Sky Sports pundit bemoans Arsenal’s “mental barrier” and criticises big-name players

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Former Arsenal ace Alan Smith has claimed that his old club have a “mental barrier” which prevents them from going up to the next level to obtain success.

Smith was speaking after the Gunners were held by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday night, following on from draws with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United which have taken the steam out of their impressive early start to the campaign.

While insisting that it won’t deepen into a crisis as they have too many good players, the 54-year-old, who played for the Gunners between 1987 and 1995, believes that it’s the same old mistakes that may well end up leaving the club empty-handed when it comes to May.

“We were hoping this year that they can go that extra step, but it’s that mental approach, that psychological barrier that prevents them from doing that,” he told Sky Sports.

“Things aren’t going to be any better in the Champions League this season, they’re not going to win it, and I don’t think they’re going to win the league, so they’re in a very similar position to what they have been in recent seasons.”

A few weeks ago the mood was very different as Arsenal were winning games and looked fluid in their performances which suggested that they could ensure things were different this year.

However, three weeks later and suddenly the same old problems are back and Smith wasn’t finished there with his criticism as he also argued that the top players at the club, namely Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, have a habit of going missing in the big games.

“The problem for Arsenal is that Mesut Ozil is a superstar footballer, so is Alexis Sanchez, but in the big games they hardly turn up.

“Arsenal think that’s a mental achievement [getting draws in games they think they would have lost last season], but it’s not. Arsenal have to win football matches.”

Some may interpret Smith’s comments as being overly harsh, but he does make valid points. While it certainly is a positive that Arsenal are showing more solidity and steel this season, unless they start to regain some confidence in their attacking play, the atmosphere at the Emirates could change very quickly if they don’t meet expectations.

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