Perhaps the nadir for Arsene Wenger…
“It ended, as it so often does these days, with the noise that is threatening to become the soundtrack to Arsenal’s season.
“This time at least it was not as vitriolic as on other occasions and amid the boos there was even a smattering of sympathetic applause but it was scant consolation.
“The bottom line, ultimately, is that no team can defend this generously and expect it to lead them to ticker-tape and open-top bus parades,” so said the Guardian of Arsenal’s humiliating defeat.
But surprisingly, it wasn’t talking about their latest embarrassment against AS Monaco, it was a piece from two years ago. A game against Bayern Munich, where the Gunners were just as naïve, just as lackadaisical and in the end just as humiliated at the end of the 90 minutes.
As it was during that night against the Germans, Arsenal were once again savaged in the Champions League last 16 but this time by a Ligue 1 side. One who managed just four goals in six group games and miraculously scraped through to the knockout rounds despite being more than second best for the majority of the first round of the competition.
A side they were expected to defeat.
What was supposed to be the stepping stone to a first quarterfinal in Europe for six years quickly turned into what could be Arsene Wenger’s nadir. But, what’s so startling is that it’s hardly surprising given how often the Gunners like to shoot themselves in the foot and speak to any Arsenal fans this morning and shock won’t be the first thing that comes to mind.
Why? Because we’ve seen this so many times before. Heck, even look back on their damning European defeats of the recent past and they all follow the same pattern. AC Milan, Bayern Munich, PSV all embarrassing collapses, all suffering from the same childish defending, all seeing Arsenal succumb to that same counter-attacking goal.
Not to mention their almost like-for-like collapses against Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool et al that have all occurred so far this season.
But perhaps what might be even more damning is that these atrocities were all committed by different Wenger teams. Completely revamped sides with entirely different personnel are still committing the same mistakes as teams ten years previous.
Arsene can be as poetic as he likes in defeat, giving wonderfully erudite quotes to express his dismay at another damaging blow to his legacy but they count for nought if he then doesn’t even attempt to change the way his side are set out or collectively defend.
Arsenal fans would rather their manager say nothing than espouse wisdom where he explains exactly why his side suffered again from lacklustre defending or overcommitting men forward, or are always getting caught on the break but then he do nothing to rectify these problems in training.
What might be most galling is that Monaco’s game-plan was entirely predictable.
This is a side who conceded the fewest goals in the group stage, that managed wins over Bayer Leverkusen and Zenit St. Petersburg playing the exact same way; compact at the back, drop the midfield deep, wait for a mistake and hit their opponents on the break.
Arsenal knew this. They knew about this since December, this isn’t some freak FA Cup loss to a League Two side who surprised the Gunners with their unknowable tactics, this was a performance straight from the Monaco handbook, it was play-by-play, it’s what they do on a weekly basis.
And Arsenal still fell for it.
The overall feeling to come out of this match is just one of tiredness and exhausting. Tired that no matter how many false dawns there are, Arsenal will still contrive to find a way to screw it up.
The exhaustion of getting your hopes up and believing that finally Arsenal have learnt their lessons to be almost immediately dashed.
Last night perhaps was the moment that Arsenal fans lost trust in Arsene Wenger.
And whilst you can claim it wasn’t entirely his doing, with Giroud and Walcott inexplicably missing even the most basic of chances, that Arsenal fell for the same tricks once again showed how far away the club are from genuine, table-topping success.
Even the most ludicrous of screw-ups are now morbidly anticipated at the Emirates. And Wenger needs to buck-up, get help or go before he mortally tarnishes his Arsenal legacy.