After Arsenal's latest damaging defeat against one of their closest rivals Everton, who swept them aside 3-0 with embarrassing ease at Goodison Park on Saturday, my mind instantly reverted back to Jose Mourinho’s comments about how Arsene Wenger had become a ‘specialist in failure’.
With that statement, Mourinho, a master of mind games and psychological warfare, reignited his long running feud with his Arsenal adversary and he received a lot of criticism - in certain football circles - for his comments. Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker even took to Twitter to publically condemn Mourinho, who he is insisted was "out of order and wrong with Wenger comments".
Many more people dismissed Mourinho’s comments as outlandish, which, at the time, was understandable considering Arsenal were only one point behind Chelsea who occupied the top spot in the Premier League. However, not everyone was so quick to leap to the defence of the Frenchman.
Indeed, Mourinho’s withering assessment of Wenger produced a dichotomy of opinion among fans who expressed their thoughts in the comments section of various online media outlets. For every person who thought Mourinho crossed the line with his comments you found another who thought he was spot on with his views.
Those who subscribed to Mourinho’s school of thought then will have even greater courage in his conviction now. Since the Chelsea managers comments, Arsenal have plummeted from being one point off the summit of the league into fourth place with failure to qualify for the Champions League now a very realistic possibility.
After witnessing Arsenal’s worrying descent down the table, which culminated in their most recent capitulation against Everton, you cannot really counter Mourinho’s claims with any sort of convincing argument: Arsenal are now synonymous with failure.
Their barren run of going eight years without winning a trophy will not be broken this season and there recent form suggests there long suffering fans may yet have to wait a lot longer until they taste tangible success again.
Wenger’s salvation is that he has never failed to reach the Champions League throughout his long running reign of Arsenal. Yet fifth-placed Everton, who are only point behind and have a game in hand over the North London club, are in the ascendancy at this critical stage of the campaign.
Sure, Arsenal only lost three points against Everton, but they may bear a far greater psychological toll.
What is most alarming from an Arsenal point of view is that they do not just get beaten by the big teams they get battered on a routine basis by their closest rivals. This season, Arsenal have only managed one solitary victory over the other three sides who make up the top four, and have been on the receiving end of several soul destroying drubbings from the big boys.
Aside from the latest 3-0 nil defeat against Everton, they have also been defeated 6-0 by Chelsea, 5-1 by Liverpool, and 6-3 against Manchester City. Those stats would make for painful viewing for any Premier League team let alone a club such as Arsenal who have never finished out with the top four since the season 1995/96.
Yet in many defining matches you can almost see the morale seep out like sweat from the players pores when things don’t go their way. Of course the men on the pitch must shoulder some of the responsibility for their abject performances.
On the other hand, Wenger also must be the bear most of the burden of bad results as he steadfastly refuses to replace some of the famous Arsenal panache with some much needed power, both physically and mentally.
For years it has been universally acknowledged that Arsenal’s Achilles heel is there lack of strong personalities in the squad. Yet rather than replenish his team with some mentally tough characters, he persists, almost without exception, with his policy of buying players who are all style and no substance.
You have to admire Arsene Wenger’s vision of how the beautiful game should be played, and in an era of relentless pressure for managers it is somewhat heartening to see that he doesn’t compromise his principles. In contrast, surely Wenger’s philosophy cannot be to assemble a succession of spineless sides that lack the desire and discipline to achieve any real success. By success, I mean winning trophies.
The summer capture of Mezut Ozil is symptomatic of the flaws in Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy. Whilst there is no disputing that the German international is a world class talent, in terms of pure technical ability, there are serious doubts whether he has the mentality of a very top player.
Before his record breaking £42.5m transfer to the Emirates, it was widely reported that Ozil was abandoning life at the Bernabeu because he didn’t ‘feel loved’. That should have set alarm bells ringing for Arsene Wenger.
The Arsenal manager did not have enough hours in the day to drape his arm around the shoulders of the dispirited players he already had at his disposal without adding another technically gifted but temperamentally fragile creative midfielder to his ranks. Yet Wenger blew his entire transfer budget on the 25-year-old German when his defence and forward line needed major surgery.
The sight of Mezut Ozil and many other mainstays of the Arsenal team going missing when it matters most is not an uncommon occurrence. The way Arsenal strut incisively when they sweep smaller teams aside contrasts sharply with how they stagger around aimlessly when they get bullied by the league’s elite. It is abundantly clear that Arsenal flatter to deceive in the truly defining moments, which begs the question: is Arsene Wenger taking Arsenal in the wrong direction?
The Arsenal fans are among the most loyal of all, and thus are loathed to entertain such a notion. They have so far resisted the temptation to call for the head of Wenger. This is mostly due to the huge affection they hold for him and the way he revolutionised the club from the grassroots up to the first team when he arrived in north London in 1996.
The deep rooted devotion both the board of directors and the fans feel for Arsene Wenger is a rarity in the modern game and is a testament to the memorable legacy he has established at Arsenal. But one cannot survive solely on former glories for an infinite amount of time. There is probably no other manager of an elite club in world football who would still have a job after going nearly a decade without winning any trophies the way Wenger has.
Conversely, it remains to be seen whether the olive branch of good faith extended to Arsene Wenger will finally break along with the patience of the fans if Arsenal fail to qualify for next seasons Champions League.
If Arsenal do indeed relinquish fourth place and fail to make the Champion League the demand for change may well reach an unprecedented level of decibels among the Gunners faithful.
In the same way as the fans, surely the Arsenal board also must have a breaking point.
That point may be soon unless Arsene Wenger can prove that he is not a specialist in failure by salvaging Arsenals season and securing the clubs Champions League future for another year.
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