• Former captain believes current squad lacks leaders
• 'I don't think the full-backs are good enough'
Tony Adams, the former Arsenal captain, says the club's current group of players need to stop being so "nice" if they are to become winners. Adams, who won 10 major honours while making over 500 appearances for the Gunners, also believes that Arsène Wenger needs to alter his defensive strategy if Arsenal are to take top prizes on a regular basis.
Arsenal will seek to end a nine-year trophy drought when they tackle Hull City in Saturday's FA Cup final and Adams wants the players to develop the ruthlessness required to succeed. "I'm not so sure this group of players has that," said the 47-year-old. "They're lovely guys. They call me 'Mr Adams' and stuff! I'm not sure I ever called older players Mister. I want them to be pushing me to the side and ripping my statue down and make their own history. Step up to the plate."
Adams says he made the same point to Per Mertesacker last summer and believes the German has taken it on board. "I had a go at Per and said, 'You're such a nice guy.Come on, start pointing a few fingers. You don't have to be Mr Nice Guy, you don't have to be liked,'" said Adams. "I did that at the beginning of the season and he's definitely been a bit more verbal this season. Start bossing people around, it's time. You don't just go through your career letting it go by and missing the moment."
Adams also told some of the squad's younger players of the importance of breaking their trophy duck on Saturday. "I was talking to Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs the other day and I was telling them, 'You need to know how it feels just to get over the line' because it's a weird feeling and you know when to step up to the plate. You need to focus so much on football, football, football that even your family life suffers, but it's about getting the job done."
"None of this Arsenal team knows what it's like to win a trophy for the club – Arsène remembers but not these players. I did a Q&A with some of the players the other week and all the questions about winning were coming to me because they didn't have the answers. But they are young, it's their time and they have to grab these moments."
Winning the FA Cup and finishing fourth would not have been acceptable when Adams was in his prime but he says such a haul would be classed as satisfactory this season. "It's not a failure of a season. It's not like having to play in the Europa League like Tottenham," he said.
Adams believes Wenger will want to remain as manager for as long as he thinks the club has a reasonable chance of winning the Champions League but he does not see the Frenchman's dream being fulfilled until Arsenal's full-backs attack more judiciously. The best solution, according to Adams, would be for Wenger to deploy the 'Christmas tree' formation that Terry Venables famously used with England at the 1996 European Championships.
"I don't think the full-backs are good enough. They've really struggled this year," says Adams. "Arsenal try to just blow every team off the pitch and sometimes you can't do that, be so open and free. And he hasn't got an experienced centre-half saying, 'Oi, [Bacary] Sagna, come here. Don't move because I'm looking good,' Arsène knows that because I've spoken to him about it and he says, 'I know, it's unbelievable! Teams come and put balls in our channel and counter attack us!'
"I'd go three at the back, I honestly would. I'd play the Christmas tree with them. I'd play Thomas Vermaelen as well and [Laurent] Koscielny on the right with Mertesacker in the middle. If he wants to play his full-backs up there, then let them do it, let them go forward. It's just an idea. I'll probably take it into my next job, if it's suited. But I do think it suits Arsenal."
Despite perceiving flaws in Wenger's approach, Adams thinks the Frenchman gets far more right than wrong and would be a serious loss to the club if he left. "I think he should stay. I think, financially, he does fantastically for the club. I think there's a great structure in place and better the devil you know. I think there's going to be some really massive upheaval once he's gone and I wouldn't like to be part of the fall-out of that."
In conjunction with The European Azerbaijan Society and to mark World Refugee Week, Tony Adams is promoting a gala charity boxing night at York Hall, East London, on Friday 27 June between Repton and Gabala of Azerbaijan. Tickets are available at www.Repton-Gabala.eventbrite.co.uk and proceeds will go to the Mo Farah Foundation