Arsenal hope clear-the-air talks will help salvage their Premier League campaign ahead of crucial Manchester City encounter
Gunners can bounce back from Saturday's 6-0 drubbing to Chelsea with a good result against Swansea on Tuesday as they seek any kind of momentum ahead of City's visit this weekend
Monday 24 March 2014
Arsene Wenger is hoping that clear-the-air talks with his Arsenal players will resurrect their season in the hope that he can trigger a response before the hugely important visit of Manchester City this weekend, with an immediate chance of redemption coming when Swansea come to the Emirates on Tuesday.
The Gunners’ squad arrived at their London Colney training base on Sunday following the 6-0 dismantling at the hands of Chelsea that saw Wenger’s 1,000th match in charge end in what he described as the worst day of his career.
There are worries within the Arsenal support that the side have already lost the matches against the Premier League’s best before a ball has even been kicked. Since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Arsenal have won just five of the 23 matches in which they’ve faced on of Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City, and with Saturday’s heavy defeat adding to recent drubbings this season – the 5-1 loss to Liverpool and 6-3 defeat to City are still fresh in the mind – fans are becoming restless with the ever-so-familiar way the season is panning out.
The rather concerning points is that all three heavy defeats this season have come in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off, with defender Per Mertesacker admitting that something is wrong with the squad when they get the weekend’s action underway. He even joked that they should ask the Football Association for their future matches not to be scheduled at such a time.
Wenger chose not to attend the post-match press conference and the club later cancelled Monday’s scheduled press conference amid rumours that the remainder of the season could determine Wenger’s own future at the club he joined back in 1996.
The 64-year-old Frenchman did speak to a selection of reporters upon his exit from Stamford Bridge, where he admitted that the players had “to think deeply about [the loss] because it is not the first time” they have succumbed in such a toothless fashion.
Arsenal need a win over Swansea to generate any sort of momentum before their Premier League-deciding encounter with City, where defeat would unquestionably eliminate them from the title race and suddenly put them in a precarious position in the battle for fourth position, after both Everton and Tottenham picked up narrow victories this weekend.
Should the Gunners suffer a second heavy defeat to City this season, morale would be rock-bottom heading into their FA Cup semi-final against Wigan on April 12, and even though the north London outfit are overwhelming favourites for their first piece of silverware since winning the same trophy in 2005, a cup slip-up would not be out of the question.
Captain Thomas Vermaelen was quick to stress that Arsenal are far from done in the league, and given the fierce competition the English top flight provides, their rivals could quickly suffer a number of defeats to put the Gunners back in contention.
“I don't think our chances are over," said Vermaelen. “There are still a few games to play and, in England, you can do anything. I've learned that. You can easily come back even from behind. The teams are all so strong that anyone can beat anyone, so we must continue to believe in it and move on.”
The Belgian is likely to start on Tuesday after Laurent Koscielny was forced off at half-time in the Chelsea defeat, but Wenger remains hopeful that he will be able to call upon both Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain following the red card shambles at the hands of referee Andre Marriner.
The England winger was seen to deliberately handball Eden Hazard’s first-half effort, but after awarding a penalty to the Blues, Marriner mistakenly dismissed Gibbs even though Oxlade-Chamberlain admitted his guilt.
Clubs can appeal a wrongful dismissal, although the FA can also review a straight red card, and while the one-match suspension can be redistributed to the right perpetrator, the Gunners are adamant that Oxlade-Chamberlain should not have been red carded as the shot looked to be going wide of the right-hand post.
Marriner has since apologised to the Gunners and admitted it was a genuine mistake, and the 43-year-old is said to be “devastated” with the incident. He is set to discover whether he has been dropped from Premier League duty later today.
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