The knives are out again. Questions are being raised again. There are calls for Wenger’s head. Fans have lost their patience. The crescendo of boos all around the Emirates Stadium yesterday at the full-time whistle was proof of that. For Arsenal fans, their season is over. However, Wenger thinks otherwise as he stated in his post-match press conference. He said, “The season is over for you maybe, not for me.”
Yes, Arsenal are still in the UEFA Champions League. However, not even the most faithful of Gunners expect their team to go all the way in Europe’s most elite competition, especially due to the fact that they face German giants Bayern Munich on Tuesday night. Even if they do somehow knock out Bayern, they are expected to go only as far as the quarter-finals. But then again, coming on top against Bayern seems like a far cry now, given the current form of Bayern, who hold a massive lead at the summit of the Bundesliga over their nearest rivals. Arsenal, on the other hand, are fighting tooth and nail to secure Champions League football for next season. Yesterday’s loss in the FA Cup has put added pressure on the Gunners before the important game on Tuesday night.
Arsenal players have let Wenger down again. They dominated the game in the early stages against Blackburn, but had nothing to show for their 26 attempts at goal. This has been the trend of Arsenal in recent years: plenty of possession, plenty of neat passing and movement, but no end product whatsoever. Even after bringing on the big guns like Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla in the second half, Arsenal could not break down the stubborn Blackburn defense, who were hell bent on causing a cup upset.
With last night’s nightmare, Arsenal lost the best chance they had to clinch their first piece of silverware since 2005. Yes, Wenger has achieved two cup doubles with Arsenal. Yes, he masterminded ‘The Invincibles’ season in 2003-04. Yes, he has nurtured the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and now Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. He is perhaps one of the best managers the club has ever had. Past success is perhaps the only reason as to why he still has faith in Arsenal’s board.
Arsenal are also one of the most financially stable clubs, a fact which makes Wenger extremely proud. But then again, not many people are convinced that having millions of £’s in the bank compensates for an empty and dusty trophy cabinet.
This is not the first time Arsenal have crashed out of a cup competition against a lower league opposition. The penalty shootout loss against Bradford City in the Carling Cup in December is still fresh in the memory of Arsenal fans. In fact, prior to the current season, Arsenal had never lost to a lower league opposition in a cup competition. They have lost twice this season. Many are convinced that this is the worst season in Wenger’s 16-and-a-half years tenure at the helm of Arsenal.
In this time of crisis, Wenger is surely under heaps of pressure. Those who have stuck by him all this while are having second thoughts now. But, does Wenger still have the backing of the Arsenal board? Or have the owners decided that a change is finally needed, and that it is time to finally move on?