Arsene Wenger hasn't had a great season.
In fact, it's probably been his worst season in over a decade, as his Arsenal side currently lie in fifth place having been knocked out of every cup competition—a run that saw Capital One Cup humiliation at Bradford, FA Cup embarrassment at home to Blackburn, and most recently, glorious failure at Bayern Munich.
It was that glorious failure, though, in which Arsenal bowed out of the Champions League on away goals with a 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena, that Arsene Wenger showed that he still has his touch of managerial nous.
In the buildup to the Champions League Round of 16 second leg, the Arsenal manager revealed that he would be giving Wojciech Szczesny a rest, with Lukasz Fabianski stepping in for his compatriot. What he didn't tell, however, was that captain Thomas Vermaelen would be dropped as well.
The Belgian's performances have dropped significantly in quality since being given the armband, and Wenger decided to play French center-back Laurent Koscielny instead, with vice-captain Mikel Arteta wearing the armband for the match.
Arsene Wenger isn't one to tinker with his starting lineup much, but these two decisions ultimately paid off. Despite not playing competitive first-team football in over a year, Lukasz Fabianski put in a surprisingly solid, confident performance, highlighted by one excellent save when Arjen Robben looked likely to score on a breakaway.
Laurent Koscielny had one of his best games in an Arsenal shirt, as the former Lorient man headed in Arsenal's second goal from a corner and was rock solid at the back when dealing with the likes of Mario Mandzukic, Toni Kroos, and later in the match Mario Gomez.
The back four that started that night at the Allianz Arena cannot be praised enough for their performance against Bayern Munich, but it seems to be that when Arsenal succeed, the players are commended, and when they struggle, Arsene Wenger is the one who receives criticism and blame.
Wenger has made some dodgy decisions this season—for example, selling Robin van Persie and Alex Song—and hasn't had the full support of the fans, but he took risks in dropping his captain and his No. 1 goalkeeper, and those risks paid off.
Arsenal followed up that win in Munich with a 2-0 win at Swansea on Saturday, and although that may not seem like a big deal, the Liberty Stadium is a place where the Gunners have struggled recently. They mustered a 2-2 draw there in the FA Cup earlier this season and were outplayed to lose 3-2 there last season.
Arsene Wenger went with the same back four that kept a clean sheet against Bayern Munich, with the exception of Nacho Monreal coming in for Kieran Gibbs, and the defense looked just as sturdy with Arsenal grabbing a crucial 2-0 win in Wales.
Piers Morgan @piersmorgan
Gervinho & Ramsey warming up - here comes the Calamity Cavalry. #Arsenal3/16/2013, 4:28:19 PM
After failing to score in the first half and getting particularly unlucky with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hitting the crossbar twice, Arsenal brought on Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho, two players who have come under some criticism this season.
Shortly after, January signing Nacho Monreal opened the scoring with his first goal for the club, and in the 90th minute, Arsenal secured the three points as a counterattack led by Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho saw the Ivorian finish past Michel Vorm.
Arsene Wenger will have to do much more than just a few effective substitutions and dropping players that should be dropped in order to fully prove himself to the critics, but his recent managerial decisions have been successful and encouraging for the fact that the Frenchman may not be losing his touch after all.
Let's hope this trend carries on into the summer, and that Wenger will strengthen the squad with quality players.
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