Pressure on Wenger as Arsenal fans begin to trade in failure
With Champions League qualification almost assured, the Gunners are in a cleft stick once again
As opponents go, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger could not wish for a worse team to face in the Champions League tonight than Borussia Dortmund.
The German side is managed by Jurgen Klopp, the man who many want to see replace Wenger, and victory for the visitors at the Emirates would be another, significant, nail in the Frenchman's coffin.
Having urged his critics, including shareholder Alisher Usmanov and former striker Ian Wright, to get behind the team Wenger badly needs to give them something to cheer.
A point for the Gunners would see them into the knockout stages of the Champions League once again, but, as is often the case these days, Arsenal have more to lose than gain from this match. With qualification all but assured, it is also expected. Failure is the currency that Arsenal fans trade in these days.
An Arsenal win can be dismissed as inconsequential by the anti-Wenger faction. Dortmund are struggling in the Bundesliga and have already qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. There is little riding on the game for them. Victory would mean little.
Defeat, on the other hand, could spark open rebellion.
Worse still for Wenger is the perpetual injury crisis he faces. The latest casualty is Jack Wilshere, who is out for at least six weeks and may need surgery on an ankle injury sustained against Man United. If he does he will be absent for three months.
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will also be missing along with Theo Walcott, whose return from a knee injury has been put on hold. Danny Welbeck is also a doubt and Olivier Giroud is not eligible after being omitted from the group-stage squad because of his early-season injury.
"Such a litany of problems gives weight to the theory, espoused by Alisher Usmanov... that Arsenal need to strengthen their resources in every position," says The Times. "Wenger is adamant that he has not taken the criticism personally, despite the Uzbek-born billionaire's suggestion that the Frenchman cannot recognise his own mistakes, but it is plain that his contribution has not been welcomed."
Meanwhile, there is a growing school of thought that both Klopp, who is in his seventh season with Dortmund, and Wenger need to move on. And there are several reasons he would make an excellent Arsenal manager, says the Daily Telegraph.
Like Wenger he believes in stability and youth, he also plays an attractive brand of football and has the "charisma" to succeed the Frenchman, says the paper. "Klopp knows that he would be given a proper chance and he himself would not be seeing the opportunity as some sort of stepping stone."
There are negatives. To start with there is at present no vacancy at Arsenal, and there are questions over Klopp's ability to adapt to the Premier League and rebuild the Gunners, and whether he even wants to.
And while the two men may have similar philosophies, they are not cut from exactly the same cloth, notes Kevin Garside in The Independent. "The difference between the two is Klopp's willingness to accept responsibility while Wenger blows raspberries at his critics," he sniffs.