Game may be up for Wenger as Arsenal decline continues
There was an end-of-an-era feel about the Emirates as the Gunners slumped to another grim defeat
THERE'S nothing like kicking a man when he's down, and the boots have duly been applied to Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal team after they were outclassed by Bayern Munich at the Emirates last night.
The Gunners' unlikely hopes of ending an eight-year trophy drought by winning the Champions League came to a predictable end as they surrendered 3-1 at home to a superior German outfit. It will take something extraordinary in the second leg for them to make it into the next round, and it seems their race is run for another season.
The limp display came after a home defeat to Blackburn Rovers of the Championship in the FA Cup. With Arsenal now 21 points behind league leaders Manchester United and four off local rivals Spurs in fourth place, the Daily Mail is blunt about what it all means. "After 16 years anyone associated with this fine football club, with the exception of Arsene Wenger, knows the game is up," it announced.
No wonder the fans are unhappy, says the Mail's Neil Ashton: "They get taken to the cleaners off the field, paying the highest prices in world football to watch a team taken apart on it ... It's embarrassing, it really is."
The humiliation capped what The Guardian calls "Wenger's most troubled week in England". Arsenal are now "a team with too many pale imitations of what was once the real deal – a Thierry Henry-lite here, an own-brand Cesc Fabregas there", writes Barney Ronay. And the problem is compounded by Wenger's "fixed-wheel tactical plan".
The fans are growing tired of his insistence on playing "lightweight passing football, where another manager might have the instinct to spoil successfully against superior opponents".
The future looks bleak, says Matt Dickinson of The Times. "There is an end-of-empire feel about the Emirates which came not from a predictable thrashing but the knowledge that nothing seems to change."
He also has a sobering question for those fans who left the Emirates early: "When will they see Champions League football here again?"
Something needs to change, says Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph. Wenger must end "the policy of buying inferior players to replace top-class ones, and of allowing the squad to fester with passengers and has-beens".
He adds: "A child could diagnose the constant downgrading of Arsenal's median talent level."
But there is another problem. "Wenger's players are not working as a collective, not covering each other's backs and not reacting to danger. Part scattiness, part indolence, this pattern of responsibility-evading is making every game an ordeal of mishap and recovery."
James Lawton in The Independent said the Gunners' decline "is one which simply would not be sustained or allowed at any of Arsenal's leading rivals". Wenger left the Emirates knowing "his task has never been so formidable or discouraging".
Website Football 365 has a different take."This was not about Arsenal lacking mental fortitude, Arsene Wenger losing the power of motivation, the manager 'losing the plot' or any other tired story arc," argues Sarah Winterburn. "This was simply one of the best two teams in European football playing against the fifth-best team in English football and predictably winning."