Gunners midfielder Jack Wilshere has leaped to the defence of Arsene Wenger, insisting it is the team that is to blame for their recent slump not the managers.
Arsenal were sufficiently beaten by Bayern Munich in tonight’s Champions League round of 16 first leg in front of a livid Emirates crowd that booed their side at both half time and the final whistle.
Calls for Wenger’s head have been increasing recently, especially after the 1-0 FA Cup exit at the hands of Blackburn on the weekend and now an almost certain elimination from the Champions League. It has been the Frenchman’s worst season in charge and they will struggle to break back into the top four of the Premier League, however his prodigy Wilshere who was outstanding against the Bundesliga outfit, believes it is down to the players not performing on the field rather than Wenger.
Wilshere told ITV :
I don’t think this is anything to do with the manager. He puts us on the pitch – it’s up to us to perform and do the best we can every week.
He can motivate us, and it is up to us to do the best we can on the pitch.
The players will take responsibility. We are man enough to take it, but the boss has been here for 16 years and he has done a great job. I don’t think you can question him. We move on to the weekend and have to try and take it from there.
[On Arsenal's notorious slow start to a match] I don’t know why we had a slow start again. Maybe it was a bit of nerves, a bit of anxiety – I don’t know. We show what we can do when we play, so we will have to look at it and try and learn from this.
We didn’t start great, and against good teams you get punished. In the second half we stepped it up, got one back and could have got a second goal with [Olivier] Giroud, but their keeper pulled off a good save.
There is always a chance for us at their place. We are not out of this tie. We have the players to do it, but we have to start games better.
Wilshere believes his side are ‘starting badly and paying for it’ which has continually been an issue in the big games recently. The second half performances have always been strong and often controlled by the Gunners, however starting from the get-go is essential to stringing wins together especially in the important, key clashes.
But is Wenger to blame? It is hard to fault him in a game like today, the only selection question mark would have to be the inclusion of Ramsey ahead of Diaby who has proven his aptitude to play a defensive minded box-to-box role, but bar that selection the Gunners had an incredibly talented team on paper. The substitutions were fair, although Podolski should perhaps have stayed on but his fitness is always an issue. Wenger didn’t miss the shot in the second half that went straight at the goalkeeper – Giroud did, Wenger didn’t fail to mark Kroos, Arteta or Wilshere should have.
All of the players selected are established international calibre, it seems the teams mentality is to question. The slow start needs to be rectified ASAP and defensively they seem to switch off at vital times and failed to help one another out. For the second goal who has flying in, throwing their body in the way to prevent Bayern slotting home among the goal mouth scramble? At least two players threw themselves at Mertesacker when he was staring in on goal in the goal in a similar situation. The defence requires more hunger, and confidence is certainly on the low at present.
Is there still a chance for Arsenal to progress? Very, very unlikely, it will take literally the best performance of the season times five to notch the German leaders at home, but football is football and anything can happen..As for the Wenger out calls, I’m not really on the bandwagon but I cannot deny there is one hell of a case developing against the Frenchman.