Arsenal succumbs to humiliating 5-1 defeat at Bayern Munich
Club poised to exit Champions League at last 16 stage again
Pressure mounting on manager Arsene Wenger
Even in the litany of recent Arsenal disappointments, this felt like Arsene Wenger’s nadir.
The English Premier League side was crushed 5-1 by Bayern Munich and now faces the prospect of exiting the Champions League at the last 16 stage for the seventh season in a row.
Germany’s champions are fast becoming Wenger’s nemesis. Bayern humiliated Wenger in the group stages of Europe’s top club competition by the same scoreline last year too.
The Frenchman is now facing renewed pressure to call time on his 21-year tenure at the London club after winning just two major trophies in the last 11 seasons.
“The real problem we faced was after the third goal, because we lost our organization and we looked mentally very jaded,” Wenger told reporters after his latest chastening European defeat in which Arsenal enjoyed just 25% possession.
“From that moment on, the last 25 minutes were a nightmare for us because we looked like we had no response.”
Arsenal had started well and went into halftime level at 1-1 after Chilean star Alexis Sanchez had canceled out Dutch international Arjen Robben’s superb 11th minute strike.
But after defender Laurent Koscielny went off with an injury, Carlo Ancelotti’s side struck three times in 10 minutes, striker Robert Lewandowski heading home before Thiago Alcantara scored twice.
After Germany striker Thomas Muller added a late fifth, several former Arsenal players spoke of their embarrassment and fans had renewed their calls for Wenger to quit.
Ian Wright, who played under Wenger for two years at Arsenal wrote “We are a ******g shambles” on Twitter and Gary Lineker, former England and Barcelona star, agreed: “Arsenal have completely disintegrated. An utter shambles,” he wrote.
Martin Keown, who won three Premier League titles under Wenger, said this was his former manager’s “lowest point” while Roy Keane, a former Manchester United captain, called all but two of Arsenal’s players “average.”
Mounting pressure on Wenger
Wenger was barely known in England when he arrived in 1996 but he soon stamped his mark on the Premier League.
He won his first league title in 1998, repeated the feat in 2002 and then two years later became the first manager in Premier League history to navigate his side through an entire season unbeaten – earning it the ‘Invincibles’ tag.
But after winning England’s premier cup competition – the FA Cup – for the fifth time in 2005, Wenger then went eight years without a trophy. A string of near misses in the Premier League were coupled with regular failures in the Champions League, with just one semifinal appearance in the last nine years.
FA Cup triumphs in 2014 and 2015 helped to stifle the criticism temporarily. But after Arsenal were beaten to the 2015-16 title by Leicester City the boos returned and became more vociferous.
Wenger has been offered an extension to his current deal but is yet to sign it and might now leave a decision on his future until the end of the season.
Yet with Arsenal languishing 10 points off the Premier League summit, and a miracle needed to get past Bayern in the second leg, the end of an era could be fast approaching.