Swansea 2 Arsenal 1.One wonders what it will take for the Arsenal faithful to finally rise up and demand the dismissal of Arsene Wenger, this manager who in the last decade has mastered the art of mediocrity. Four days after the Gunners capitulated against Anderlecht, they were once again gifting goals to the opposition:
this time to Swansea, whose 2-1 victory at the Liberty Stadium lifts them over Arsenal into fifth position. And to think that Wenger spent more than £50m in the summer supposedly strengthening his squad.
The truth, which many Arsenal fans refuse to accept, is that Wenger can buy as many players as he wants in the transfer market but it won’t make any difference. The club’s problems don’t rest with the squad, but with the manager, a man who is past his prime, and yet lashes out at anyone prepared to challenge his authority. The latest man to feel the Frenchman’s fury was Paul Merson, once an Arsenal midfielder and now a plain-talking television pundit.
Merson’s crime was to describe Arsenal as “tactically clueless” for the way they threw away a 3-0 goal lead against Anderlecht in allowing the Belgians to score three goals in the final 29 minutes of their Champions League clash. Few who saw the game could argue with Merson’s assessment – except Wenger. “I’m not interested in Paul Merson,” sneered Wenger on Saturday, adding that his former charge was a “joke”.
Alas, the only joke about Arsenal these days is their defence, as Swansea discovered on Sunday when they recovered from going a goal down on 63 minutes to snatch two of their own in the final quarter. Alexis Sanchez – almost the only Gunner these days who plays with any pride in the shirt – scored his sixth league goal in four games after a sluggish first-half in which the visitors registered just one shot at goal.
But any hopes Arsenal had of sneaking a win were dashed when Gylfi Sigurdsson thundered home a free-kick on 75 minutes to level the scores. Three minutes later Jefferson Montero skinned Calum Chambers – not for the first time – out the left and his ball was met by Bafetimbi Gomis, who outmuscled Nacho Monreal in the air to head past the statuesque Wojciech Szczesny.
The result leaves Arsenal in sixth place, with just 17 points from 11 games. Or, put another way, 12 points behind Chelsea just a third of the way into the season. It’s the same old story for the north London club, and it will continue to be so as long as Wenger remains at the helm. Eighteen years ago when he arrived at the club he was a revolutionary; now he’s just a pensioner raging against the dying of the light.
“It’s disappointing to throw a game away like we did,” said Wenger. “Football is down to performances. We are here to produce performances, and didn’t do that right until the end of the game.”
In truth Arsenal have produced only one clinical performance the entire season, the 4-1 thrashing of a poor Galatasaray in the Champions League. Other than that it’s been a series of draws, late wins or abject defeats.