Arsenal’s wait goes on as Schalke shock the Emirates.
For all their flair and ability on the pitch Arsenal remain a team that have not won a trophy since the famous Invincibles season of 2003/2004 and FA cup of 2005.
This seven year drought has long been blamed on manager Wenger’s staunch idealism and with each trophyless season comes renewed grounds for believing the Frenchman has done all he can for the club.
His refusal to buy in more experienced and proven players when money was readily available and his rigid football philosophy has tried the patience of Arsenal fans hungry to see flair become silverware.
These criticisms fell on deaf ears until last season’s transfer window closed with an unusual sight, Wenger splashing out.
Forking out for such experienced players as Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker seemed most un-Wenger like. Was this the start of Arsenal’s new era of realism and results?
Until this week the signs have all said yes. New signings Santi Cazorla and Podolski have been impressive.
The loss of Van Persie in the summer has been overcome well; enough for the team to be touted by many as serious title contenders. But after a shock defeat at Norwich on Saturday the club’s season may now have hit an all-to-familiar brick wall.
Last night’s Champions League defeat against Schalke threatens to be the pivotal moment for the Gunners’ season and the grim atmosphere surrounding this afternoon’s AGM seems even more ominous.
Fans booed Arsenal as they trudged off the pitch, having seen Schalke execute a classic smash and grab in the final 15 minutes of the match. The dangerous Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scoring 76 minutes in before fellow Dutchman Ibrahim Afellay wrapped up victory with just four minutes to play.
Arsenal’s lone striker Gervinho looked frustrated all evening with chances few and far between and any hint of danger brilliantly quelled by Roman Neustadter leading a tough Schalke defence.
Arsenal’s lack of ideas up front was backed up by some decent enough defending individually, but left back Andre Santos has yet again shown himself to be a glaring weakness in the defensive line.
After soaking up the pressure and getting away with one too many errors, Santos yet again found himself out of position for Schalke’s first goal.
Huntelaar looked lively all evening and made amends for earlier misses when put through by an Afellay header.
Given enough space by Arsenal’s backline and played onside by Santos, he dropped his shoulder to allow the ball to run onto him before drilling it past Vito Mannone.
A jubilant blue following from the Ruhr valley were sent home with an extra treat as Afellay was left unmarked on the back post for an easy second goal off Farfan’s low cross.
No one could argue that Schalke deserved their victory, and the German side now sit on top of group B on seven points, leapfrogging Arsenal on six.
Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat is their first ever by a European team at the Emirates. Though qualification to the knockout stages is still more than possible, it is the lack of industry and creativity in the last week that will worry the fans the most. That and the same old message being delivered from the very top at today’s club AGM.
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis today cited UEFAs new Financial fair play regulations as giving Arsenal fans cause for optimism.
He claimed that in a further two years Arsenal will be able to compete at the very top of the game.
However true this may be remains to be seen but for the Gunners fans today this looks like the same old Arsenal – always building for a future that never arrives.
Fred Charles, football Correspondent