Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit has challenged the Gunners to prove their ambition in order to prevent talented youngsters such as Emile Smith Rowe from leaving the club.
Smith Rowe enjoyed a breakthrough campaign at Emirates Stadium last season, but has been the subject of sustained interest from Aston Villa over the summer.
The Gunners have already rejected two bids for the England Under-21 international and Petit thinks the club should do more to ensure Smith Rowe and others don’t attempt to push for a move.
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What did Petit say?
Arsenal’s eighth-place finish last season means the north London club will miss out on European football for the first time in 25 years.
Petit, who was part of Arsenal’s double-winning side of 1997-98, is concerned at the club’s recent decline and thinks the board should send out a message to prove their determination to compete at the top end of the Premier League again.
"As a club, you need to show your players that you are ambitious,” he told Metro.
“In terms of improvement, competition and ambition, it’s very important to send them a signal. Arsenal have been sliding down the table for five or six years.
“When is it going to finish? That means if I am an Arsenal player, I will be very conscious about what the club is doing in the market, who are the new players, who is leaving the club, and in the end I’ll make a conclusion.
“If the club is spending money on good players with character, maybe that shows they want to send a signal to the team that this season will be different to the last few seasons. That they want to get back to the level they were at before.
“Players will look at that and compare with other teams, then make a conclusion very easily. If Arsenal don’t have the team to compete for the Champions League positions, it’s going to be the same as last year and the year before.”
Petit understands Smith Rowe predicament
Petit says England’s progress at Euro 2020 will also be on Smith Rowe’s mind as he looks to become the latest youngster to join up with Gareth Southgate’s youthful squad in the near future.
As a result, the former France international would understand if Smith Rowe was tempted by a move to Villa Park.
“Emile Smith Rowe is not stupid. He will be looking at guys like Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish enjoying their football with the national team, all smiling on the pitch and very relaxed with the pressure and the ambitions of their clubs and the national team. Smith Rowe will want to be the same,” added the 50-year-old.
“The fact that Aston Villa are interested in him is not a surprise because they avoided relegation last year, this season was brilliant for them.
“They’ve got so many young players, all enjoying their football, and Smith Rowe will be aware of that.
“He will have had some questions in his mind and I hope Arsenal gave him the answers he was expecting in terms of the transfer market and ambitions for next season.
“If this season is the same season we’ve seen from Arsenal for the last couple of years, forget it. They’re going to lose so many players at the end of the season.”