Arsenal surrender: Szczesny dropped to avoid humiliation
Would medical updates from injured stars have been different if Arsenal had a chance?
ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger may be talking up his side's chances of pulling off a miracle against Bayern Munich in the Champions League tonight, but his selections tell a different story as the Gunners prepare to bow out of Europe.
The absence of Jack Wilshere and Wojciech Szczesny from the squad heading to Germany suggest that the Gunners are travelling for no other reason than to meet their obligations to Uefa. Lukas Podolski and Bacary Sagna, two players at the centre of transfer speculation, are also staying at home. They, like Wilshere, are said to be suffering from ankle problems.
It is not hard to imagine that the medical news bulletins regarding all three outfield players might have been subtly different had the scoreline in the first leg, 3-1 to Bayern, been different.
To make matters worse for the Arsenal faithful travelling to Germany, the Daily Mail claims that Wenger will rest Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla for the match, making a mockery of his assertion that the Gunners "will be completely focused and up for it, and give it our best shot". The paper says Wenger's selections will prompt a "furious backlash from supporters as he prepares to surrender Arsenal’s Champions League dream".
Certainly, the chances of a team shorn of such personnel overturning a 3-1 deficit in the Allianz Arena appear negligible. For Arsenal to progress they will have to win by three clear goals away from home against one of the tournament favourites. If they succeed, it would render Barcelona's comeback against AC Milan mundane and would rate as the most extraordinary upset in the history of the competition.
The omission of Szczesny is particularly telling. Wenger says he has been "affected mentally" by Arsenal's problems and needs a rest. More likely he is concerned about what a hammering at the hands of Bayern would do to his fragile confidence.
Nor can Wenger seriously believe that Lukas Fabianski, who has not played for a year, is the man to marshal the Gunners' defence to a famous victory.
"Either Wenger has already given up on the tie with Bayern or he's given up on Szczesny. Neither is particularly good news," noted Football Talk.
The Wilshere situation is particularly perplexing says Goal.com, which claims that Wilshere's ankle problem is not a new one and even suggests that Arsenal have been deliberately muddying the waters over the extent and location of the injury. "Something does not quite add up. Are Arsenal simply protecting their talisman or trying to cover up their own failings?"
And there is another factor at play. Arsenal face Swansea at the weekend and they cannot afford to slip up in the race for a top four finish in the Premier League. "There is the sense that Swansea is bigger than Bayern, which is born of cold reality but also sums up the downturn in Arsenal's fortunes," says The Guardian. ·