Arsenal’s Greek Tragedy All Too Familiar


If ever there were a game to sum up Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal teams over the last 10 years, then last nights Champions League clash with Olympiakos is it.

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Possession was, at times, dominant. The passing and movement was, in spells, mesmerising. Arsenal’s attacks often moved with pace and fluidity. When it clicked, our attack looked insatiable. The two goals that we scored were well taken and beautiful in their own rights.

But, alas, for all the quality that Arsenal showed in attack, there was less quality to be found in our defensive play. The confusion and lack of communication between Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista which led to the Greeks first goal was, at best, ludicrous. In fact you would be hard pushed to find worse defending from a Sunday pub league game. Yet these were two experienced centre backs in one of the biggest teams in world football.

Sadly, abysmal defending has long been a staple of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal over the last 10 years. Fans have had to endure the mocking of our embarrassing defensive antics for years now. And yet here we are again, in a must win game, finding that whatever defensive training that is done, if any, is massively inefficient.

Now I would like to avoid as much hyperbole as possible, and if this was one defensive error then it could perhaps be forgiven. But throughout the game our shambles in defence cost us dearly, and such defensive incompetency has been found in several other games over the years.

Arsenal, on the whole, was mentally weak. We lacked leadership on the pitch, with perhaps the only exception being Alexis. He must surely be eyeing up a summer move should the season continue in this vein. When leadership is lacking on the pitch then you have to look to leadership from the bench, from the manager.

And yet Wenger largely spent the game sat on his comfy chair, seemingly only entering his technical area to have a moan to the fourth official, as is sadly the norm. There was no direction from the man that is meant to be in charge, no in game tactics to try and change things, no analysis of our defensive shortcomings and no attempt at trying to address those changes.

Throw in the injury of yet another key player and this game is Arsenal of the last 10 years summed up in 90 minutes.

How many more years of repeated failure and underwhelming performances in the Champions League do we as Arsenal fans have to endure? How long until the apologists stop giving Wenger time and excuses and realise that he is no loner the man to take us forward?

This is not a demand from a fair-weather fan to win the Champions League every season. It is not even a demand to reach the finals or semi-finals every season. But time and time again we see tactical blunders from Arsene Wenger which cost us dearly, seeing us outperformed in Europe. Against the Bayern Munich’s and Barcelona’s that is not entirely shameful, but against the Dinamo Zagreb’s and Olympiakos’ there is no excuse.

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Something is just not going right. It hasn’t been going right for a long time now. Maybe it’s the (lack of) in game tactics, team selection or training. But ultimately the only constant throughout all these years of underachievement in Europe (and domestic) has been Arsene Wenger.

This anguish at our repeated shortcomings and underwhelming performances does not come from a childlike demand of want, want, want. It comes from the fact that we are consistently told by the manager and the players that they have the quality to perform at the highest levels, and yet rarely ever see it on the pitch. Yet this Arsenal team pays some of the highest player wages in football, as well as paying one of the highest managerial wages in football.

It comes from the fact that we were taken away from our beloved Highbury on the promise that the Emirates would allow us to compete with Europe’s best. Yet 10 years later we are still waiting for this to happen. Still, Arsenal fans continue to pay some of the highest ticket prices in world football, despite performances on the field failing to justify such sky high prices.

The game against Olympiakos was all too familiar. It highlighted major issues with this club that have been in existence, and allowed to fester, for too long. The game against the Greek’s proves that the time is approaching for Wenger to step aside, to allow fresh ideas into the club, to let us move on and begin to exploit our long heralded potential.

Next: Have Arsenal Blown Their European Record?

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