In Review

Arsenal crisis could be the end for rambling Arsene Wenger

A third consecutive home defeat for the Gunners leaves their season in tatters, fans at war and Wenger on the brink

Arsenal 1 Watford 2

Surely not even Arsene Wenger can wriggle his way free of the furore now engulfing the Emirates. Defeat at home to Watford in Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final is arguably the low point of a season that promised so much for Arsenal but is set to end in no silverware for a club that has lost its way in the last few months. 

The humiliation at the hands of the Hornets was also the first time since 2002 that Arsenal have lost three consecutive home matches, following defeats to Barcelona in the Champions League and Swansea in the league.

Wenger, once the exotic revolutionary, now resembles a doddery old man who's lost his bearings and when asked if he requires help, just rambles incoherently. 

"Our fantastic run [in the FA Cup] has come to an end on a day where we felt that our performance deserved a win," he said to general bemusement. "Credit to Watford, they created few chances but took them all. It's sad because we gave everything."

Anger, not sadness, was the overriding emotion from fans on Sunday. "Wenger Out" tweeted broadcaster and Arsenal fan Piers Morgan, adding: "Arsene, if you care about this club as much as you claim, it's time to go."

According to the Daily Mirror, Arsenal fans fought among themselves as they left the Emirates on Sunday afternoon, with the future of Wenger the reason. The Frenchman's defenders - and incredibly there are still a few, defiantly holding out like Japanese soldiers years after the end of the Second World War - blame the players for the club's predicament. But a team takes its lead from the top and for too long Arsenal's management has been muddled.

"You can sum up Arsenal's last ten years up in that game," reflected former Portsmouth striker Steve Claridge on BBC Five Live. "Start well, fall behind when on top and end strongly."

Despite Arsenal's slick start, the teams turned round goalless and the deadlock was broken on 50 minutes by Odion Ighalo, who, along with Troy Deeney, caused the hosts' defence no end of problems. Deeny glanced a header into the path of Ighalo and he brushed off the feeble Gabriel to fire past David Ospina.

Gabriel and Per Mertesacker must surely rank as one of the poorest defensive pairings in the history of Arsenal and they were again at fault on 63 minutes to allow Deeney the space to tee up Adlene Guedioura, who unleashed a thunderbolt into the top corner of the net to send the 9,000 Watford fans into orbit.

They remained there for the rest of the match and not even a Danny Welbeck goal two minutes from time brought them back down to earth on a day when Arsenal tasted FA Cup defeat for the first time in 756 days.

The competition has been the one thing with which Wenger has consoled the fans in the last two years. Now it's gone. What about winning the Champions League? On Wednesday, the team travels to the Camp Nou trailing 2-0 from the first leg. "It is very difficult against Barcelona, but we have to see it as a challenge and try to make the impossible possible," said Wenger.

If Arsenal don't pull off a miracle then that leaves just the Premier League. Is that another mission impossible, given that Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur are eight and six points clear respectively with nine games remaining? "We have shown that we can always respond," said Wenger, in head-in-the-sand mode. "This team has a great spirit and a very strong attitude." 

Alas, these days the only people with an attitude wearing an Arsenal shirt are the fans.

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