Comment: Knockout may be close for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, only his 18 years at the club are clouding an honest judgement

Wenger has this week and next to find a solution before the visit of the equally troubled Manchester United to the Emirates

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The Independent Football

There was something of the fading champion about Arsène Wenger after the collapse at Swansea. It was not so much that he looked every one of his 65 years but that the answers to the problems besetting his team appeared beyond him.

He could not say how the surrender of a winning position for the second time in a week at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday might impact on his players on their return from the international break. He was at a loss to explain how his team of many talents folded in the space of three minutes after taking the lead.

Wenger has been in his post for 18 years. It may be that his attachment to Arsenal and the club’s to him is clouding everybody’s thinking. If none of us is the best judge of our own performance it follows that Wenger must submit to a critical dimension within to keep him honest, but that appears beyond the present regime.

Wenger has this week and next to find a solution before the visit of the equally troubled Manchester United to the Emirates. United’s present difficulties result in part from succession failure. Perhaps a manager can hang around too long.

The goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny spelt out the growing alarm felt by the players at the failure of Arsenal to protect an advantage. The three goals shipped at home to Anderlecht in the Champions League might have been dismissed as an aberration, an anomaly that bites episodically, but not after blowing another winning position five days later.

Arsenal were insipid in the first half at the Liberty, not registering a serious attack until Danny Welbeck forced Lukasz Fabianski into a reaction save in the 44th minute. Two more attempts on the Swansea goal followed in rapid succession, triggering an improvement that resulted in the visitors taking the lead in the second half through Alexis Sanchez.

As Wenger acknowledged, big teams don’t lose from there at places likes Swansea. The lead claimed in the 63rd minute lasted 12 minutes. Three minutes after that, Arsenal were fatally in arrears. “For the majority of the game we looked solid at the back and we looked dangerous,” Szczesny said. “We had a poor five-minute spell and at this level it costs you.

“Until they scored their first we were good. Then after they scored the second goal we looked dangerous again. It’s something that we need to focus on because it’s been two games where short spells lacking discipline and focus have cost us.

“It could’ve gone either way. You can’t just hope that the next one will be different and we’ll get a bit of luck. We need to focus for 90 minutes and do our jobs properly, offensively and defensively. Then things will change.”


The message from the players finds an echo in the critics pointing the finger at Wenger. The issues raised – concentration, defensive organisation, having a plan B – are the starting point for those who claim Wenger’s time is up.

Maybe that old boxing cliché about the punch you don’t see being the one that gets you has application for Wenger.  It is not that old pugs can’t see the killer punch, rather they no longer sense the danger as they once did. Instincts soften with age.

Most great champions fight on too long because they cannot accept their fallibilities or the calls for them to go. They are deaf to all but themselves, and when the end finally comes it is brutal.