Less than 48 hours after Arsenal crashed out of the Champions League to Monaco manager Arsene Wenger spoke out.
Instead of saying how well Monaco had played at the Emirates in the first leg, a match the French team won 3-1, Wenger was more adamant to divert the situation.
He pointed out to the fact that Arsenal had lost on the away goals rule, something that also haunted them as recently as 2012.
In that campaign, Arsenal had exited to Bayern Munich after losing the home leg 3-1, but surprising most with a 2-0 victory in Germany.
The exact same score line had repeated against Monaco, where Arsenal looked impressive in a 2-0 victory, meaning the match had finished 3-3. However of course Arsenal was out of the competition as Monaco had netted three goals in London.
Suddenly Wenger sees the away goals rule as a joke, and wants it disbanded.
The away goals rule goes back to the early 1960’s and was introduced so the away team would approach games in an attacking style, and thus us the viewer would get more excitement from those encounters.
However, it’s also true to point out that the away goal rule was also introduced as a means of merit of scoring on away turf. Stats will tell you again and again that the majority of socceer teams have a poorer record away from home than at home.
Wenger of course has a very decent argument for the away goals rule to be abolished. But it’s his timing which seems critically fatal. He has come across as a man spewing sour grapes.
Would Wenger have mentioned the away goal rule had Arsenal got a third goal, and thus have qualified at the expense of Monaco?
Wenger’s outburst was ill timed and if he cannot appreciate that the opposition just had that little bit more in the tank over two legs, then he is looking at his own club’s performances with blind hope.
Notwithstanding the fact of course that Arsenal at times were superb in scoring two goals against a team who arguably have one of the best defenses in Europe. But Wenger needs to move on.
This stubbornness and the power of Arsenal will no doubt bring up the away goal rule to UEFA’s attentions, but Wenger needs to regroup his side and wonder why they keep on losing first legs at home.
When Arsenal failed yet again to qualify first from their group, they thought they had got lucky drawing Monaco. However in this case it wouldn’t have mattered if they had qualified top of the group. As Borussia Dortmund who pipped the Gunners in the group learned from their 5-1 hammering over two matches to Juventus.
Other teams seem to be learning from their mistakes- and progressing. Juventus being one example, PSG another. However, Arsenal has not threatened to win the Champions League since 2009, when they reached the semi finals only to be thwarted by Manchester United.
Wenger needs to forget that his side went out on the away goals rule. It was a rule in place before the competition started. One wonders though if Wenger can forget, and instead will the away goals loss fester in his mind just like Bayern and just like Valencia from over a decade ago?
The question then is this, is Wenger subconsciously holding a club he dearly loves back?
The answer is emphatically though rather sadly, yes.
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