Wenger facing crucial spell
Published: 22.02.13 / Written by: David Gold
Arsene Wenger is once again facing questions about his management of Arsenal after a defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup followed by a Champions League loss at home to Bayern Munich.
The cup shock defeat stunned the club’s supporters, and rekindled some of the anger that has been stored up after years without a trophy at the Emirates Stadium.
The loss to Bayern Munich did not stoke anger in quite the same way, given that an assumption of inferiority was made beforehand, and subsequently confirmed by a ruthless and superb Bayern Munich side. No-one could necessarily criticise Arsenal for the way they lost to Bayern, given how good the German side were, as few teams would be able to cope with them on their best form, but it just adds to the mountain of frustration built up over the years.
For Wenger, he still has something to work towards this season – a top four finish. The next weeks will provide him with a big opportunity to start to win back some of the supporters who he has lost. A home game with Aston Villa simply must be won, whilst a subsequent trip across North London to face Tottenham Hotspur is simply huge. Four points behind their local rivals, Arsenal will be taking a huge risk if they lose at White Hart Lane. Even a draw would be damaging. Victory would be enthralling and spark hope of a late revival similar to last year, when Arsenal beat Spurs and then surged ahead of them in the league to clinch the final Champions League spot.
This is perhaps the most trying spell of Wenger’s reign. For a time Arsenal’s support could accept the lack of trophies, hoping of a brighter tomorrow. The experiment creating a young team which would dominate all failed, and now Wenger and Arsenal are left trying to recreate what they once had and threw away.
Experienced heads such as Per Mertesacker, Lucas Podolski and Santi Cazorla have been added to the squad. Mikel Arteta, Olivier Giroud and Nacho Monreal as well. These are all good players, at the height of their respective careers, but it takes time to mould a team and a style within that team. All players need to understand the tactical plan given to them.
Wenger now has the biggest test he has faced for quite some time. He must repair a broken side. He has one big consolation. Unlike previous years, there is no star name agitating to leave. Players like Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie have left after being developed – Wenger genuinely thought his loyalty to them would be repaid. Unfortunately, he was wrong. Instead he has sought to bring in experienced seasoned names joining Arsenal during their peak years, and therefore players who will not agitate for a move elsewhere. With a clutch of young English players including the superb Jack Wilshere, there is a core of a very good team. The key will be this summer. In many ways it does not matter if Arsenal finish in the top four or not. The big thing is how good this team can be next year without their annual disruption of big names leaving, and with a vast warchest backing Wenger. There is a sense that he may go for broke in the transfer market for one. With a contract which expires next year, there is a very real sense that if not this season, then the next one really will finally be the make or break campaign for Wenger and Arsenal.