I wish I could pull on my boots and play for Arsene Wenger against Manchester City on Thursday. If I could come back for one more game, it would be this one.
I would love to share with this struggling Arsenal side the collective energy and never-say-die spirit that defined the teams I played for.
Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann described it as a ‘wolf-pack’ mentality but I saw it more as a togetherness and a will to win that all our opponents envied.
I would love to play for my old boss Arsene Wenger against Manchester City on Thursday night
Jens Lehmann (right) said Arsenal used to have a ‘wolf-pack’ mentality but that has long gone
We played so close to the edge that sometimes we found it difficult to keep 11 players on the pitch.
Now that desire has disappeared. Long gone is Arsenal’s aura of invincibility and teams cannot wait to play them.
This has been Arsenal’s worst season in recent memory. The side’s poor away form suggests a serious lack of character and the last two matches have been embarrassing to watch.
During the Carabao Cup final, there was no hunger to work as a team off the ball. When Arsenal were in possession, they could barely string two passes together.
Where is the intensity in this team, the animal instinct to fight for their lives? It is time for the leaders in this dressing room to stand up and be counted.
When Arsenal were winning Premier League titles in 1998, 2002 and 2004, the players were the best I had ever worked with. I had waited my whole career to join such a talented group.
Before games, I would look round the dressing room and remind each and every player just how good they were. Who is doing this now? Somebody needs to remind these players of their qualities and challenge them, too.
Who is saying to Mesut Ozil, ‘You can find a great pass, but we might not have much of the ball, so work harder to get it back’?
Who is urging Hector Bellerin to combine his great pace with excellent deliveries in the final third?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a ruthless striker. Who is telling him that against City he may only have one chance, and that he will have to take it?
Aaron Ramsey has unbelievable energy. Who is encouraging him to win that battle in midfield and make Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho feel like they are having their hardest game all season?
Arsenal, who lost 3-0 to Man City at on Sunday, are a team devoid of leadership on the pitch
Who is saying to Mesut Ozil: ‘We might not have much of the ball so work harder to get it back’?
Jack Wilshere is developing into a dressing-room dynamo who demands more from his team-mates, but he needs help. If I could show these Arsenal players one game, it would be the victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2002 that clinched the title.
That game was won by grafting, by scrapping, by getting back into position so early that United could not even think about going forwards.
This was a United team who had won the title three years in a row. There was no way they were going to win a fourth on our watch.
On Thursday, Arsenal should be seeking to create their own history by beating another great team.
The players should stop feeling sorry for themselves and draw a line under poor performances. They need to be snarling, competitive, ruthless in their play.
Wenger knows this. He is a fighter. He needs to find it within himself to inspire his team and give them the best possible platform upon which to succeed against City. I have the utmost respect for Wenger. It is not my place to question his tactics, but in my view it would be a mistake to set up with a back three as Arsenal did at Wembley.
City’s wide players would pin Arsenal’s full backs and force them into a back five. That would give City’s full backs licence to pile forwards.
Wenger would be better served matching City’s 4-3-3 system and giving his players clear instructions about their roles and responsibilities in this formation.
Midfielder Jack Wilshere (left) is the closest thing Arsenal have to a leader but he needs help
City are a great but Arsenal should be seeking to create their own history by beating them
Without the ball they must be like street fighters, quickly getting back into shape and making the space for De Bruyne and Silva as compact as possible.
Then, when Arsenal win back possession, they should have the confidence to express themselves, be competitive and take the game to City.
No matter how Arsenal play, there is every chance that Pep Guardiola’s side will win. There is a reason the title was all but sewn up by Christmas.
But this match is not all about the result. It has to be about restoring some pride in Arsenal Football Club.
The mentality must be, ‘If City are going to beat us, they will have to earn their victory’.
There should be fire in the belly of every Arsenal player. As a professional footballer, your life feels incomplete if you are not winning games. I expect to see 11 bad losers at the Emirates.
These players may not have the ability of Thierry Henry or the desire of Ray Parlour, but there is so much more they can give.
My message? Pull together. Be a team. Otherwise, Arsene Wenger’s story at Arsenal will not have a happy ending.