Arsene Wenger’s post-match interview with BBC Sport’s Jacqui Oatley following Arsenal‘s 2-2 draw with Hull City in the Premier League over the weekend made for pretty awkward viewing. The reporter’s hard, probing questioning was a refreshing change to the usual interviewing formula of briefly asking the manager how the game went, evaluating the performance of a goalscorer or star player, and occasionally discussing any controversial decisions that may have occurred during the match, yet Wenger’s barbed, brusque responses were inappropriate given that Oatley was merely doing her job as she saw fit.
The Match of the Day commentator may simply have caught the Frenchman on a bad day, and a bad day it was for the Gunners, with Danny Welbeck having to rescue a point in stoppage time. Arsenal have now won only twice this season and are already 11 points off league leaders Chelsea, and despite the fact that the North London side are well known for their slow starts, Wenger’s cantankerous conduct with the press in the bowels of the Emirates Stadium may be a sign that he is finding it particularly difficult to cope with the demands and expectations of the current campaign.
After winning the FA Cup in May – their first piece of silverware in nine years – there was a firm hope among Arsenal’s fan base that this year would mark the mounting of a genuine title challenge after a number of seasons of being off the pace. Nevertheless, Wenger’s reluctant admission to Oatley that it is his team’s defensive shortcomings that are to blame for Arsenal’s record of two wins in eight implies that the Gunners have failed to adequately strengthen their backline, and with infuriating inactivity in the transfer market being a recurring criticism of Wenger, one can see why he may have found it uncomfortable to face the truth in front of the cameras.
Indeed, when Oatley dared to voice the genuine concerns of many Arsenal fans as to why the club refused to sign a centre half or a defensive midfielder in the summer, Wenger adopted a prickly tone, curtly and confusingly saying that the problem against Hull wasn’t the defence despite his admission to the contrary just moments before.
The maths just don’t add up for Wenger. Offloading four defenders over the summer (Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Carl Jenkinson and Ignasi Miquel) and bringing in two replacements (Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy) has left Arsenal with a backline deficit of two compared to last season. Debuchy already faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury, and the Gunners are clearly struggling with a lack of defensive cover with Chambers’ recent suspension and Spanish full-back Nacho Monreal also crocked.
All of which points to a glaring oversight on Wenger’s behalf in not adequately reinforcing his defence during the transfer window. The Frenchman has since promised Arsenal fans that he will be delving into the market in January, but if the Gunners continue to slip up in the league until then, any purchases may ultimately be futile.
Winning the league already looks to be beyond Arsenal this season, which will not not please their fans. If Wenger had only taken care of his defence earlier, he might not be feeling quite so hot under the collar, and we might have all been spared his petulant behaviour on Saturday.