Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger should sell “overindulged” star players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil after agreeing to extend his stay at the club, says ex-defender Martin Keown.
The Frenchman has signed a two-year deal and says his side can challenge for the Premier League title next term.
Forward Sanchez and midfielder Ozil are entering the final year of their deals.
“If they have to say cheerio to those two players, then that is the right decision,” Keown told BBC Radio 5 live.
Chile striker Sanchez scored 24 goals and provided 10 assists for the Gunners last season while Germany player Ozil netted eight goals and laid on nine assists. Wenger’s side finished fifth in the league, missing out on Champions League football for the first time in 20 years.
The north London club went out of this year’s competition at the last-16 stage following a 10-2 aggregate defeat by Bayern Munich.
“They have been overindulged at times this season and they let Arsenal down in the period when they lost twice to Bayern Munich, conceding 10 goals. That is the level of the problem,” said Keown, who played more than 300 games for Arsenal.
“The manager needs to make some really tough decisions now. Sanchez’s contract needs to get 100% secured. Is that going to happen? Will Ozil leave?
“I am sure both players want to go elsewhere because they want to win the Champions League, win the Premier League and maybe they do not feel it can be done at Arsenal. The club is bigger than two individuals.”
‘I do not want it to all fall apart in the next two years’
Wenger has said his side are “two players” off challenging for the title, and the club are expected to spend at least £100m on new players in the upcoming transfer window – which opens on 1 July – having also spent about that figure last summer.
Ex-captain Tony Adams, who played more than 500 games in a one-club career at Arsenal, feels the current group of players are not good enough to challenge for major honours.
“Maybe he thinks they can win the league in the next two years or get back into the Champions League. Looking at this squad, I don’t think they can,” Adams told BBC Wiltshire.
“But I can understand the frustration of the fans that want a league title and want to be competitive.
“We need to start being competitive and seen as number one by number one players instead of number four players on the pecking list.”
Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov owns a 30% stake in the club and had a £1bn bid to wrest control from majority shareholder Stan Kroenke rejected.
He issued a statement on Wednesday which called on the board to support Wenger.
“He has a great opportunity to deliver the success that the fans deserve and the legacy that his long contribution merits. However, without the right support there remains a real risk that his legacy will be tarnished,” he added.
Adams added he does not want Wenger’s job to “end in tears”.
“I just do not want it to all fall apart in the next two years and Arsene is seen as a villain, a bad man for Arsenal. that would be wrong. He has been so brilliant for the club,” he said.
‘Fans must now unite behind Wenger’
Wenger joined the club in 1996 and has won three league titles – the last in their unbeaten season of 2003-04 – and seven FA Cup titles – a record for any manager.
But last season saw regular protests from some supporters, who called for him to end his long tenure at the club.
Arsenal Supporters’ Trust spokesperson Tim Payton told BBC Sport that fans have “a right to a voice”. Arsenal Fan TV presenter Robbie Lyle says the atmosphere at Emirates Stadium could become “toxic” again next season if they lose back-to-back games.
Keown added: “Whether the fans want this decision or not, they have to get behind the manger. You cannot have a situation like last season, where there was a really difficult environment for the players to go in to.
“Coming off the bus there were people hurling abuse, all the ‘Wenger Out’ placards. It is time now they got behind the manager for the next two years and if that is going to be the send-off, then that is what he deserves.”