Could defeat to Shrewsbury spell the end for Wenger?
Arsenal’s Carling Cup clash against League Two opposition has become a crunch match for the Gunners
IT IS A mark of how far Arsenal's stock has fallen in recent weeks that Arsene Wenger has been forced to admit that the Gunners' Carling Cup clash against lowly Shrewsbury tonight could be one of the defining games of their season.
And one former Shrews player predicts that an upset could spell the end for under-pressure Wenger, who has vowed to keep faith with his current coaching staff despite growing calls for him to bring in fresh faces.
Frank Clarke, a striker who played for Shrewsbury, QPR and Ipswich in the 1960s and 70s, told the BBC: "I think Shrewsbury have a good side. The Arsenal manager is under pressure and he'll put out a decent side because of the latest run of results. If Shrewsbury beat them, I think his job will be on the line."
The League Two side will be no pushovers for the Gunners. They arrived in the third round of the competition by beating Championship side Derby County and then Premier League newcomers Swansea.
Wenger is unlikely to field many established stars at the Emirates tonight, but he is clearly looking for a reaction from his side.
He gave an uncharacteristically blunt assessment of his team's shortcomings against Blackburn. He attributed the humiliating loss to "a lack of concentration, a lack of communication, a lack of co-ordination and individual urgency".
And he said that how his side reacted to that defeat, which came hot on the heels of the 8-2 mauling by Manchester United, would be crucial. "Our season depends on how well we respond to this disappointment and how quickly we cut out the mistakes on Saturday by giving away goals we should never give away," he said.
Arsenal skipper Robin van Persie, like any prima-donna striker worth his salt, has also pointed an accusing finger at his team mates. "It just frustrates me," he lamented. "Every time we start positively we just keep making the same mistakes and that is surprising. Even before the game on Saturday I said to the boys, 'Today is a big, big day'. We have to get back-to-back wins and we just cannot do that."
The likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, South Korean striker Park Chu-Young and Japanese midfielder Ryo Miyaichi are all likely to start at the Emirates, in the knowledge that they are on a hiding to nothing. A convincing win is expected and anything less will be taken as more evidence of Arsenal's decline. ·
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