Paul Ince: History is just repeating itself as ‘soft-touch’ Arsenal, who lack leaders and character, have bottled another title race

Former Manchester United, Liverpool and England captain Paul Ince on why you can no longer associate Arsenal with being winners, because their players fold under pressure

The way Arsenal are playing at the moment is just history repeating itself. Last season it was prime time for them to win the title with Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City all under-performing. It was a great opportunity for Arsenal, but once again they fell by the wayside.

This season they started off so well – losing just one of their first 15 games – and it wasn’t long until people were calling them out as serious title contenders. Then, as soon as we get to the business end of the season they bottle it.

You don’t associate Arsenal with being winners now. They have done well in the FA Cup, winning in 2014 and 2015, but the fact of the matter is the last time they won the league was in the 2003/04 season. You don’t look at the team and say “they are winners.” You associate that title with Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Where are the warriors?

Arsenal have one of the best squads in the league, but not one with any character. There’s a soft-touch about Arsenal, and when you look around Chelsea’s team it’s completely different. It’s full of big characters – they’ve got strong players, with desire and the mentality to win. Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta are defensive warriors. N’Golo Kante never stops running and shows a relentless will to win, while then there’s the Man of Men, Diego Costa. They’re all huge characters, with loads of skill, determination and a real need to win.

Bar Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal haven’t got anyone like that. It’s what they’re missing. That presence.

When you think of their starting XI, there’s not one player who you would worry about or find intimidating. There’s no hard men and no clear leader. Some might say Shkodran Mustafi to a certain extent, but you’d still rather have Cahill in your team.

The midfield is lightweight and the entire team is so dependent on Alexis Sanchez, who has been world class this season. You can even sense that he is getting frustrated now – he wants to win. It’s not just on the field, I suspect the changing room isn’t happy at the moment either.

When Arsenal turn it on and play their best football, there is no team in the Premier League that are better to watch. But where they really need that mental toughness is in games like their visit to Stamford Bridge last week or the Etihad in December where they lost 2-1. That’s the real test and Arsenal don’t have the leaders to push a team on, be vocal and grab the match by the scruff of the neck. Their players fold under pressure.

It’s all good buying top players, but if you aren’t buying players with the right mentality, it’s pointless. You look at Kante, he was a huge part of Leicester winning the league this season. He’s gone to Chelsea, and they are favourites to do it this season. It’s no coincidence. He brings something huge to the team, he works so hard and his goal is to win. Wenger said recently he had the chance to buy Kante. So what? There’s no point saying that now. Why didn’t you, then?

Wenger deserves more respect

It’s easy for fans to say “Wenger Out! Wenger Out!” but realistically, who is going to replace him? The manager deserves a lot more respect. He’s been there 20 years now, he’s built the club up and gets them into the Champions League most seasons. When they’re on their day, they’re fantastic to watch.

The way football is today, every fan has an opinion they want to be heard, whether that’s on a radio phone-in or on social media. Everyone has their say on whether he should stay or go, but sometimes you have to be very careful what you wish for.

It happened to me at Blackpool. Fans were chanting for “Ince Out” and I was sacked. Now, they’re in League Two. You don’t always end up better off.

There’s no point calling for a change when you don’t have the right person to replace him. Ultimately, Arsene Wenger will decide when enough is enough.

What do you think?