Failing to win against championship side Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round has not helped Arsene Wenger’s cause. The Frenchman’s approach to yesterdays pre game press conference was nothing less than confrontational to say the least. Unhappy at the standard of questions and the general direction they were headed in, Wenger snapped at seasoned journalist Neil Ashton accusing him of creating lies around a new contract. It was remarkably out of character for the French coach who generally remains composed even under the heaviest of pressures. But with no trophies in eight years and with the faithful fans, starting to turn on him, the strain is starting to show across Wenger’s face. One of his last hopes for silverware this season and a chance to keep the hungry wolves at bay, exited through a side door last night, after a stunning performance by Bayern Munich knocked the wind out of the Gunners Champions League hopes. Only a miracle now will save Arsenal’s season and Wenger’s job.
A 3-1 defeat at home in the first leg is not what Wenger was hoping for. Two goals down within 22 minutes at the Emirates, the grumbles from the home crowd started in earnest. As they went into the half time break 2-0 down, Wenger knew he had to do something and fast. For a moment it looked like Wenger’s team talk had done the trick as the crafty Jack Wilshire crossed for former Bayern Munich striker Lukas Podolski for him to coolly head home. But this only angered the germans who found another gear and pushed for a third goal which eventually came through Croatian hitman Mario Mandžukić with less than 15 minutes to play. The game was all but over as Arsenal heads dropped knowing a gigantic effort will be needed in Munich in two weeks time for them to overhaul this scoreline. Arsenal will need to score three goals to proceed, which for this team may be a step to far. Granted Arsenal have managed to score three or more goals a remarkable twelve times this season in all competitions (including a stunning 7-3 victory over Newcastle in December) but they go to Munich to face one of the best defences in Europe. Having only lost once in the Bundesliga this year (a shock 2-1 defeat against Bayer Leverkusen in October), Munich have not conceded more than 2 goals in any match in any competition this season. In addition, Munich had not conceded a single goal in their last five matches until Podolski’s goal ended that run.
Wenger knows that anything less than a 3-0 victory in Germany will do, and will try to put as positive a spin on it as he can but with the odds stacked firmly against him, it may be too much for the Frenchman to contain. Rumours are already admist surrounding the goings on at Arsenal and in particular Wenger’s behaviour. The rumour suggest that faithful Arsenal servant Liam Brady has decided to leave the Emirates youth setup for pastures new after 25 years at the club, not because he needed a new challenge but because Wenger hasn’t talked to him in over a year. He felt his position was compromised especially if the current manager cared so little about what he was doing. It was noticeable that Wenger decided not to comment at all on Brady’s departure, instead leaving the task to Ivan Gazidis to praise the exiting Irishman. Other rumours suggest that Wenger has lost the confidence of his senior players through his strict and often bizarre micro management of their time. Fines for trivial things like reading a newspaper (£100) to outdoor shoes in the changing rooms (£100) has made the players resent their leader rather than respect him.
If the rumours are true then Wenger must surely be heading towards the exit at Arsenal, whether it be by fan and player revolt or by poor results, the Frenchman’s time is likely to be over soon. He will not go without a fight which will be a disappointing sight especially given what he has done for the club during his tenure. It would make more sense for the Frenchman to leave gracefully through the front door than to be kicked out the back. Its time for another man to have the reins at the Emirates, even if Wenger disagrees. His stubbornness will mark the end of his time in charge with a black mark but must already be thinking it to be the case. In the fateful confrontational press conference before yesterdays game, Wenger was asked what the future holds for him beyond next season when his contract at Arsenal ends. His reply said it all:
“I am not completely sure that you are really interested. When we lost at home to Blackburn, I am not sure that is your first worry.”
When the collective replied ” we would miss you“, Wenger simply answered “”I am sure you would miss me when I am gone.”