With four defeats from their last five league games – in addition to a 10-2 mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League – the Gunners have seen their season spiral into crisis; a situation not helped by their two most prodigious talents dramatically losing form and influence amidst drawn-out contract disputes. While others debate on Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s short-term futures, Bentley takes a hard-line stance.
“Are Sanchez and Ozil important to their club? No, and Arsenal shouldn’t bend over to keep them. There are plenty of great footballers around the world to get. Just go online and there are loads of lads from South America running past a hundred players and banging it in the top corner. There are others with their skill.”
“To be honest they’ve become Mr Wenger’s allies, his friends within the team, and Ozil and Sanchez have let their manager down because some of their behaviour is quite stupid.”
Not that the 32 year old – now a successful restauranteur after retiring from the game in 2013 – places all of the blame for Arsenal’s woes at the feet of their contract rebels. The boss too is deserving of criticism for unnecessarily changing a winning formula.
“He had success with ready-made players who were men. The problem now is that Arsenal has become more of a development club and I think Arsene wanted that. But he has given the youngsters too much responsibility without having the support of senior players. If they had a good blend through the spine of the team, they’d enjoy a lot more success. For instance; if you put John Terry and Ibrahimovic into the spine of that team – seasoned pros who are strong in the dressing room and take responsibility for the team – Arsenal win the league.”
“I’ve been in dressing rooms where you come in and experienced players are punching the walls, throwing things and saying ‘what the f*** were you doing? Why didn’t you pick that runner up?’ to the young lads. I don’t think that’s happening and I should imagine the dressing room after losing 3-1 away at West Brom had players with their heads down and looking to get out of there as early as possible.”
“For me to speak about this doesn’t mean that I was that type of player. But I was in dressing rooms with Ledley King and Patrick Vieira, people who would f***ing cane you, while as a young player myself I’d look at Sol Campbell, and Vieira and Henry and think, ‘F***, I’d better run here. I’d better try.’ Now they’re not scared of anyone.”
Playing devil’s advocate it could be said that Arsene Wenger has tried to rectify these shortcomings in recent times, only to see his transfer targets move elsewhere. This is certainly true of the one-man army that is N’Golo Kante, who has reputably twice come close to signing for the 67 year old only to opt instead for Leicester then Chelsea. It is a near-miss that Bentley insists has been costly.
“I would imagine the PFA Player of the Year will be Kante. Everybody will vote for him. For the young player it will be Dele Alli again.”
It’s little surprise to discover that the affable Bentley is a huge fan of the Spurs midfielder, with similarities notable in the attributes Alli brings to this Spurs side and the midfield flair Bentley provided during his admittedly mixed spell at White Hart Lane.
“He can be anything he wants. Tottenham give players a good platform to perform and there is no better place to develop. Going back to Gareth Bale when I was there to now with Dele Alli being a good example of that. Like Harry Kane, they’re allowed to play and Alli has got everything: strength, touch, a bit of steel, and can pass a ball. He can do whatever he wants in the game.”
His admiration only increases when talk turns to the home-grown striker Spurs are desperately trying to return to full fitness as they mount an unlikely, late title bid.
“They can weather it a little bit but Tottenham are missing Harry Kane massively, because goals take you to where you want to go. There was some news yesterday that he might be back soon, so let’s hope that’s true.”
“I was there when he was coming through and he wasn’t prolific like he is now. He’s an example of giving a player a chance, dangle the carrot and see if they take it and he certainly has. He’s a goal machine who works hard and he’s the modern-day Shearer isn’t he.”
DAVID BENTLEY’S QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS
- Score prediction for Arsenal v Manchester City
- Who will be first goal-scorer
The left-winger Sane. He’ll start off like a rocket. Arsenal full-backs will over-lap and there will be gaps.
- Who will win the Premier League Golden Boot
If Harry Kane returns soon then he’ll win it - Bet on PL Golden Boot Winner
- Who will win the Premier League
Chelsea - Bet on Premier League Winner
- Who will win the Champions League
Real Madrid - Bet on Champions League Winner