'Arsenal playing testimonial football' - Merson sees no difference between Emery's Gunners and Wenger's

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The ex-Arsenal star believes no improvement has been made in north London, with an alarming lack of intensity transferring from one era to the next

Arsenal continue to play like they are gracing a “testimonial or charity match”, says Paul Merson, with no improvement made since Unai Emery replaced Arsene Wenger at the helm.

A change in the dugout at Emirates Stadium was intended to bring about a reversal in fortune after successive seasons outside of the Premier League’s top four.

Inconsistency remains in north London, though, with the Gunners’ class of 2018-19 taking six points from four games so far.

A leaky defence has offered cause for concern, with Merson of the opinion that a collective lack of intensity has carried over from Wenger’s era and into Emery’s.

The former Gunners star told Sky Sports: “I would say no different at the moment.

“I’ve watched Arsenal and if you didn’t know, you would still think Arsene Wenger was the manager.

“I watch Arsenal play and it’s like watching a testimonial or a charity match. The game’s open, no one’s really tackling anybody, it’s like, ‘you have a shot, we have a shot’.

“I thought the week before they did well to beat West Ham because I thought when it was 1-1 West Ham were going to be the team that nicked the game. So they’ve done well to win that game but there’s got to be a lot of improvement.

Arsenal testimonial football Paul Merson

“But it will take time, it will take time. Managers don’t just come in and change it like that.

“This has been embedded in these players for a long time, they’ve been at the club a long time some of these players.”

Merson believes further fresh faces are essential if Arsenal are to shake their unfortunate habits, with Emery requiring a number of windows in which to shape a squad inherited from Wenger.

“I looked at Arsenal at being sixth in the league this season if I’m being honest,” added Merson.

“He’s a good manager, like Arsene Wenger was, but it is going to take time.

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“He wants to play a squeezing game and he hasn’t got players to do that at the moment. So as this year goes on and the next year comes along, I think there will be improvement.

“To think it was going to change that quickly would have been mad.”

Arsenal will return to action after the international break with a trip to Newcastle on September 15.

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