We’re all angry. We’re all disappointed.
But in which of the twelve levels of hell is last night’s game an exhibit which adds to the fuel to sack the manager?
I’m talking about divorcing the game from how you already felt about Wenger, and examining it on its own merits.
If you accept that the tie was over barring a miracle, there was little to be gained from the game. It was about turning in a professional performance, recovering a little bit of pride and respect, and ideally providing a catalyst for an improved run of form
Arsenal played very well. We were by far the better side. We scored one goal, and missed a number of other good chances. We had a stonewall penalty turned down.
We were never likely to win the tie, but we were turning in a performance to be proud of. A performance which could start some momentum for the rest of the season.
The game was turned by one sequence of events, which were completely out of our control.
The linesman fails to flag offside. Lewandowski pushes Koscielny and falls to the floor – a blatant dive. The referee buys it (or perhaps sells out, if you’re that way inclined) and gives a penalty.
The irrelevant, incompetent official behind the goal, the same one who failed to give a blatant penalty for Arsenal in the first half, then convinces the ref to send off the Arsenal captain IN DIRECT CONTRAVENTION of the laws of the game.
Arsenal then play a central midfielder at centre back and try to chase goals against one of the best passing sides in the world.
Back to reality
I mean, yes, in an ideal world we would continue to offer a threat without opening up at the back. But that’s not realistic. If we show any ambition to score a goal, it will leave spaces because we are a man down against a great passing side. Would people prefer us to sit back and just try not to concede another goal?
I struggle to understand exactly what we should have done differently in this specific game.
What game plan should be have adopted at 1-1 with 10 men that would have resulted in a better outcome?”
Yes, our players gave up towards the end.
Yes, they did that in the first leg too.
It’s disappointing to fold when you are losing 8-2 on aggregate, with 10 men, no possibility of going through, and caught between chasing a goal to give the supporters something to shout about versus getting caught for another.
But that’s completely different to giving up at 2-1 down, with 11 men and a second leg at home to come.
The first leg was inexcusable and indefensible. Players, manager and staff all come under deserved scrutiny for that disgrace.
The second leg was like being sneakily KO’d from behind between rounds, then kicked repeatedly while you’re down.
Cause and effect
I don’t like that the players’ heads went down, but I fully understand why they did in the context. And I am disgusted that the way the game went is being used in some corners to add to the vitriol aimed at the manager.
If you want him gone, fine. If you don’t want him gone, equally fine. But I’m fed up of reading nonsense about how this result is the absolute nadir of the club under Wenger.
The root cause of this result had nothing to do with managerial failings and everything to do with refereeing farce.
I am proud of the players for the way they played for the first 60 minutes, until we were hamstrung.
You can argue you have to do it for 90 minutes if you like, that you have to play to the referee, but this referee made a catalogue of errors that weren’t even matters of interpretation, they were downright incorrect.
That the rest of the game unfolded as it did was a direct consequence of his mistakes. Some things you just cannot legislate for, prepare for.
This result could and should have been a springboard to finish the season strongly. Instead it seems to be providing added ammunition for those who want Wenger gone.
Fans of rival clubs and pundits with chips on their shoulders will enjoy kicking us while we’re down. The battle lines might be drawn, but this is one game where we can stand together. This is one game that had nothing to do with managerial issues.
We don’t need to take a game out of context and use it as a stick to beat Wenger with. The truth is – there’s plenty enough live ammunition from previous games.
There’s no need to fire Bayern blanks in his direction too.