The Arsenal captain, William Gallas, has launched a withering attack on his team-mates, claiming they are “not brave enough in battle” and revealing he had been forced to step in to prevent players arguing during games.
The France international also indicated that one of his more experienced colleagues, who he refused to name, had proved a disruptive influence both on and off the pitch.
“We have to understand that, to be champions, you have to play big matches every weekend and fight,” said Gallas.
“We are coming up against teams who are not scared to play football against us, who are not scared to take us on at our place and this is becoming dangerous for Arsenal. We are not brave enough in battle. I think we need to be soldiers. We have to be warriors.
“There are teams who can do it well against us and we have to be able to face up to these attacks. That is how they [Arsenal’s young players] will forge their character and how they will get experience. Even though they’ve played a certain number of matches, they’re still young and still learning.”
The 31-year-old said he was speaking out because “there are things that can’t be said and can’t be tolerated”.
He revealed the team had feuded at half-time in the recent Premier League game with Tottenham Hotspur.
“There was a problem at half-time [against Spurs],” he said. “The only thing that I could say at half-time was: ‘Guys, we resolve these problems after the match, not at half-time.’
“When, as captain, some players come up to you and talk to you about a player … complaining about him … and then during the match you speak to this player and the player in question insults us.
“There comes a time where we can no longer comprehend how this can happen. I’m trying to defend myself a bit without giving names. Otherwise I’m taking it all [the blame]. It’s very frustrating, but I’m 31 and the player concerned is six years younger than me.”
The players who fall into that bracket at the club include Robin van Persie, the Dutch forward, as well as Emmanuel Eboué and Bacary Sagna.
The centre-half’s outburst appears to be due to his ongoing frustration at Arsenal’s failure to mount a sustained challenge in the Premier League.
“I have to win something this year,” he said. “Arsenal has to win something. Another season without a trophy would be a kind of failure.”