Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal
‘Will you quit?’, Wenger was asked following Arsenal’s worst league defeat since 1896. That Wenger’s future is now being routinely debated – and he is being asked to his face – tells you all you need to know about the situation at the club.
How has it come to this? Yes, we were missing six of our strongest eleven yesterday, but the threadbare nature of the rest of the squad was clear for all to see months and months ago. Why the relative inaction?
Many of us were in favour of a clear-out this close season, and Wenger to his credit has had one – Clichy, Eboue, Vela, Denilson have gone, Bendtner and Almunia are going. On top of that, in different circumstances, we’ve seen Fabregas and Nasri go. To replace those seven players, we’ve signed one player (Gervinho) with top flight experience – none with Premier League experience. We’ve signed a lot of promising players, and we’ve a few other exciting prospects returning, like Frimpong, but where are the battle-hardened replacements?
Now, to rectify it, Wenger faces three ardous days of negotiating and will have to do the one thing he hates doing above all else – pay over the odds. Do you think Bolton will sell Cahill for less than £17m in light of our defensive travails yesterday? There is only one party in a strong negotiating position and it’s not us.
But there is only so much he can do in such a short period of time. We can all see the positions we are weak in – left-back, centre-back, central midfield, up front. I think we need cover in all four areas (Park Chu-Young would fill one of them). It may be though that we have left it far, far too late.
It’s not just about the personnel though. Nobody can have honestly expected us to win with Jenkinson, Traore, Coquelin all starting. But to then play so openly was asking for a pounding. Even with such callowness in its ranks, a top team should be able to shut the shop and keep the score down. Where was the defensive discipline? Where was the energy? I know we played a crucial match in sultry Udine in midweek – and played well in the second half – but this is the beginning of the season. There should be more in the tank. We were all over the place and Utd could have scored many more. It was a humiliation. Poor Jenkinson was hung, drawn and quartered. That’s no way to break a prospect in. But he wasn’t helped by those around him, or by the way Arsenal had been set up to play.
In the interests of fairness I should also doff my cap to Utd for some of the goals they scored. Too many of them found the top corner. They spotted the holes and exploited them ruthlessly. Ruthlessness – now that’s something we lost the art of some time ago.
These are all problems of Wenger’s making. He now faces three season-defining days to add some steel and experience to the ranks. And after that, he has to find a way to get us back on track, because, remarkably, staggeringly, we still appear to be in the same rut we fell into in February.