Arsenal boss Wenger exposed as a relic by modern Mourinho
Old man Wenger humiliated by Chelsea on his 1,000th match in charge, is it time for him to go?
IT WAS supposed to have been a party but instead Arsene Wenger's 1000th match in charge of Arsenal ended with a gruesome post-mortem. Arsenal have suffered several humiliations this season but even the 6-3 defeat away at Manchester City and the 5-1 drubbing inflicted by Liverpool pale into insignificance next to the 6-0 slaughter they endured at Chelsea on Saturday.
Out on the pitch it was men versus boys, but in the dugout it was man against old man. Jose Mourinho is in his coaching prime, a pragmatist in tune with the ruthless reality of 21st century football. He will do whatever it takes to win. Not Wenger, 13 years the Chelsea manager's senior who, as The Week suggested last week, has turned from revolutionary to relic, a man whose slavish adherence to aesthetics has seen his club go nine years without silverware.
Arsenal's Stamford Bridge battering "will deepen the suspicion that Wenger's teams can go so far towards success but then no further", says Paul Hayward in the Daily Telegraph.
Suspicion is one thing but cold, hard statistics another and the ones rolled out by Andy Dunn in the Sunday Mirror must make Arsenal fans blanch. In their last 14 meetings against Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs – the three most successful teams in the last decade of English football – Arsenal have won just once.
Yet the Chelsea debacle is the most damning of the lot because Wenger got his tactics so hopelessly wrong. Mourinho adopted the same game plan as City and Liverpool had against Arsenal, pressing their flaky midfield (Wenger opted to leave the tough-tackling Mathieu Flamini on the bench) and once they had won possession, exploiting the space behind the leaden-footed Per Mertesacker.
"Surely, Wenger sees it coming," says Dunn. "But still he sanctions needless intricacy in midfield, still he plays an absurdly high line."
And still Wenger puts faith in Olivier Giroud as his lone striker, a man not suited to that role at the best of times, but especially not now with his private life made painfully public.
"Mourinho looks the modern manager, Wenger a fast-fading visionary of yesteryear," concludes Dunn in the Mirror, and it is a sentiment echoed by Jonathan Northcroft in the Sunday Times.
"It was deeply saddening to see a manager who has given so much to the English game, who remains a force for good in the sport, being humiliated on such a red-letter day," he wrote. "But that's football. It waits for no one and never reaches out with sentiment to pat participants on the head. You survive by continually reinventing yourself."
The question being pondered by the press in the wake of the calamitous defeat is what is the best way for Arsenal to reinvent themselves. Caughtoffside.com believes a summer clear out is called for with Lukas Podolski, Wojciech Szczesny, Olivier Giroud, Mikel Arteta and Santi Carzola among those who should be swept out of the Emirates. Too old, too slow or simply too mediocre is the website's opinion and few Gooners who sat through Saturday's horror show can demur. The Sunday Times agrees, mentioning £100m as the sum required to turn Arsenal into a genuine force in the European game.
The Telegraph and the Daily Mail both believe the reinvention will begin with Wenger's departure. According to the latter, "well-informed sources [report] that the Frenchman is now considering his future at the club... there was even talk in well-placed north London circles that an announcement about the club's path forward could be imminent."
As for the fans, they're torn between their respect for Wenger after 18 years in charge and the realization that he's no longer 'le professeur'. As one Gooner lamented on the Just Arsenal blog: "We have to accept that with Wenger in charge we will never be competitive again... he is tactically far inferior to Mourinho as he has no real tactics other than 'go out and express yourself'. That might work against inferior opposition but it clearly doesn't against quality opposition. The only area where he's better than Mourinho is as a likable human being. Unfortunately they don't give you any points for that."