Arsene Wenger has shown misplaced complacency in recent weeks which threatens to ruin Arsenal’s season.
Thursday’s 2-1 defeat to Ostersunds FK was a case in point, even if The Gunners won the Europa League last-32 tie 4-2 on aggregate. We merely scraped through a second leg that was billed as almost a training ground exercise that served as a pre-amble to the week’s main event: Sunday’s League Cup Final with Manchester City.
Although fans had a right to buy into that lax narrative, Wenger did not. However, he picked a team largely of youngsters and squad players: Danny Welbeck is out-of-form after injuries, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is still learning the game while Sead Kolasinac’s fitness issues makes him suspect defensively. Centre-back Calum Chambers has looked error prone lately while partner Rob Holding has struggled to re-kindle his 2016-17 form.
That side’s failure to control proceedings was evident from the early stages. Midway through the first half, Hosam Aiesh and Ken Sema netted a quickfire double-salvo for the Swedish visitors, with Saman Ghoddos being their creative chief. Graham Potter’s side deserve immense credit for their second leg victory – the margin of which halved by Kolasinac’s strike – but they were helped by our shortcomings.
A dip in performance levels in the Europa League is inexcusable, because with an eight point gap to the domestic top four, the competition is our only way of qualifying for the Champions League.
And yet, many players don’t know what it means to play for this great club and Wenger is wrong to condone this. He doesn’t hold players responsible for bad games, meaning that most players feel that even without playing optimally, their place is not under threat.
The manager signed a two-year contract back in May after a 2-1 FA Cup Final win over Chelsea, but is under increasing pressure with the club reportedly making plans for a replacement.
Wenger will remain an Arsenal legend for all he has achieved for the club, but the complacent mentality he has created can only be eradicated when he goes.