Things haven’t exactly been going Arsenal’s way of late. Disappointing results in the league, getting knocked out of the FA Cup by Leicester, and two goals behind in tonight’s second leg match against FC Barcelona. Surely Arsenal seem to need nothing short of a miracle if they are to progress to the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Champions League.
A part of the Arsenal fans have voiced their discontent and these noises are getting louder. So loud that Arsene Wenger felt he had to reply to these allegiations himself. Although he did not directly reply to these fan reactions, he has surely defended his position and legacy within the club.
“I have no doubt about my huge motivation. I built the club, and the way I did it was with hard work. I had no external resources.
“If you compare the club when I arrived and how it is today it is moved forward, and without any help from anybody.
“I am more motivated than the day I arrived, and I feel even more the pressure and the responsibility to keep this club moving forward.
“When you’re a long time somewhere you always question your motivation, but I don’t question mine. I don’t question my dedication. It is 100 per cent and I give more time to my club than when I arrived.”
Looking at Arsenal’s game of late it seems to be a combination of bad luck, and a lack of mental strength. Often in games of late when things are not going Arsenal’s way it is either due to bad luck or to simply being unable to mentally turn the game around. The game against Watford was a good example of that. Arsenal were never really in the game until the last five minutes. Ahead of the game most of us were expecting Arsenal to win, but things turned out different. It wasn’t until the last five minutes before we started to play the football we know we can play, but it was too late by then.
Another interesting stat of why Arsenal seem to be underperforming of late is the clinicalness in front of goal. I came across an interesting graph at the 101 Great Goals blog. It compares the actual amount of goals scored versus the expected amount of goals scored, judging by the type of chances created. It shows that Wenger is not really the problem, but the players seem waste an unnecessary amount of chances. According to this model, if Arsenal had been producing an average amount of goals they would be well ahead of Leicester.
Mentally there is a plus to take into consideration as well though, as Barcelona defender Gerard Pique will be sitting out the second leg against The Gunners. The Spaniard picked up a yellow card in the first leg and is now suspended for tonight’s encounter.
How far you can get on mental strength was perfectly shown by Dutch outfit PSV Eindhoven last night in their encounter with Atlético Madrid. Over both legs the Dutch side never gave up and kept fighting. Especially over two legs, nobody would have given a penny for them progressing when they were drawn to Diego Simeone’s side. They came close and forced the game all the way to a penalty-shootout where penalty number fifteen turned out to be decisive. For a team who were expected to suffer heavily at the hands of Atlético in both games, it was a marvellous result. Obviously FC Barcelona are a different kind of opposition and if we end up being knocked out, lets hope we can say the same about our players.
FC Barcelona’s world-class strikers are in a great vein of form and will be hard to keep quiet. Meanwhile the Spanish giants have not lost in their last 37 official games either. Add the fact that Lionel Messi is close to scoring his landmark 500th goal for his club, and you know tonight will be a tough ask. However, if we manage to get a good result tonight it could relieve so much pressure on everyone involved with our beautiful club. If there is a moment to stand up, it will be tonight.
Combining all these things together, I think Arsene Wenger himself is as fired up as he could possibly be, but it’s up to the players to give it their absolute one hundred percent all tonight. Only then, and obviously with a bit of luck, Arsenal might just stand a chance.