Arsenal legends Dennis Bergkamp and Martin Keown have blamed Arsenal’s decline from 2006 onwards on Arsene Wenger’s experimentation.
Wenger’s arrival at Highbury in 1996 saw the Gunners become one of English football’s most dominant forces, regularly challenging Manchester United for the Premier League title, being crowned Champions of England three times between 1998 and 2004.
However, Arsenal‘s fortunes have distinctly declined since the 2005/06 season, finishing within the top two just once, and failing to finish in the top four in each of the last three seasons.
Keown and Bergkamp were vital parts of the Gunners success in Wenger’s early years, but have agreed that the Frenchman’s experimentation was the start of the club’s downturn, with Dutch master Bergkamp saying there was ‘too much midfield play’.
“After finishing first or second for eight straight seasons, Arsenal started to come third and fourth. What happened to the team’s balance after 2006?” asked Keown in an interview in the Mail.
We picked our favourite 90's playmakers and of course, the magnificent Dennis Bergkamp was a unanimous choice. 🙌
— Football Faithful (@FootyFaithful_) May 24, 2020
“Arsene started experimenting,” replied Bergkamp.
“With five in midfield,” added Keown. “Instead of having you there, he had Cesc Fabregas, You would start high then drift into midfield. Then Wenger reversed it, Then the player started deep and went high, as Fabregas did.
“Many years later, I spoke with a big-name winger at Arsenal. I asked him: ‘Why do you always stay wide?’ Play with freedom. Be instinctive. That’s what the boss wants.”
Bergkamp concurred with his former teammate, saying: “Arsenal after 2006, there was too much midfield play.
“There were no players going into attack, and only one striker who was lonely.”