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Wenger's future on the line

John Cross
April 7, 2014
Wenger fears for fourth place

The most worrying aspect of Arsenal's away day disasters this season has been Arsene Wenger's tactics. It's hard to get into a tactics territory as managers, coaches and players know far more about formations than journalists, but even to the relatively untrained eye, the way Arsenal were set up at Everton, Chelsea and Liverpool raised serious doubts about whether Wenger had much of a gameplan.

Arsenal conceded 14 goals in three must-win games, defended badly, were outwitted and out-thought. Those defeats have sent their season into a downward spiral.

In the 2003-04 "Invincibles" season, Arsenal were strong enough to take anyone on in a head-to-head. They could go out there and play their game, set up how they wanted and win. They were simply too good for the opposition.

Wenger admits Arsenal are running scared

Arsene Wenger is worried © Getty Images
  • Arsene Wenger admits that Arsenal are suffering from the fear factor as their season threatens to fall apart.
  • Their 3-0 Premier League defeat to Everton on Sunday left the manager a "massive worry" with his proud record of always guiding the club to Champions League qualification in jeopardy.
  • Read the full article here

But time has moved on and now the likes of Roberto Martinez, Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers have a gameplan - they press high, allow Arsenal the ball before counter attacking with pace, power and strength - and Wenger has not had the answer.

In the first half at Goodison Park, Wenger's men were even guilty of sitting off Everton: allowing them to run through the midfield, create chances and put the visiting defence under pressure.

In the second half, Arsenal improved and pressed to much better effect. It was too late, of course, but it at least showed that you can stem the tide with a tactical reshuffle.

Arsenal looked tired at Everton; some of the players looked flat and lethargic - they've run out of gas just at a time when they need to find an extra gear for the run-in.

Wenger's troubled side lacked pace throughout the team and Olivier Giroud, in particular, looks as if he's run out of ideas, energy and goals. The failure to spend in January left them short of players when a new signing would have lifted the mood.

The next few weeks will decide Wenger's future, with the next test an FA Cup semi-final against Wigan and the chance, potentially, to move one step closer to ending his trophy drought. Then they've got five key games which will decide whether they can make the top four.

Thankfully, none of them are up against their top four rivals. If they were, you'd worry about them.

If Wenger stays on next season, there must be a change in the manager and surely he would take on board the need for more of a tactical approach.

Fans used to love Wenger for what he represented - all-out attack and a wonderful cavalier approach. That was his charm, but time and others have caught up on Arsenal.

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John Cross is a football reporter for the Daily Mirror. He's been on the Mirror for 15 years. He regularly covers Arsenal and has done throughout Arsene Wenger's reign. Follow John on twitter @johncrossmirror.

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