Euro woes will haunt embattled Wenger
Euro woes will haunt embattled Wenger – Radiating anger and resignation in equal measure, Arsene Wenger wore the exasperated expression that has become all too familiar to Arsenal followers during their club’s futile attempts to conquer Europe.
Wenger’s frustrated demeanour on the touchline at the Allianz Arena last month was provoked by the sight of Arsenal being outclassed by Bayern Munich — again — in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
Each Bayern goal was a fresh twist of the knife for Wenger and by full-time Arsenal had been hammered 5-1, a chastening loss that seems certain to make Tuesday’s second leg at the Emirates Stadium a mere formality for the Germans.
There was an unmistakeable feeling of deja vu as Wenger and his players trudged back to the changing room, once again assailed by the harsh realities of Europe’s elite club competition.
Arsenal have been eliminated in the first knockout round of the Champions League in each of the last six seasons, twice by Bayern, and Wenger appears no closer to solving the problem.
This season’s likely exit would sting even more for Wenger because it could prove his final taste of the Champions League after 21 years as Arsenal manager.
Amid mounting speculation Wenger is ready to quit when his contract expires at the end of the season, the Frenchman has refused to give a firm assurance he will return next term.
If that is the case, his failure to master the unique demands of the Champions League will surely be Wenger’s biggest regret.
Wenger was just 14 minutes from lifting the trophy in 2006 when Arsenal led Barcelona despite the dismissal of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.
But Sol Campbell’s goal for the Gunners was relegated to a footnote as Barca’s pressure finally paid off with late strikes from Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti.