Calls for Wenger to leave grow louder after Blackburn defeat
Arsenal 0 Blackburn 1:Now Arsene Wenger is dealing in extremes. This must turn into his best season at Arsenal or it will be his worst – and possibly his last. The booing from the home crowd after this defeat by Blackburn Rovers appeared more prolonged and pointed than ever before, and the calls for the Frenchman to leave grow louder. The stakes could hardly be higher ahead of tomorrow night’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, and expectations around Arsenal could hardly be lower.
For a man who prides himself on the ability to remain balanced, these are disturbing times. There is no disguising the exasperation Wenger feels at his players for the club’s predicament. As well as Blackburn defended, this was a sloppy loss by his team and, coming on the back of the humiliating one by Bradford City in the League Cup, it leaves them out of both domestic cups. With the Premier League title way beyond them, they are reliant on improbable European glory to avoid making this an eighth season in a row without a trophy.
In previous seasons Wenger has at least been able to offer qualification for the following Champions League campaign as sustenance for success-starved supporters, but with Arsenal currently four points off a top-four finish, even that meal may have to be skipped.
“It is vital for us to fight for silverware,” said Wenger. “Unfortunately the FA Cup will not happen for us now and we can only look at ourselves and not complain about anything else.”
The Frenchman was clearly furious at his players’ seemingly complacent approach to the game, which they dominated before being struck down by a 72nd minute Colin Kazim-Richards goal on the counterattack.
“Maybe they still thought: ‘Okay, we’re playing at home against Blackburn, it will be difficult but we will win the game anyway’, but it doesn’t work like that,” seethed Wenger, whose dismay was all the deeper after hard-earned, back-to-back wins over Stoke City and Sunderland had convinced him the team were developing the required ruthlessness.
“We were quite on a high because we played well at Sunderland last week and the team looked happy and full of belief, but we couldn’t maintain the focus. The top level is about consistency in every single game and that’s what we could not show. We came out with a flat performance and that shows that, mentally, we are not capable at the moment of preparing in exactly the same way for every game.
Dragged a shot
“I think we have a great team but this shows we still have to show more maturity on the mental front. We have to understand what it means to win big games. Blackburn was a big game for me.”
Gervinho dragged a shot wide when clean through in the first half, Tomas Rosicky drove a fine effort against the bar in the second and the Blackburn goalkeeper, Jake Kean, made several excellent saves, notably late on from a Theo Walcott header.