The ex-Gunners speaks exclusively to CaughtOffside about all things Arsenal.
Perry Groves played for Arsenal for six years between 1986 and 1992, winning two league titles and the League Cup and is still involved with the club. Modern football fans may know him better from his talkSPORT radio show with Colin Murray and he has also started the new ‘Play With A Legend’ organisation.
CaughtOffside spoke with Groves to discuss his new initiative and also to find out what he thinks about the Gunners’ current season, Arsene Wenger and what the club needs to do to progress – which starts with an FA Cup victory over Wigan Athletic in the semi-final clash on Saturday.
“This is Arsenal and Arsene Wenger’s most important game of the last three or four years. Nine seasons without winning a trophy isn’t acceptable for a massive club like Arsenal and they need to win a trophy to instill that winning mentality,” Groves said.
“I think if they win the FA Cup then all the negativity surrounding the club, not with the fans but the media, will be forgotten.
“I also think if they win it then they will qualify for the Champions League. The momentum from that will get them past Everton. But if not it will be tough and their morale will be affected.
“The fans will get tetchy if they lose to Wigan.”
The north Londoners started the 2013/14 campaign promisingly and it’s a frustrating fact for supporters of the club that they have topped the table this year for more time than any of their rivals, but are now languishing in fourth place and could even lose that to the Toffees. For Groves though this isn’t surprising.
“The season hasn’t gone any differently to what I thought. I thought they’d be challenging for the Champions League as they have done for the past 17 years, but I didn’t think the squad was physically or mentally tough enough to challenge for the title,” the 48-year-old continued.
“There isn’t a winning culture there.”
Groves touches on a belief that current Emirates Stadium star Santi Cazorla has recently expressed, when the Spaniard also stated the team doesn’t have a winning mentality. Whilst the former winger agrees with this, he thinks the attacking midfielder should be doing more himself.
“I agree with what Santi said, but he’s part of it. He needs to go on and show he can be one of the best playmakers in the league. Like Eden Hazard at Chelsea or Steven Gerrard at Liverpool.”
Whilst there are current players at the club who need to improve, the big question is whether after spending £42.5m on Mesut Ozil last summer the Gunners will continue this new transfer policy and if so, who they can sign.
“Arsenal could sign anyone, they’re a massive club. They’ve got £200m in the bank now. The fans have had to be patient to pay for the Emirates, but now they can spend,” Groves said.
“I think they need some strength in midfield, someone like Paul Pogba. I’d like to see them sign the Diego Costas of this world, but if not Loic Remy would be a great option. He’ll be available from QPR in the summer.”
Of course the issue surrounding the club currently isn’t about who they should sign, but whether Wenger will be in charge next season. If Arsenal fail to win the FA Cup then it will be nine successive years without any silverware and some critics think the Frenchman has run his course at the Emirates.
However, Groves thinks that the final decision will fall to one man – Wenger himself.
“The club won’t sack him. The contract is waiting for him and it’s up to Wenger now if he signs it. He deserves that for what he’s done since taking over in 1996,” he continued.
“Wenger should be given the choice to whether he stays or goes and I think he will decide that based on if he’s got the fans’ backing.
“If he does leave there will be lots of people wanting the job. Off the top of my head Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid – he’s done a great job on a small budget. Jurgen Klopp as well, and Michael Laudrup. Also Roberto Martinez at Everton.”
Groves’ new ‘Play With A Legend’ initiative gives supporters the chance to interact with a high profile former player from a club of their choice. Ex-internationals such as Paul Merson, Tony Cottee and Matt Holland are among those who will come and play a football match with a group of fans to celebrate a birthday, stag do, bar mitzvah, or whatever the occasion, before joining everyone in the bar for a few pints afterwards.