Arsenal stars past and present speak of admiration for Arsene – so why won’t they play for him?

The number of players both past and present who have come out in support of Arsene Wenger in the last few weeks has been extraordinary and confusing in equal measure.

From Samir Nasri and Lukas Podolski, to Alex Iwobi, Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil, there has scarcely been a cross word said about the Frenchman, who has been at the heart of the club for more than two decades.

The praise has been effusive – so many players have spoken of their admiration for a great coach and a great man, someone who has shown them the utmost care and respect throughout their respective times at the club.

Even those who famously didn’t see eye-to-eye with the manager, or who left the club in unfavourable circumstances, have had nothing but praise for their former manager.

Given all of that, the fact that the team simply isn’t playing for Arsene at the moment becomes all the more maddening.

After all that the manager has done for his players – something they all acknowledge – it seems to me to be a real smack in the face that they simply haven’t run through walls for him, that they have allowed themselves to be humiliated again and again in recent months.

Just what is going on?

Of course, there is always the possibility that players are saying what they think the fans want to hear, or what their agents have told them is expedient to say, but I don’t think that is the case.

These are players who are going out of their way to give interviews. If they all had such deep-seated issues with the manager, as the players at Chelsea did last season, they would simply stay out of the limelight and avoid any questions that may allude to the feeling of discontentment – but they aren’t.

They are putting themselves before journalists and defending the man who has taken the lion’s share of the flak since the turn of the year. It is baffling that they seem to hold the man in such high regard and yet implode on the pitch in a way that would suggest they long ago stopped giving a shit.

I don’t seek to expose some sort of conspiracy or suggest there is any duplicity to what these players are saying – I genuinely believe they all like and respect Arsene. What I don’t understand is why the 67-year-old can’t seem to turn some of the capital he has built up into performances.

There must be more at play here, something behind the scenes that is causing the sort of malaise we are seeing week-in and week-out.

Is it the bust-up between Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny? Is it the uncertainty over the manager’s future? Are the fans weighing down on the players?

In all likelihood, it is probably a combination of all of the above, and perhaps a little more, which, quite frankly is a huge worry.

Arsenal have always shown an ability to pick it up in the closing stages of the season and produce the sort of form that gets them over the line. This time around, however, it seems hugely unlikely that they will once again be able to dig deep enough to find the extra 10 per cent needed to get them back on track.

The issues that are eating away at the team like some sort of insidious disease have no quick fix. The manager coming out and clarifying where he stands regarding his own future will help, but I simply do not see that being enough to right the ship again. It really is down to the players if there is to be some sort of turnaround before the end of this campaign.

So while it is easy for the squad to give their backing to the manager in public, and speak of all he has done for them, it is high time that they repay a little of the faith he has shown them by knocking their heads together and playing the sort of football of which they are well capable.

If they leave it too late, they will be doing the greatest manager they are every likely to work with a true disservice.

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