Hubris. That’s all it can be labeled.
How many of us saw the “Sparsenal” team Arsene Wenger fielded Sunday versus Stoke, and said to ourselves, “Aw come ON.” I mean, most of us tune in to Arsenal games to watch the beautiful game be beautiful, and looking at the line-up Wenger started, it was instantly obvious that the Gunners were in for a tough match. The Professor had- for some reason unbeknownst to… well… everyone- decided to level the playing field in one fell swoop, and gamble his organization’s FA Cup hopes on a combination of green youth, and two center halves on the downside of their careers. You wouldn’t be far from the truth if you described the scene as Fabregas and Denilson surrounded by strangers. Yes, Wenger has peppered his XI’s before with kids he stubbornly holds faith in after they wobble continuously; and it can be said that for this he is rewarded by young, talented teams that grow together into disciples of his vision. But after a minute into the game, when Fabianski failed to grab a Delap throw and was beaten by a Fuller header you couldn’t help but ask why. Why, in this season where Arsenal are poised to take as many trophies as are available, did Wenger field such a ridiculous squad? There are times when his gambles are appropriate to build the confidence of young players. But in a match where the consequences leave a ghost in the trophy case?! Fans and critics have to be asking, “Why this match?”- a single elimination showdown at a Britannia Stadium known for gritty performances from its denizens? And why to such an outlandish extreme? No Gallas, no Vermaelen, no Almunia, no Clichy, Rosicky, Sagna, Diaby, Arshavin, or Eduardo.
Cesc can only do so much.
And so, after a Denilson equalizer off a free kick, it remained an ugly 1-1 match until the final quarter of the game when Arshavin, Eduardo, and Ramsey were subbed in like the cavalry.
And little good it did, as the defense continued to fall apart and Wenger was rewarded with a 3-1 loss and the FA Cup exit sign.
…and all we’re left wondering is WHY? Wenger’s players have to be furious with him. Gooners have to furious with him. What positives can possibly be taken from a pounding like this in a season so ripe for trophies? Well, maybe some humble pie was just the dish Arsene needed to stay focused through the stretch. I would guess he won’t be pulling another stunt like that for the remainder of the season. You can’t let silverware slide through your fingertips as wantonly as he did Sunday and keep your job in the EPL for long. I don’t care who you are.