Arsenal was dealt a major blow in the knockout phase of the Champions League on Wednesday night, as the Gunners were thoroughly beaten by Monaco 3-1 in London. With the Arsenal team not looking right the entire night, who is to blame for the massive letdown at the Emirates?
Since the loss, there has been an overwhelming amount of responsibility for the defeat on the shoulders of the Gunner manager, Arsene Wenger. While certainly some blame should be placed on Wenger, why is it that every time Arsenal loses a match the Frenchman receives all of the heat? When is it an appropriate time to place the responsibility of a loss on the players?
This certainly is not the first time that Wenger has seen backlash for a defeat this season. Following a 3-2 loss at Stoke City in December, the manager was met by a sickening display from some Arsenal fans as he boarded a train at Stoke-on-Trent.
It is, however, a bit amusing (at least to me) that Wenger has received so much backlash for his tactics against Monaco, yet no one questioned Arsenal’s starting XI when the team was announced via Twitter prior to the match.
Some have even suggested that Wenger mishandled Santi Cazorla’s position during the Monaco match. This assumption is laughable for two reasons. One, the Spaniard played in the same central midfield role next to Francis Coquelin during Arsenal’s big 2-0 victory over Manchester City last month (a game in which Cazorla flourished, scoring one goal and setting up the other), and two, despite the fact that not one Gunner player was outstanding on Wednesday night, Cazorla was arguably their most effective player on the pitch.
The starting XI was not the issue for the Gunners against Monaco. Simply put, the Arsenal players just did not play well. It happens. Forward Olivier Giroud, who came into the match on fire (five goals, three assists, and two Man of the Match awards in his last seven total games), was absolutely abysmal against Monaco.
Giroud had six total shots (including four realistic chances to score inside of the box), yet could not even put one of the shots on target. The French forward was rightfully subbed off after an hour.
Arsenal’s defense was also atrocious during the match, however, the only player out of the back four and goalkeeper to be slightly questioned by fans prior to the match was left-back Kieran Gibbs. The England international ended the match with the most interceptions and clearances of any Arsenal player on the night. Gibbs also received the highest match player rating out of all of his team’s defenders.
Personally, I have never seen a manager in any sport receive as much criticism for a loss than Wenger currently does at Arsenal. Where was the praise for Wenger when they outplayed the defending Premier League champions in January? Or when they triumphed in the FA Cup last season? Or when they outclassed Manchester City during the Community Shield in August? It was the Arsenal players that received all of the credit then.
For a manager that has won three Premier League titles, five FA Cups, and has been named as the Premier League’s Manager of the Season three times, Wenger certainly appears to have his share of doubters. No Wenger is not perfect, but the bottom line is if players can receive all of the recognition for victories, they need to be criticized for losses as well.
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