think he would offer real protection for the back four, and a real thrust and drive going forward.
“In addition, we need another striker. I really like Giroud, he has made an impact and is a hard worker. He has also scored goals, but he is not Robin van Persie.
“With our wage structure I suspect we will not bring in an Edison Cavali, but we do need to get in another up front to help out our strikers. I’d also like to see a new right-back in as we don’t know what will happen with Sagna.”
But one oft-criticised area that Groves would leave well alone is between the sticks.
“I really like Szczesny in goal – I am a big fan of his,” said the Arsenal legend. “I know he has his critics and some people say he should keep his mouth shut, but he is confident and will get better.
“I am more than happy with the goalkeeping position. We also have [Lukasz] Fabianski, a very strong goalkeeper who is improving and did very well when he came in.”
Returning to Wenger, Groves reiterated how the Gunners boss impressed him in the final few months of the season.
“Wenger has been criticised but his hunger and desire has never changed,” said Groves, now a respected pundit on Sky Sports and the BBC. “He is desperate for Arsenal to win trophies and has backed that up that desire with big decisions.
“For a start he dropped his captain – and rightly so. It would have been easy to keep Thomas Vermaelen in the team but he took him out of the firing line and it proved the right decision.
“Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny look very good together now and they provide us with a strong base to really kick on in August. If Wenger goes out, as expected, and spends wisely, we should be very optimistic about next season.”