Bob Wilson has opened up about when Arsene Wenger was first shown the Arsenal training ground, and made it very clear the Frenchman was not impressed by what he had seen.
Wilson noted that Wenger told the club things had to improve and even cautioned that they would eventually need a far bigger stadium if they wanted to compete with the likes of Manchester United, who of course were at the top of the game at the time.
Now, the club have even more issues, with the money the likes of Chelsea, PSG and Man City have changing the scope of football.
Assistant manager Pat Rice was showing Arsene around the training ground and introduced us while I was getting ready to send the goalkeepers out for a morning session.
We exchanged pleasantries but Arsene couldn’t stop shaking his head. He was shocked by the facilities he had inherited.
The training ground was rented from the University College of London and he couldn’t believe how basic it was.
We had four tin baths when I was a player. The facilities had improved somewhat by the 1990s but were still well short of what you might expect at elite level — on Wednesdays the college even came in to share it.
Before he addressed anything else, Arsene immediately stated this could not be Arsenal Football Club.
The training ground was not fit for purpose if Arsenal were to continue setting examples for other clubs. Very, very quickly he turned his mind to the stadium. He had immediate success, which strengthened his position, but Arsene was able to say to the board: “If you are really looking to match the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, you cannot do it with a 38,000-seater stadium.”
Key players have been lambasted this season for their poor performances, and Mesut Ozil is the latest to come under huge fire, with Martin Keown claiming he’s nowhere near good enough at times – and now there will of course be an increased focus on the players if they fail to perform.
Now, it seems that the club won’t be able to use Wenger as a shield to hide behind – and will finally have to stand up and be counted.