Arsenal will continue to miss out on signing the likes of Antoine Griezmann until they alter their wage structure, according to former strikers Ian Wright and John Hartson. In a scathing assessment of the Gunners' recruitment drive, the pair – who between them scored over 200 goals for the north Londoners – attacked both manager Arsene Wenger and the board and fear their problems will only mount unless a major overhaul is staged at the Emirates Stadium.
With six points separating them from the Premier League top four the club are destined to miss out on qualification for the Champions League for the first time in two decades. The club's plight has been accentuated by the uncertainty regarding the future of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil – with neither player having decided whether to extend their contracts beyond the summer of 2018 – while Wenger is also yet to confirm whether he will remain beyond the end of the campaign.
The expected loss of Champions League football could hinder Arsenal's attempt to lure big-name players to the club. But according to Hartson there is a greater problem at the centre of the failure to secure major signings – and the fault lies with Wenger.
"Will he go and spend that money if he's given it in the summer? Why isn't he in for Greizmann? He'll either go to Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea," he told BT Sport. "I'll tell you why because he's £85m in the market and he's £260,000-a-week. He has got to be seen to go in for the top players.
"Why didn't he get [Luis] Suarez over the line? Why didn't he get [Gonzalo] Higuain over the line? Why wasn't he in for [N'Golo] Kante? It is the inability to get these top players over the line. There have been several players that we have just mentioned. Why isn't he in for the top defenders in the world? There is a wage structure and he doesn't want anarchy. They don't want to smash their wage barrier."
Wright, Arsenal's number two leading goalscorer behind Thierry Henry, is similarly critical of the management and questions why the likes of Griezmann and Monaco's Kylian Mbappe would want to move to the 12-time FA Cup winners. The former England forward also reserved particular criticism for the way Wenger failed to sign Luis Suarez in 2013 while the Uruguay international was at Liverpool.
"Why would Griezmann come to Arsenal over any of those other teams? In the current climate, whether it's Arsene's fault or the people above him, Arsenal is not your first destination if you're Antoine Griezmann, if you're Kylian Mbappe," he explained. "That's what the problem is right now. It's not realistic that Arsenal can get them, there's so much that can be done before they can go in for those players. There is so much more to be done.
"How can £40m+ £1 for Suarez who went to Barcelona for £75m and made Barcelona better. How does that get through the different levels of management for that to come out into the public domain? There are massive problems at Arsenal."