Down and Out: Wenger On The Brink As Bayern Munich Look To Twist The Knife.

 
on February 19 2013 11:35 AM
As games go, they don't get more important. Not for the troubled Arsene Wenger anyway. Tonight's Champions League tie sees Arsenal come face-to-face with European powerhouse FC Bayern Munich in a game that could decide the fate of the Manager who has brought Arsenal the most successful period in the Clubs history. League Titles, F.A Cup's, Champions League Finals, The Invincible's. All those Memories seem like a distant memory. Saturday's embarrassing home defeat to Blackburn Rovers, the shock of the F.A Cup 5th round, signalled the end of Arsenal's realistic trophy hopes for the Ninth season in a row. A notion that would have been inconceivable when Arsenal, and Wenger, were at the peak of their powers. Wenger bore the brunt of the criticism for Saturday's fiasco. Fielding a weakened side in preparation for tonight's game angered and bemused most fans. With impact players at a premium this year for Arsenal, his decision to leave Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshire out of the starting eleven spoke volumes as to what Wenger's priorities were. This decision would backfire spectacularly. Blackburn rode their luck at times, but Colin Kazim-Richards' 74th minute strike was enough to get an unexpected victory. This was a team was have gone through a traumatic last 2 years and when they played at The Emirates last year they were on the receiving end of a 7-1 hammering. This is a different Arsenal team, missing their talisman Robin Van Persie more and more with each passing game as the disappointing Olivier Giroud continues to struggle. Wenger cut a forlorn figure on the touchline as boos rang round the Emirates at the final whistle. Football is a game where you have a chance to erase the bad memories quickly. The games come thick and fast for the successful clubs. Whilst Arsenal have been disappointing they have made the knockout stages of the Champions League, the perfect opportunity to forget Saturday's nightmare. Bayern Munich are daunting opposition, one of the pre-tournament favourites and last years finalists. They have continued their good form this season. Arsenal will be firm underdogs to make the Quarter-Finals but that might be a good thing for a team that has struggled mightily in pressure situations this season. The strain on Wenger's face spoke a thousand words at yesterday's press conference. It was clear for all to see. He was visibly agitated when asked about Saturday's game. Stating more than once he would refuse to look back and he answered all the questions regarding this game on Saturday. His agitation then turned to anger when he was asked about a rumour in the morning tabloids that the Arsenal board were going to ignore the recent poor form and offer Wenger a new 2 year deal. Wenger denied knowledge of this and launched a tirade on the media sitting in-front of him. This was very out of character, Wenger is normally composed and has a calming persona when giving interviews. A sign of the times perhaps? There's no doubt the pressure is on. The fans that are behind Wenger seem to finally be losing patience with him. They pay good money to watch their team, Arsenal having the most expensive season tickets in the Premier League, and they feel they are entitled to more for their money. Maybe Wenger has caused this problem himself. The high expectations of the fans are a result of the success Wenger has had in previous years. Once fans taste success, they expect it on a regular basis. Wenger is aware of this but things aren't the same at Arsenal anymore. They now appear willing sellers of their best players to other Premier League Clubs and replacing them with inferior talent. Wenger has never been one to spend £40 million on a player. Instead relying on his scouting operations in Europe to unearth talent at minimal cost and develop them in the Wenger style of play. This has proved very successful in the past but with the big European Clubs now spending fortunes on their squads the fans have called on Wenger to do the same. So far, he hasn't. Whether this is his stubborn belief in his methods or there just isn't that sort of money available to him, nobody knows. He has had a different demeanour about him this season. He appears jaded. Has he had enough? He's insisted time and time again that he won't walk away from Arsenal. If he did, would anyone blame him? Football fans are a fickle bunch and many soon forget the success they have enjoyed under Wenger. The phrase 'You don't know what you've got until it's gone' comes to mind when I think of this situation. I doubt Arsenal would be able to attract a world-class Manager of the Mourinho ilk to replace Wenger. So baring that in mind, would the person replacing him be anymore successful in trying to get Arsenal a trophy? I have my doubts. Bayern Munich won't be doing him any favours tonight that's for sure. They are, without question, a truly great club in World football. They have an array of talent all over the pitch. Starting with, in my opinion, is the World's best Goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer. He is an imposing presence and will be tough to beat tonight, having not conceded a goal since December. There team consists of mostly German players which no doubt helps the cohesion and has, in turn, given their National team a huge boost. They have one of the best playmakers in Europe in Bastian Schweinsteiger and a potent front line of Frank Ribery, Thomas Muller and the prolific Mario Mandzukic. They are comfortably top of the German Bundesliga and have identified going one step further in the Champions League as their number one priority this season. So, with their backs against the wall, as they have been for most of the season, it's Munich or bust for Arsenal and their beleaguered manager. Another catastrophe, and that could be that. Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_
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