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Arsenal 'nightmare' signals the end is near for Wenger
by Paul Kennedy, February 15th, 2017 10:28PM
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TAGS:  arsenal, arsene wenger, bayern munich, uefa champions league


Arsenal fans have seen this movie before. The Gunners reach the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League -- like they've done the previous 13 years -- and then exit almost as quickly as snowdrops arrive in London, signaling the end of winter.

Wednesday's 5-1 loss at Bayern Munich marks the sixth year a row Arsenal has lost the first leg of the knockout stage, but it was the worst result of the bunch and surely the most disheartening.

For almost an hour, the game was even at the Allianz Arena, then it all fell apart for the Gunners with goals by Robert Lewandowski in the 53rd minute, Thiago Alcantara three minutes and 10 minutes after that and then Thomas Mueller in the 88th minute to seal the defeat and perhaps Arsene Wenger's fate as manager, a job he has held for more than 20 years.

"We looked mentally very jaded and very vulnerable," admitted the Frenchman. "The last 25 minutes was a nightmare for us. We looked like we had no response."

In other years, Arsenal had a response and at least made things respectable, winning 3-0, 2-0 twice and 3-2 and tying 1-1 in the last five second legs. Even a 3-0 win in the second leg at the Emirates won't be enough to overcome the first-leg deficit. And who'll give the Gunners a chance?

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown told BT Sport he felt for his former manager.

"It's almost embarrassing," he said. "They were outclassed, outplayed. Wenger has to be seriously considering his future now because it's embarrassing. I can't ever say I'd like to see him go, but this is his lowest point ever as Arsenal manager. He looked particularly wounded. I feel for him. He almost needs to be protected from himself. This is 20 years of work here, but this is a massive low point for him."

Wenger's contract is up at the end of the season. Another of his former players, Ian Wright, indicated Wenger told him his days at Arsenal were "coming to the end," though Wright quickly walked his comments back, saying it was only an impression he got. Wenger, for his part, said they had been together at a club dinner and it was late and he was tired and, well ...

Still, the sense is that Wenger won't seek to accept a new deal, and Arsenal is reviewing candidates to replace him.

The Daily Mirror reported that Borussia Dortmund's Thomas Tuchel, Juventus' Massimiliano Allegri, Bayer Leverkusen's Roger Schmidt and Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim were all on the Arsenal short list.

Does Wenger last the season? It would be hard to imagine owner Stan Kroenke and chief executive Ivan Gazidis pulling the plug on Wenger.

But Arsenal's next two EPL games before the return leg against Bayern are on the road against Southampton and Liverpool. The Gunners are tied for third place in the EPL but only a point ahead of Liverpool after dropping two of their last three games.

Arsenal has qualified in 19 consecutive UEFA Champions Leagues -- an English record, and the second longest streak in Europe behind Real Madrid's record of 20 -- and more than the streak, the UCL money means a lot to bottom-line conscious Arsenal.

Would Kroenke and Gazidis risk missing out on the Champions League next season for sentimentality if Arsenal's problems get worse? We'll know soon enough.

  1. Lee Stringfellow
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 6:09 a.m.
    Surely the club has the dignity and respect for their longstanding manager to finish out the season with Wenger.
  1. Quarterback TD
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 8:47 a.m.
    Are you kidding me!!! Did anyone really expect Arsenal to defeat Munich ? The only team in England with the ability to do that are Spurs and Manchester United-- but as history has shown time and time again these clubs love to trade their best players for so call developmental players and hope it works (The Beckham effect)-- if England Clubs expect to win they need to have players that are on top of their game and can deliver like what Chelsea did with Drogba and Man U did with Beckham and Yorke.. No Developmental players crap like what MLS is doing.. established players ONLY..
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 9:52 a.m.
    LOL....yeah who wants young players? Grizzled veterans only! Huh? How did that Barca team full of established players do on Tuesday? What "developmental players" have Man U signed? They paid a record fee for Pogba and signed a 35 year old Zlatan. Not only is your point nonsensical, it's factually inaccurate too.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 11:06 a.m.
    FPGN, you have to consider also what would have happened if they didn't sign a Zlatan. Name a great developmental player in the world today. All the great players today are either in their 30's or will be soon. Also you mentioned Barca which I think is not doing well lately because of what they have bought, also they have less players on the field that are developed at La Masia school. Furthermore read my comment on why Barca lost in the column, 'what they are saying" by Luis Enrique.That will explain why they lost....
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 12:21 p.m.
    Huh? There are no good players under 30? Anywhere in the world? Just when I think the statements from ol' Frank can't get any more bizarre...
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 12:56 p.m.
    FPGN, You have to read better. I didn't say "good" but "Great" players like a Messi, Christian Ronaldo, Zlatan....
  1. Quarterback TD
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 4:39 p.m.
    Fire, you need some ice water too cool down.. my point is Man U was non-existent until they bought in Beckham-- on a separate topic in my rant -->>ONLY Man U and Spurs can take on big European rivals if they don't trade their superstars-- Man U is not a 2017 team it's a team for 2018 when that chemistry bond is firmly created..
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: February 17, 2017 at 9:54 a.m.
    Wow - someone needs a history lesson. Beckham made his debut in the 1995-96 season. Man U won the EPL in 93 and 94 and finished second by a point in 95. And of course they were already one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Then after he left, they won the EPL five more times and the Champions League too. Plus your point makes no sense, Beckham came from the Man U academy and you are saying teams need to just buy established players. Good thing Sir Alec didn't listen to you.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 9:57 a.m.
    I can't understand why this guy wasn't fired five years ago. Yes, his first 7-8 years in charge brought tremendous success and clearly that kind of success buys a manager some time when things start to go poorly. But Arsenal have hardly won anything the past 10 years. That's just too long for a club that size. Since reaching the UCL final in 2006, they finished 2d in the EPL just once and never won it, won 2 FA cups and this year will be the 7th (!) straight year they have lost in the round of 16 in the UCL. That's just not good enough.
  1. Robert Robertson
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 11:01 a.m.
    The club should give him to end of the season. I for one would hate to see him go. The constant complaints about not winning the league every year or the Champions league are totally based on an unrealistic assessment of the last 10 years of English Football. They ignore the entrance of the billionaires - Chelsea then later Man City. There is always competition at the top of the EPL so players cant be rested like in Germany, Spain, and other leagues. Anyway , some of the players let him down.... Sir Alex Fergusons retirement went great for Man U.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: February 16, 2017 at 12:20 p.m.
    No one is saying they should win the league every year - but shouldn't they win in sometimes? They haven't won it since 2004 and haven't even come all that close to doing so. They are one of the biggest clubs in England, surely they should be doing better than that. They have also under performed in Europe. I'm not an Arsenal fan so I have no stake in this but I just think it's time for someone new.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: February 17, 2017 at 9:56 a.m.
    Also when Ferguson left Man U they had won the EPL five of the past seven years and finished second the other two. Ferguson was a miracle worker, unlike Wenger.
  1. Quarterback TD
    commented on: February 17, 2017 at 10:11 a.m.
    Fire, fully agree.. Man U is a 2018 team they could win everything next year including European champions league-- right now the players learning each other..

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