Wenger folly exposed as Arsenal humbled in Zagreb
Fans react as Giroud is sent off and Gunners lose to Croatian minnows on the big stage
Dinamo Zagreb 2 Arsenal 1
Another Champions League campaign, another shambles for Arsenal. They may have qualified for Europe's showpiece competitions 18 seasons in a row but on how many occasions have the Gunners done themselves justice in that time?
In recent years it feels like it's been one disappointment after another. Last season it was the mauling by Monaco, the year before that being battered by Bayern Munich. On Wednesday evening Arsenal were humiliated by Dinamo Zagreb, that's the same Dinamo who had not won a group stage tie in 15 previous attempts before last night. In fact the last time the Croatians did win a Champions League tie was in 1999, when Arsene Wenger was at the peak of his powers and regarded as a football genius.
Now he's the Nutty Professor and his reputation has slumped another notch after this dismal defeat. Earlier this month he urged Arsenal fans to show some faith in his abilities and insisted that the Gunners had no need to buy a striker in the summer transfer window. He - and he alone - was convinced Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud could spearhead Arsenal's attack, and while Walcott did score against Dinamo, Giroud was sent off five minutes before the break leaving his teammates in a desperate situation.
Arsenal were already one down, trailing to a goal on 29 minutes which ended up in the net through a combination of Josip Pivaric and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Arsenal man may have inadvertently helped the ball into his own goal but it was teammate Mathieu Debuchy who deserved most of the blame, the Frenchman exposed defensively by the Croatians in the build up to the goal.
Then came Giroud's moment of French folly. Having already been booked for dissent by referee Ovidiu Hategan, he was sent off on 40 minutes for a clumsy challenge on Ivo Pinto.
Dinamo scented blood in the second half and they doubled their advantage just before the hour mark when Junior Fernandes headed home Paulo Machado's corner.
Though Walcott pulled one back for Arsenal ten minutes from time, Dinamo deserved their victory and Wenger deserves the scorn of his supporters. They told him the squad needed strengthening over the summer but he wouldn't listen.
In the wake of Wednesday's defeat, however, Wenger reverted to type, blaming bad luck and the referee for the loss, anyone but himself. "We were a bit unlucky," he said. "I believe the first goal is offside and after that, the sending-off is very harsh. We were not at our best but nor was the referee. Dinamo stopped us [unfairly] in situations without being punished."
Arsenal have the chance to make amends in a fortnight's time when they host Olympiakos, before home and away fixtures against group favourites Bayern Munich (who strolled to a 3-0 victory in Greece last night). "Mathematically, we can qualify without any problem – if we produce the performances we want at home," Wenger said. "We can put things right in the next five games... let's see where we stand after six games. Then we can draw conclusions."
Judging by the reaction of Arsenal fans on social media to the defeat, plenty have already drawn their own conclusions, reports the Daily Mail. Among them was the well-known Wenger-sceptic Piers Morgan, who commented: "In Arsene We Rust."