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Perry Groves: “We have wasted an opportunity”

In some people’s eyes, Arsenal have had a terrible season while others are not so pessimistic. One of those people is Gunner’s legend, Perry Groves. The former winger has been speaking to Welcome to the Gunners’ town about the campaign and feels that mistakes were made last summer. He said: “We missed an opportunity last summer. I really felt that we needed a top centre half to come in and partner Thomas Vermaelen and unfortunately we didn’t get one.

“When January came we needed to correct that mistake but again, we missed the opportunity. If we’d bought a top centre half in either of these windows I think we would have won the title this season.

“Koscielny has done well. He started off really shaky, struggling with the pace of the Premier League but as the season has gone on, he’s come good. I just think he needs a good five games alongside Vermaelen and he will eventually be a top player for us.”

Despite going six years without winning a trophy, Groves told WTTGT that rumours that the management should be changed are crazy. “I remember a few years ago, Charlton fans weren’t happy with their situation under Alan Curbishley and look where they are now; in League 1.

“I do think we could do with a shake-up in the coaching set up just to add another voice in there, but the manager shouldn’t be going anywhere. Steve Bould should perhaps step up to assistant manager or first team coach. I hope that the rumours going round about Pat Rice retiring are wrong. He’s part of the club, he’s been there and done it all. Every club needs a Pat Rice.”

The other rumour that just won’t die is whether or not the club captain, Cesc Fàbregas will leave this summer for Barcelona. Perry said: “You don’t want to lose your best players but if he wants to go, we should say ‘thank you very much Cesc, you’ve been great,’ and take the money for him. With the likes of Ramsey, Wilshere, Song and Nasri, we have ample players who can play in there so losing him this summer wouldn’t be as hard as it would have been last year. It’s becoming a bit like the Thierry Henry situation; will he go, will he stay. We just want it sorting out so that we can move on from it.”

If Cesc is to leave, the question would be circulating as to who could replace him as skipper. He said: “Thomas Vermaelen is a natural leader for me. He’s coming back to fitness now and he is the one I would go for.

“I think we need learn from our mistakes this season and go out in the summer to get that top centre back. If it costs us £25m then so be it. Go and get Gary Cahill! He wouldn’t need time to adapt to the Premiership, he can play out from the back, he’s a good leader and he’s done well for England this season. If we can’t get him then Jagielka would be my next choice, or Chris Samba. That man is massive, he’s a man mountain. He’s the kind of player we needed against a Stoke at the weekend who are great at set-pieces.”

Groves also had an opinion on the younger players that are currently being linked with Arsenal such as Tasci, Lejeuene and Goetze, suggesting that it’s all well and good buying youngsters, but right now Arsenal need someone experienced who can go straight into the team. He said: “Buying young players is fine, but you can’t put young players straight into the team before they’ve had chance to adapt.”

WTTGT asked Perry about who he thinks Arsenal should be looking at for the goalkeeping jersey. With speculation about the position frequent, Groves believes the answer is within the ranks already. He told us: “Wojciech Szczęsny is a great goalkeeper too and he should be the number one. I don’t think we need a new first team goalkeeper. I have some pals who are Brentford fans and they told me that he was top class when he was on loan there. Of course playing for Arsenal is a different matter but right from his debut against Manchester United I have thought he was the number one. He’ll make mistakes, but hopefully just not as high profile as the Carling Cup final. But other than that he has done nothing wrong and deserves his chance.”

Following Sir Alex Ferguson’s revelation that he was offered the Arsenal manager’s position in 1986, WTTGT asked Perry if he feels things might have been different if Fergie had taken the job. Groves said: “Whoever Alex Ferguson chose to manage would have won trophies but it took him six years to start his amazing run. George Graham rebuilt Arsenal’s pride and passion, he reinvented Arsenal. He got the fans interested again and built the foundations for everything we have now.

“We won our first title for 18 years under George and he eventually left the club in a good state for the future. Rioch and Wenger have built their reputations on the foundations that George laid, in particular that legendary back four.”

Simon Bourne (Site Editor)

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