Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hit back at ex-Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes after his withering critique of the Gunners' style, and also expressed his regret at not signing Yaya Toure when given the chance.
His response was sharp and dismissive, per the Mirror's John Cross:
For one reason or another, the players just seem to go missing. The Artetas, the Cazorlas, the Rosickys, Ozils although I know he has not played for a bit. They go on the pitch with no discipline. It's as though 'you four, five midfielders go out there and do what you want—try and score a goal. A few nice one-twos, nice tippy-tappy football—but don't bother running back.' That is my thoughts on it.
When we played against Arsenal teams it was really tough. Now, you play Arsenal and just get stuck in and you have won the game.
Whether or not Scholes has a point has caused much debate and clearly irked Wenger. The London Evening Standard's James Olley noted the Frenchman's response to Scholes, which was given during Friday's pre-match press conference:
Wenger on Scholes: "If six points is a 'million miles away' [from the title], I don't know what the translation of a mile into a point is."— James Olley (@JamesOlley) March 28, 2014
The official Arsenal Twitter account also detailed Wenger's view on critics who have no credentials upon which to cast their opinions:
The fact remains that Arsenal haven't won silverware for eight years and, as such, Scholes' argument has some validity.
Was Paul Scholes' assessment on Arsenal correct?
It's often said that the truth hurts, and while Wenger may not wish to acknowledge his side's shortcomings it will not stop outsiders from offering input on the same.
Arsenal are clearly not the same sort of side without a Patrick Vieira or Tony Adams-type player in the side. The sense of leadership and authority is notable by its absence in big games when such qualities are vital.
The Gunners play some of the most attractive football in the Premier League but over the last few years have been considered something of a soft touch.
Asked if fourth place would be good enough again this season, Wenger said via John Cross' column in the Daily Mirror:
No it will not be good enough. We want to finish first in the league and everything else, the other priorities are still there.
One player who could have brought the steel required to Arsenal's midfield, and helped a push to a first-placed finish, is the rampaging Ivorian Yaya Toure, who will be on the opposing side on Saturday.
Manchester City fans have seen the importance of the central midfielder to their own brand of attacking football, and Wenger admitted per John Cross of the Daily Mirror that one of his biggest regrets was not being able to secure the player after a trial at the Gunners:
It would be up at the top but let's not forget that Yaya Toure had an agreement with us and it's not because we did not want to sign him that he went to Ukraine.
We needed to wait for his passport [...] he preferred to go to Metalurh Donetsk. It was there he could go without any passport.
Cross also tweeted:
#afc Wenger says Yaya Toure is biggest regret of his career. But says they wanted to sign him but couldn't get work permit— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) March 28, 2014
Sky Sports' Jamie Redknapp appeared to agree with colleague Scholes as to the real problem at the Emirates. Via his column, he said:
Arsenal have had too many beatings in the big games; that's the problem.
[...] That is symptomatic of Arsenal's problems. They haven't been able to produce in big matches. That's when their defensive frailties come to the forefront.
With an FA Cup semi-final on the horizon, Wenger could be about to end his club's long wait for a trophy.
If he wants to step up a level and land the Premier League, it may be worth him listening to the counsel of others rather than presenting himself as the wise old owl.