Arsene Wenger has never excelled in the field of mind games. Whilst always an engaging figure in press conferences, the Frenchman often fails to find the correct tone when attempting to use the bully pulpit in order to exert influence.
It’s for this reason that there was such surprise when Wenger came out on top in his ‘war of words’ with Jose Mourinho earlier in the season. Admittedly, the Chelsea manager did a lot of the legwork for Wenger, but there was a hope among the press that maybe he was starting to ‘get it’.
But it wasn’t quite normal service. Or maybe it’s the new normal. Either way, it seems that Wenger is becoming increasingly bitter in his later years.
While his criticism of Robben’s diving may have been fair, it was just as irrelevant. Although the Dutchman was successful in winning two penalties over the course of the two legs, Bayern missed both and still managed to progress.
However, his suggestion that Bayern were somehow more vulnerable this season was just wrong. Last season Arsenal managed to beat Bayern Munich, and beat them quite well. This time round, the German champions always appeared in control and weren’t behind for any one of the 120 minutes.
If anything, these hollow words only served to highlight the gulf between the two sides. And this gap may be more down to Arsenal’s failings than it is to Bayern’s brilliance.
Arsenal’s weakness up front was comprehensively exposed over the course of two legs. The first tie was about a lack of depth. With Olivier Giroud deemed not fit to start due to personal reasons, Wenger was left to choose between the 21-year-old Yaya Sanogo, who is yet to score for the club, and Nicklas Bendtner. The fact that Wenger opted for Sanogo says all that is needed to be said about Bendtner.
The second game highlighted the lack of quality. While Olivier Giroud recovered to play, it was only to serve a reminder of Arsenal’s failure to sign a better centre-forward in the past two transfer windows.
The Frenchman may have started the season well but, he has only managed three goals in his last eight Premier League games, with two of those coming against Sunderland. Even if his contribution to general play still tends to be good when Arsenal are allowed to dominate possession, against the better sides, Giroud often has little effect if he doesn’t score.
However, what’s perhaps more damning about the second leg is that Arsenal brought a player to Germany who couldn’t actually play. Ryo Miyaichi was included in 18 man panel, despite not being registered in Arsenal’s 25 man party for the Champions League knock-out phases. How such a massive oversight is possible in an organisation as big as Arsenal is baffling.
Still, it’s hard to know what’s worse: that Arsenal brought a player to a game who couldn’t play, or that they striker that they hoped could make an impact of the bench against the current European champions was Ryo Miyaichi.
Either way, it’s clear that Arsene Wenger has his own problems to be concerned about without worrying himself about Pep Guardiola’s. If the Arsenal manager hoped his comments would deflect attention from his side’s deficiencies, he was misguided.
In effect, they only served to highlight Arsenal’s weakness.