Former Arsenal player names the Iwobi teammate keeping Gunners from winning titles

As Arsenal face a fight to bring quality performers onto their books, and with manager Unai Emery being forced to work with a budget much smaller than many of his rivals, there is a fear that the Gunners will fall far off from the top. For now, the Gunners have been able to force their way back into top-four contention this season, but former player Paul Merson believes they are a long way short of challenging for the most prestigious titles.

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Merson said when asked how close they are to pushing for the Premier League crown: “What do you think? 20 years. They’re a million miles away at the moment and the way it is going right now they probably need seven players to compete. I don’t see them winning again for a long, long time.”

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Arsenal sit fifth in the table at present, three points behind London neighbours Chelsea and seven adrift of north London arch-rival, Tottenham Hotspur. Manchester City meanwhile sits nine points clear of the Gunners, while Jurgen Klopp’s league leaders have collected 13 more points from 21 games so far. And the former Gunners star believes one lucrative deal is making it difficult to snap up other players, with the club “a million miles” from competing.

Arsenal’s decision to hand Mesut Ozil a big-money contract has made it difficult for them to bring in players, says Merson. Keeping Ozil was considered to be a coup at the time, but that agreement has had a knock-on effect in subsequent discussions. Aaron Ramsey is now heading for the exits after failing to see an extension put in place, as he closes on a move to Juventus, while any top transfer target now expects to get parity with top earners if opting to join the ranks at Emirates Stadium.

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“Letting Ramsey leave is just bad, bad club management isn’t it,” Merson told Sky Sports. “To let player contracts run out in this day and age for how much these players go for and how much they’re worth is criminal. To let him leave the club and walk away for free, somebody in his prime leaving for nothing, it’s a football crime. Now they have got to replace him and that will cost money but until the Ozil problem gets sorted out they are going to find it difficult to bring in players. Because if they bid £50-60m for someone, the first thing the player will say is well I want what Ozil is getting.”

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Other than Ramsey, a cloud hangs over the future of Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck, while the club has been linked with bringing in Denis Suarez from Barcelona.