Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels as though Manchester United and Manchester City are being let off the hook by the media, insisting they should both be receiving more criticism than his group of players.
The Gunners’ insipid display at Old Trafford at the weekend served a significant blow to their chances of the Premier League title, with Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur now above the north Londoners in the table. Still, Wenger feels the attacks on his team are harsh, especially when you put their overall performance up against other title rivals.
“I leave that to you,” said the Frenchman when asked if Leicester or Spurs winning the league would render this season a failure for the Gunners, per John Cross of the Daily Mirror. He continued:
But what do you say then to Man United and Man City [who have spent more on players than Arsenal]?
It’s fantastic what Leicester are doing. Why do you complain? I don’t understand. You’re happy that Leicester pop up and come into the top four, so why do you complain to me? Let’s fight with them.
I’ve fought for that idea for years—that football is unpredictable and teams like Leicester can come in to the top four.
Arsenal do find themselves ahead of both United and City in the table, and Wenger is correct in his assessment that both of the Manchester clubs spent big last summer, especially when compared to his side.
Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe feels as though the Gunners, who face Swansea City on Wednesday, are capable of still winning the title too:
Bleacher Report UK @br_uk
Calm down, #Arsenal fans—you can still win the Premier League title this season! @stighefootball @MarcusSpeller https://t.co/2Tp1RjLdNS2016-2-29 16:01:12
However, the 3-2 loss to an injury-ravaged United seemed to represent more than a poor result. The frailties that have cost Arsenal so dear down the years—a lack of steel in big games, an inability to turn matches around and a dearth of leadership—all manifested again at Old Trafford on Sunday.
United and City may have spent big ahead of the season, but their respective squads are no better than the one at Wenger’s disposal. Additionally, as a giant of English football, the funds would have surely been there for the Arsenal boss to bolster his squad in key areas, instead of just addressing one with the signing of goalkeeper Petr Cech.
As noted by Alex Shaw of ESPN FC, it’s certainly not as if United or City have indulged in any untoward behaviour by signing players:
Alex Shaw @AlexShawESPN
Wenger: "United spend a lot of money." Yes, because they make lots. It isn't cheating to spend money.2016-2-28 17:17:48
The fact remains that Arsenal have been in the best position of all three sides mentioned to capitalise on a wide-open Premier League season.
Up until a recent drop-off, they’ve played with consistency, flair and got over the line in key games. However, with the finish line approaching and local rivals Tottenham flying, the Gunners seem to be tightening up.
Spanish football expert Rafael Hernandez is concerned for the club and the Frenchman:
Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117
Wenger has given Arsenal stability, that’s unquestionable, but maintaining that next season will be one of his toughest challenges.2016-3-1 21:16:54
Wenger may feel some of the criticism has been over the top, but this is a football club who have regularly had some of the top players in the Premier League over the last decade, yet they haven’t come close to winning the title. This term, with a stable side and others faltering, the opportunity was there to grasp.
At the moment, they seem to be letting the chance slip by. And even if a win against Swansea on Wednesday does propel them back into contention, concerns will linger about the ability of the manager to steer this group of players to the summit of the division in what’s set to be a pulsating finish to the Premier League season.