Story highlights

Ian Wright says Arsenal could learn from Leicester's "desire to win"

Questions Arsene Wenger for buying "players of a similar mentality"

Would only take one player for Arsenal from Leicester: N'Golo Kanté

CNN  — 

Leicester City’s improbable title charge has sparked an equally unlikely renaissance of British traditions that seemed to be going out of fashion.

Seven points clear at the top of the English Premier League, characteristics such as determination, desire and fight manifest themselves in Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester team like no other.

That never-say-die spirit arguably helps explain why Leicester have won five of their last seven matches by a 1-0 scoreline.

“How many times have I said to you about 1-0?” posed managerial great Sir Alex Ferguson after one such victory four years ago for his Manchester United team. “It means championship form.

“I don’t mind the 1-0s, I really don’t. It tells you we are determined, we’re going to defend, do the right things and play as a team.”

Arsenal legend Ian Wright is a player inextricably tied to that scoreline. The Arsenal teams he starred in were so good at winning 1-0 the club’s fans even popularized a chant about it.

Ian Wright played for Arsenal between 1991 and 1998.

These days, Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal teams are a very different proposition. Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has previously described their style of football as “like an orchestra.”

If it’s a brand of football that frequently stirs the soul, Wright says Arsenal could learn a thing or two from Leicester’s title tilt.

“It’s their determination and their will to win – the fact they seem to be playing with an unbelievable team spirit,” Wright told CNN.

“You wouldn’t say Leicester’s players are great players – they’re fantastic players and hopefully they’ll go on to be great players.

“But Arsenal have signed great players, and what you want from great players is the commitment and desire that Leicester have.

“That’s what I’d take from them,” Wright says. “I’d take the team spirit and the desire to win.”

Ian Wright celebrates one of his 185 Arsenal goals.

Truths, home truths & statistics

The Gunners have won just two Premier League games this season by a 1-0 scoreline – both against beleaguered Newcastle United.

Perhaps more tellingly, only Liverpool (17) and Palace (15) have dropped more points from winning positions than Arsenal (14) this campaign.

Arsenal’s lack of resilience is becoming something of a pattern – just as it was lacking during the years of William Gallas’ tantrums, late Cheick Tioté equalizers, and throughout the team’s six straight exits in the Champions League at the last 16 stage.

It’s increasingly said that Wenger’s side only play well when it’s already too late. Look no further than last weekend’s 3-3 draw against West Ham.

True they salvaged a draw from the jaws of defeat … but that was only after a two-goal lead had already been squandered as Wenger’s side was bullied into submission by an Andy Carroll hattrick.

Is it any wonder the Gunners have won just one of their last eight London derbies?

“Arsène Wenger’s been there 20 years,” muses Wright. “The only problem I’ve got with Arsene is he’s bought players of a similar mentality.”

In Wenger’s early years in charge his teams were populated by born-winners like Tony Adams, Gilberto Silva and Patrick Viera.

“When you have great players, they need those ingredients as well,” says Wright, referring to that will to win.

Wright belts out the national anthem alongside Paul Gascoigne and Paul Ince.

Initially, Arsenal fans excused their team’s shortcomings as Wenger selflessly prioritized long-term prosperity over short-term gain, and the club moved from Highbury’s hallowed halls to their new home at the Emirates. Arguably it has been a trophy seating 60,000 in place of more conventional honors.

In recent times, the purse strings have loosened, though after years of being out-bought, the Gunners have seemingly been squarely out-fought.

The billions of Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour – owners of Chelsea and Manchester City respectively – can no longer be relied on as crutches to justify shortcomings. Arsenal’s annual wage bill comes to more than $270 million, while Leicester’s is just shy of $70 million.

“I don’t know if I would take a player from Leicester,” Wright tells CNN. “At a push I’d probably take N’Golo Kanté.”

The dynamic Leicester midfielder makes more tackles per game than anyone else in Europe, and is famously told to “slow down” in training by his manager, Claudio Ranieri.

In his assessment of the two squads, Wright encapsulates the point – this singular Premier League season has not been about just quality, but mentality.

Fairytale or nightmare?

“There’s just not enough trophies in the cabinet for Arsenal fans at the moment,” the Gunners legend concedes.

And after that recent 3-3 draw against West Ham, it looks set to remain that way, with Arsenal trailing Leicester by 13 points.

During another season in which the Gunners have flattered to deceive, it says it all that a triumph for good old-fashioned graft would actually be the lesser of two evils for Wenger and Arsenal fans.

“I think the saving grace that he might have will be if Tottenham don’t win the league,” says Wright, referring to Arsenal’s north London rivals, who trail Leicester by seven points but are still in with a chance of winning the league.

“If Tottenham win the league I think that people will go mad. They’ll go crazy, Arsenal fans!”

Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy have been key to Leicester's success this season.
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02:45 - Source: CNN