Following the match against Bayern Munich, Arsene Wenger was in reflective mood after another Champions League disappointment. It is a cliche now that, having been in charge of the side at the Emirates for two decades, we are used to hearing the same excuses and reasons for hope from Wenger many times a season. It is no wonder that fans are starting to get sick of the failures in Europe, and the tactical mistakes that are repeated.
Wenger was surprised at the character showed by his players.
“We were a littlle bit disappointed to go behind to another early goal in Europe. I had believed before the match that there was plenty of mental strength in the side that I had chosen, but in the end it seems that they were not quite ready for such an important game.”
Pressed further, Wenger said that he believed that the problem was defensive naivety from some of his players.
“Unfortunately, Gabriel and Hector Bellerin do not yet have much Champions League experience, but they are both young, technically excellent players, so they will learn from the match and hopefully this will not happen again.”
Wenger did have praise for Olivier Giroud, who unfortunately missed one chance from six yards, another five yards out, and unfortunately crashed one shot against the post that looked set to run over the goalline of its own accord.
“Giroud has nothing to prove to me, you or the fans. His team mates trust him to score goals, and he has scored many important goals this season already. He was a little bit unlucky not to score from some of the chances that he had to day, but it is a testament to his confidence that he kept going. I believe that next week he will put himself in the same positions again and every week after that. That’s the kind of player he is.”
The manager was strong in the face of several questions asking about the boos from the Arsenal crowd at 15 minutes, and the boos that followed at half time, throughout the second half and at full time.
“Of course, they are entitled to their opinion. They have given the club plenty of support since my time here, and I understand that they are frustrated not being able to see their side win today. But I feel that your questions about this are about the blame culture that we now have in Britain. There always has to be something wrong for your to criticise and for you to write about. I think that you are spending too much time focusing on the negatives of Arsenal and not enough about the promise of the team.”
So, he was asked, did he think that improvements would come quickly enough to turn over a 4-0 deficit, and to deal with the suspensions of Laurent Koscielny, who was sent off after tripping over a broomstick in the middle of the pitch and stumbling into Thomas Muller as the last defender.
“Maybe, you can never rule anything out. We have Rob Holding who we can use, or perhaps we can put Nacho Monreal at central defence, where he is also world class as much as he is at left-back.”
As well as problems with the defence, Wenger was also questioned about Mesut Ozil’s peformance, when he was again quiet in another major game for Arsenal.
“Yes, I expected this question and so I had a look at the stats. He might have made only three passes in the match, but two of those looked set to be excellent pre-pre-pre-assists, and I thought this was one of Mesut’s best games without the ball. Sometimes we are unfair in that we expect too much from our most famous players – I believe this is a team game, as I say to my team before each match. We cannot expect Mesut and Alexis Sanchez to be the whole team anymore.”
Wenger was visibly annoyed by questions concerning Ozil and Sanchez and the likelihood that they would stay at the club as it looked clear that they would again fail in the Premier League, and now faced an uphill battle in staying in Europe. Without an away goal and needing at least four goals in the return leg, Wenger struck a defiant note.
“People worried when we lost Cesc, or Van Persie, or Thierry, but we are still here. I am still here. I think that we are making good offers to Alexis and Mesut and that we wish for them to stay and have their success here. I think we have offered them good money, perhaps not as much as they might get in China, but more than we have ever offered another player. Yes, it might be a pay cut if you take into account inflation, but the bonuses of subsidised London travel and free food at the training ground make this an excellent offer. We hope they will stay.”