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Pressure mounting on Arsenal, Arsene Wenger

Feb 18, 2013, 8:25 AM EDT

Bradford City v Arsenal - Capital One Cup Quarter Final Getty Images

Never a good sign when coaches throw players under the bus. (Technically speaking, they call it a “motor coach” there … but let’s stay on point.)

So much for “All in it together,” eh?

It is not much of a surprise, however. The pressure is mounting on Arsenal and longtime manager Arsene Wenger as chances of claiming something to hang their hats on for 2012-13 slip away. That’s bad news for Wenger, now creeping slowly toward “embattled” state at the club.

The venerable Frenchman has long had his critics. That’s bound to happen to someone with as many years in one place as Wenger, who is 63 and has been at the north London club since 1996.

While domestic success has been elusive in recent years, Wenger usually does have Champions League to circle on the ledger of accomplishment. (Not winning the thing, but reliably advancing into the competition’s money rounds.) And the club may have another UCL brag or two in them; the Gunners are set to open a high-profile Round-of-16 set against Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. Tuesday’s opening leg is at the Emirates.

What does the club’s mindset look like ahead of Tuesday’s clash? Hard to say, but it may not be great. Check out what Wenger had to say about his players following the weekend loss to Blackburn, eliminating Arsenal from FA Cup action:

I think we have a great team, but this shows that we still have to show more maturity on the mental front. We have to understand what it means to win big games, and this was a big game for me.

“I am the first to stand up and say I am responsible for the team selection, but that is not an excuse. If we cannot beat Blackburn like that, I don’t think it is down to the selection of the team.

“The top level is about consistency in every single game and that is what we could not show.”

  1. unclemosesgreen - Feb 18, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what he said. Wenger started a very strong lineup, and they should have been good enough to win the tie decisively. Having watched the match, I feel that the Gunners played without a real sense of urgency. Giroud in particular consistently failed to give full effort to make the runs in front of net, repeatedly failing to get onto crosses hit across the face of goal.

    For me, Wenger has two intersecting main problems: 1) his budget has fallen behind the other big clubs in the Premiership, at the same as 2) the rapid increase in available scouting information and access to same has leveled the playing field in regards to one of his traditional advantages, player identification. When he started at Arsenal, he had a knack for finding affordable, high-level players that the other clubs were missing. That doesn’t happen as much anymore. There are now hundreds of modern-day Pete Taylors with laptops out there.

  2. mvktr2 - Feb 18, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    Didn’t sound like motor-coach grinding stuff to me either. Actually sounded a whole lot like what USMNT boss Klinsmann has been saying. I seem to recall a recent article here at PST about just that subject titled something like ‘What Needs to be Said’ or some such.

    As for Wenger, sometimes change for change sake is a good thing. That could be a shakeup of his staff and an influx of new ideas or it could mean Wenger himself needs to go. Only a savvy front office can make that call. However it seems apparent that things have gotten stale in gunner-land.

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