Losing is only one part of the equation that has become the norm for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger in recent times, but it’s not just the losing that make him look so out of touch from his club and fans. It’s the things he says after matches about what happened and the future of the team, which seem to be drifting apart from reality after each disappointing result.
There’s no way to come out OK from a League Cup match against a League 2 side. Arsenal usually field a youngster-only team for this competition, which is not something chairmen and fans of teams who are supposedly ambitious like Arsenal are care about. No one can flaunt a league cup title and the Europa League spot it brings with it saying he’s done a good job while hiding a failure in the league. Just look at Kenny Dalglish.
Wenger, for some reason, fielded his strongest lineup, or something very close to it. Maybe to show everyone he’s serious about taking any title possible, thinking this is a fight worth fighting, against a team he was bound to beat anyway. But players aren’t fools, and they have their own levels of energy and complacency. Knowing this isn’t the most important cup in the world, they simply didn’t show up until the very last minute, when Thomas Vermaelen scored an equalizer to send the match into extra time and a penalty kick loss.
You can only come out bad if you field your strongest lineup against such weak opposition in a competition no one cares about. Wenger, despite his course of consistency regarding his replies to the media, has to be a bit shaken up about the poor form this season. This is no longer a team everyone agree that play beautiful football and lose out on points because of a lack of toughness and naivety Arsenal are simply playing slow, predictable and boring many a time, while not really becoming the defensive stoppers the first games of the season might have suggested.
Above all, there are the comments of Wenger after matches. Never taking any responsibility for the situation of the club, but also not saying anything about his players. Simply ignoring they lost to a team three leagues beneath him.
Overall we had many chances. The keeper had a great game and we couldn’t convert our chances. When you go out it’s never good enough at Arsenal. I think we lost on penalties to a team who defended well. I cannot fault the effort we gave for 120 minutes. You have to give credit to Bradford on the night. That’s part of the game. It’s not a lack of quality. We couldn’t convert our chances for different reasons. Overall it was a real cup game. I can’t fault the effort of our team. We’ll get over it. It’s part of our club, it’s what we do.
He cannot fault his team, he cannot fault himself. Everyone is doing fine, but for some reason Arsenal have won only 50% of the possible points in the Premier League and still haven’t found a winger or a striker to make things work on the offensive side of things. A failure? While those things are usually judged and determined at the end of the season, it wouldn’t too much of a risky gamble to say Wenger has another one to put on his resume.