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Arsenal’s Season Hangs In The Balance After Champions League Mauling

Arsenal’s 4-0 loss at the San Siro on Wednesday could have implications far beyond just elimination from the Champions League. In fact, the heavy defeat and disappointing performance could be the force that reduces Arsenal’s season to ash.

Before the match against AC Milan, Arsene Wenger made an excellent point. He said, “You could say that the crisis at the moment in England is a bit like fire. It moves very quickly from one club to another. It’s like a fire with strong wind so you have to be a bit cautious because it can quickly come back. The wind can blow it quickly back.

“This is the important time for us. Before the week started, I said that this week would be vital for us. We have to show now [that we can capitalize] and not consider too much whether it’s Chelsea or us. It’s down to us to do well and hopefully we will do it.”

The flames of crisis have not yet reached the Emirates Stadium, but the situation is certainly heating up. Last season should provide a perfect example of what the Gunners need to avoid this time around. Last season, Arsene Wenger’s side crashed out of the Carling Cup, Champions League, and FA Cup in quick succession. As a result of those soul-crushing experiences, Arsenal’s league form dropped down to relegation level and they were forced out of the title race. In the end, they settled for fourth place.

Unlike last season, Arsenal is nowhere near the top of the table, so a drop in Premier League form could have a much more devastating effect. The punishments for not qualifying for the Champions are many — loss of revenue, inability to lure top players, and possibly the loss of Robin van Persie.

The next four games are critical for the Gunners. First, they will visit the Stadium of Light for the second time in seven days to play Sunderland in the fifth round of the FA Cup. If Arsenal fail to advance, Gooners will be left without a trophy once again while they continue to pay the highest season ticket prices in Europe. More importantly, the ‘crisis fire’ will start to singe Arsene Wenger’s suit jacket.

After the Sunderland match, Arsenal enter a tough run of fixtures that sees them face Tottenham at home, Liverpool away, and Newcastle at home. In between the Liverpool and Newcastle games, the second leg of the Champions League tie against Milan will take place, but has basically been rendered meaningless at this point. Still, this run of four matches will decide Arsenal’s season.

The doomsday scenario would be for the Gunners to lose all four matches. Considering Arsenal’s propensity to go on long barren stretches, this turn-of-events is not out of the question.

Arsenal have endured two terrible periods so far this season. The first of these came at the beginning of the season, when they took 7 points from a possible 21 in the Premier League. The second barren stretch occurred mostly in the month of January. During that period of time, the Gunners took one point from a possible 12. Another similarly terrible string of results could sink Arsene Wenger’s team for good.

For this reason, it is essential that Arsenal bounce back from their 4-0 embarrassment in Italy. A good opportunity will present itself against Sunderland, a side they defeated 2-1 last Saturday. Arsene Wenger will need to perform damage-control on the confidence of the squad before the FA Cup clash. If not, and the Gunners fall to the Black Cats, the flames could engulf the Emirates Stadium.

On the positive side, Arsenal’s competitors for that top four spot also have their share of problems. Liverpool and Chelsea are embroiled in controversy and drama while Newcastle recently suffered a heavy defeat against Spurs. Taking into account all of the unfortunate happenings around Arsenal this season, finishing in the top four would certainly be a great accomplishment for Arsene Wenger and his team.

The hope is still alive for the Gunners, even after they were crushed by AC Milan in the Champions League. But the fire needs to be quickly put out before it spreads.

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  1. Malcolm

    February 17, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I still think Arsenal will get 4th spot because Chelsea and Liverpool have their own problems. I’m just afraid that it might empower Wenger even more to stick with his policies. In any other season Arsenal would finish no better than 6th with the way they have played.

    Unless Arsenal change things drastically over the summer by selling underperforming players and bringing in quality players the long term future may be in jeopardy.

  2. FCAsheville

    February 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned is Arsenal’s wage policy. They simply won’t pay as much as other squads. Even the most loyal athletes understandably will have trouble saying No to a 50-100% raise w/ a transfer. Even the longest football careers are short spans of time that fly by quickly. There’s no shame in making as much as you can, when you can. The clubs quickly forget about players when their talent is gone!

  3. Gargoyle

    February 17, 2012 at 5:37 am

    Bafflingly awful performance by Aresenal. Milan isn’t even a particularly good side. Why Wenger keeps playing Rosicky is one of the world’s great mysteries.

    • Nonsense

      February 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      “Milan isn’t even a particularly good side” – really? I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one. I’d take their squad over Arsenal’s any day of the week this season.

  4. Sacto Blues

    February 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    As a chelsea supporter I don’t see this as a end to Arsenal competing for titles or Cups but a end to the post ” invincibles ” where they felt that with Fabregas to build around they would keep winning things. Arsenal does have some young talent coming up such as Oxlade and Wilshire that they will build around.

  5. FCAsheville

    February 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    I don’t think anything happened to Walcott…he just peaked EARLY. He’ll probably get no better or worse for a long time. Still a solid player, but he should be getting better every year and he’s not.

    • Todd

      February 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Hence the name of his new best-selling book “Growing Up Fast.” That can be interpreted on multiple fronts, LOL. OX seems to have what Walcott did, only with more heart. Theo has an ego a mile long.

  6. scrumper

    February 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    What the hell has happened to Walcott? One of the brightest young talents to emerge from English football a couple of years ago. Wonderful ball control and dazzling speed, yet now we only catch the odd glimpse. Something is definitely wrong there.

    Arsenal has no belief and no backbone. Somehow they need to find the Adams/Keown mentality.

    • Gargoyle

      February 17, 2012 at 5:38 am

      Why is is that Walcott always seems to get the bulk of the criticism when the team loses? They were all sh*te.

      • The Gaffer

        February 17, 2012 at 7:53 am

        I think it’s because of two reasons. One, we know he can do better. And two, because Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deserves to be playing if Walcott isn’t on form. Keeping Walcott on the pitch when he’s having a poor game doesn’t make sense.

        The Gaffer

    • nicc

      February 17, 2012 at 8:18 am

      huh? ball control has never been one of Walcotts strengths…

  7. robert

    February 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    need to spend some money for some experience, and for the love of all that is holy, start the ox every flippin’ game. he was the only one who looked hungry and unafraid last night. too little, too late.

  8. FCAsheville

    February 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    If you watch closely, somewhere in the next 6 games you’ll see the exact point when Wenger’s soul is crushed!

    Surely, RvP has his real estate agent on speed dial!

  9. Nonsense

    February 16, 2012 at 11:43 am

    RVP will be gone come summer and Arsenal aren’t on AC Milan’s level.

  10. Todd

    February 16, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Not much new to say that hasn’t already been stated or isn’t blindingly obvious. Changes need to be made though, because last night was absolutely terrible in every conceivable way. Gary is right about the league though, it’s not entirely all doom and gloom just yet. We’re still in the best position to finish 4th. That said, personnel changes MUST be made in the off-season, yet we’ve been saying that for years, to no avail. If you’re a Gunner fan, you’re likely going grey!

  11. Gary

    February 16, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Things will get even worse for Arsenal if they lose to Sunderland in the FA Cup this weekend. They may still get into the Champions League next season because both Chelsea and Liverpool are struggling and if Arsenal can get some good results in the league they may make 4th. This season it’s possible to be average and get that 4th spot. Chelsea are still trying to come to grips with their new manager’s ways and Liverpool are rubbish given all the money they spent on mediocrity.

    If Arsenal don’t make 4th I think Wenger will be gone. Either way Arsenal are going to have to improve dramatically next season by bringing in better players.

  12. RVPFan

    February 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Hope is not alive. It took a U-turn and went over the horizon and far far away, couple of years ago for the Arsenal. Hope is the only reason that Arsenal fan have supported Wenger over his failed youth policy for far too long. It hasn’t paid off, in fact, paying off is a far away thing, he sold them when they were in their prime to make profit. Now we find out that Arsene is “required” to make at least 20 million profit each year. Which punk made such a requirement is beyond me.

    This team is in shambles. The demolition of Milan yesterday was just a cherry on the top. It began some years ago when he sold tried and tested for a bunch of amateurs who had zero experience for a top club with title aspirations like Arsenal. Where is the blending of youth and experience? Nope, he just woke up one day and thought better of it and began his ridiculous adventure. Anywhere in Real/Barca or any other top clubs in Europe, and he would have got the boot way earlier. Arsenal fan’s patience and good work he did during his tenure pulled him till now, but now this is enough. I can’t wait to see the Arsenal I love fall down the pecking order like a house of cards.

    Goals of RVP have clogged some holes this season, but without him next year, we are basically in a downfall that we won’t be able to stop. Top 4 is not so straight forward now, there are at least 6 teams now and every match is becoming harder and harder. Every game is a must win these days in EPL and what we have in our hands are dead woods with absolutely no backbone and heart to wear that Gunner badge.

    • Jack Tomczuk

      February 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      It’s a bit too early for doom and gloom. I agree that the Premier League is much more competitive now than it was when Arsenal were winning titles. That said, the other clubs chasing that top four spot (well, fourth really) haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently. Chelsea are on the brink of total collapse, while Liverpool are really struggling in the league, and Newcastle were recently hammered by Spurs, etc.

      I think the problem is that when Arsenal are poor, they are just extremely bad. Right from the start of the Milan match, you could tell the Gunners weren’t in it. Arsene Wenger said it himself after the game.

  13. Jason

    February 16, 2012 at 8:04 am

    While it is appropriate in general, for the purposes of this article the word “gooner” probably shouldn’t be used in th 6th paragraph. 🙂 Can’t say I disagree though.

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