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Manager’s position ‘untenable’, say critics, following Gunners’ humiliating Champions League defeat
Trailing 5-1 from the first leg of their last 16 Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich, Arsenal were expected, at the very least, to put up a fight for the sake of their fans.
They appeared willing in the first half, but following the dismissal of Laurent Koscielny early in the second the Gunners suffered the ultimate indignity as they were hung, drawn and quartered in their own back yard, losing once again by the same score.
To coin a phrase: To lose one European match 5-1 can be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness.
Such scorelines are not uncommon in the Champions League – Leicester City and Celtic both shipped five or more goals in group stage matches. But thrashings are usually inflicted on European interlopers such as Rostov, Legia Warsaw or Club Brugge. Big beasts of Arsenal’s size are supposed to dish them out, not receive them.
Unsurprisingly, the reaction has been merciless. Ian Wright on BT Sport said the club was enduring the “worst period” of its history, while Rio Ferdinand called the result “embarrassing”, a generous verdict in the circumstances.
Last night’s performance amounted to a “stain on the name of a famous club”, says Henry Winter of The Times. “This felt more than a rout, this felt fin de siecle.
“Change is clearly required at Arsenal. They were drifting but now are listing. [Manager Arsene] Wenger’s position is untenable. The manager who has failed to combat the decline from the Invincibles to the Ineffectuals should step down in the summer, having sloped out of the Champions League in the round of 16 for the seventh successive season and, adding statistical shame, the highest aggregate defeat by an English side in Europe.”
There is near unanimous agreement at the Daily Mail. Ten out of 11 of the paper’s football writers say it is time for the Frenchman to go. Dominic King is the only voice of dissent, but he accepts that a pro-Wenger opinion is “increasingly difficult to defend”.
There was an “inescapable feeling of finality” about the result, says Phil McNulty of the BBC, and Wenger “stood in isolation and desolation” on the touchline.
“Few nights could have been more chastening than this one for the man who has known such glory, but who now may be contemplating the end of the road,” adds the writer.
“Wenger was not subjected to widespread rebellion or mutiny inside the stadium, but there were ominous signs that can often be used as indicators that a manager’s future has reached its defining moment.” Chief among them would be the rows of empty seats inside the stadium.
Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph agrees. “Wenger is in increasingly sad danger of exiting amid a cocktail of both apathetic and furiously frustrated fans,” he says.
“If this is to be Arsene Wenger’s 184th and last Champions League match then it is not a relatively small pre-match protest that should represent the defining image but rather the large numbers of empty red seats. They were evident before a ball had even been kicked and, by the time Bayern had completed an aggregate 10-2 humiliation, the stadium was largely deserted.”