Arsenal legend Emmanuel Petit is not expecting his former club to secure a return to next season’s Champions League and has questioned the attitude of Unai Emery’s players ahead of their trip to Manchester City on Sunday. The former midfielder believes the resurgence at Old Trafford, with a fellow Frenchman leading the way, will see the Gunners miss out on the top four.
Speaking exclusively to Goal, Paddy Power ambassador Petit has backed Manchester United to join Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham in the lucrative top four positions, as he suspects Arsenal’s inconsistencies will prove to be their undoing.Emery’s side face the ultimate test of their credentials this weekend as they take on title-chasing City at the Etihad Stadium, with Petit fearing a woeful run, that has seen Arsenal lose three of their last four away games in the Premier League, will deliver another dent to their ambitions on Sunday.
“How can you say Arsenal have a chance in an away match against City when you see the way they have played away from home this season?” said Petit. “They play so well to beat Tottenham and Chelsea at home and then lose to Southampton, West Ham and Liverpool in horrible away performances. This is not the results of a team that will finish in the top four.
“When I look at Manchester City and Liverpool, they play with the same style at home as they do away and that is not the case for Arsenal this season.” Petit went on to predict Manchester United’s revival under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will secure them a top-four finish this season, as he argues Jose Mourinho should have been replaced earlier.
“All the teams chasing the top four positions are feeling the breath of Manchester United on their shoulders and I would expect them to find a way to finish in the top four,” declares Petit. “Chelsea and Arsenal have shown inconsistency this season and yet we have seen a very different United since Solskjaer replaced Mourinho and I believe they have the talent in their squad to continue to win games.
“Tottenham are looking good to finish in the top four, but if I had to pick a team to get the final qualifying place for next season’s Champions League, it would be United. They have had a great winning run and have closed a big gap that opened up between them and the other teams in the top six, with their 1-0 away win at Tottenham sending out a big message that they are coming back.”
“The big games against your main rivals are so important, so when you see United winning at Wembley and then beating Arsenal in the FA Cup at Emirates Stadium, it is a big statement from Solskjaer and those players that they are ready to go again.
“Maybe what we have seen since his sacking is proof that Mourinho could have been sacked earlier because this is another example of a team showing they hold all the power. You can be the best manager in the world, but if you do not have your players behind you 100 per cent, they will make you look bad.
“You cannot sack 11 players and it is always easier to sack a manager. In this case, the decision was easy to make because clearly the United players were not happy with Mourinho and they have shown that even more now that he has gone.”
Petit suggests his compatriot Paul Pogba is “a symbol” of the United revival under Solskjaer, as he believes the French World Cup winner is on a mission to rebuild his reputation following a turbulent spell under Mourinho’s command. “He is a different player, but we all know that Pogba only performs at his best when he is loved,” states Petit.
“He likes the attention and wants the affection from everyone. He wants to be given responsibility and to be the key man in the team and when he gets it, he can be a beautiful player who is very influential and a leader. As soon as there is trouble, as soon as he decides he is not happy with a manager at a club, he doesn’t care anymore. Players like Pogba know they have the power now. They control a manager, they control a club and they will not share that power. This has been proved time and again now.
“Mourinho didn’t have the power at United and he went to war with the players to try and show he was the boss. That power is not with a manager like this anymore. A manager needs to get his players working for him and Mourinho never managed that at United.”
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