Arsenal FC lost the game at the Emirates today, 2-1 to Manchester United. Let me rephrase that – Arsenal FC handed the game to Manchester United just when their ascendancy was in evidence. Let me rephrase again – Arsene Wenger gave away the game to Manchester United at the Emirates with the most enexplicable, stupid, indefensible substitution we will see in all of football for the rest of this season, possibly for the foreseeable future.
Oxlade Chamberlain was giving Manchester United the fits. He was terrorizing the midfield, the front and he was defending brilliantly. He was creating chances. He had just created a goal. He had just followed up the goal chance with another very close one. He was the brightest spot for Arsenal all day. Then, as if he was on the Manchester United payroll, as if he had been paid to fix the game for a Man U win, as if he was mad, as if he lost his mind, Arsene Wenger decided to substitude the Ox. And he replaced him with Andrei Arshavin. Andrei Arshavin for goodness sake!!!! It was a stunner. Van Persie couldn’t help himself, crying Noooo! The crowd booed. Because they all knew. The game was over. Arsenal would be lucky to take a point. And in the next play, as surely as if he was following instructions to do so, Arshavin gave away the 2nd goal, and the game.
It is difficult to imagine a more defining moment for a manager. Wenger managed with a single move, to alleniate the entire Arsenal fandom and it seemed to me, his team – or at least his captain. Over the years, and particularly at the beginning of this season, Wenger’s defenders seemed mostly right when they defended him against accusations of cluelessness and of having lost touch. But in one moment of monumental mental lapse and a perhaps blind adherence to process, he showed why he could no longer be trusted to steer the club to victory. Arsene was demonstrably, clearly, indisputably out of touch with his team in one of their biggest games of the season, in one of the most defining moment for the team for the season.
This was not the first time he had done it. Against Man City in the League Cup, just when Arsenal were about to impose their will, Wenger again made a similar substitution of the Ox. In the league game against Fulham, he made a similarly strange substitution, inexplicably taking off Gervinho and Walcott to replace them with Arshavin and Chamackh as if there had been any evidence in the last year or so to suggest anything other than a degradation of quality with such a move. It is as if he does not know his players anymore. And maybe he does not. How else do you explain why they have not signed a fullback?
His actions today could and probably will have far reaching consequences for the club. It could mean Arsenal does not finish in the top four. If Arsenal does not finish in the top 4, they will not make the Championship League. This in turn could mean that Arsenal might lose Robin Van Persie and maybe Theo Walcott. Arsenal would lose over 20 million Euros in revenue. It would most likely mean that world class transfer targets like Podolski and others plying their trade in other European leagues would shun Arsenal. And all this because Wenger wanted to give a few minutes to a now spent and useless Arshavin? Surely Arsenal FC deserved and deserves better.