Arsene Wenger is once again at the centre of the criticism being aimed at Arsenal following another one-sided defeat to Manchester City, but former Gunners star Paul Merson insists the players are hanging their manager out to dry.
A 3-0 loss to City on Thursday night was their second league defeat in a row, their third in four matches and followed a humiliating loss by the same scoreline to City in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.
This latest defeat is the ninth suffered by Arsenal in the league this season and leaves them ten points adrift of a top four place. Their title aspirations have long been dead and now hopes of securing a Champions League place seem to lie solely with winning the Europa League.
Fans and pundits have again jumped to criticise the Frenchman, but Merson believes the players are now using Wenger as a scapegoat for their below par performances.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the former England international said:
“I felt sorry for him last Sunday, as he put a team out there who acted as if they wouldn’t be getting the blame.
“They know that Wenger is the man who will take the blame, and that’s a problem. They’re hanging their manager out to dry.
“Who’s going to get the blame on Sunday if they lose? It’d be Wenger again, and it’s gone beyond that now.”
The Sunday match Merson is referring to is a trip to twelfth-placed Brighton & Hove Albion, a game he believes the Arsenal players will not be up for.
“I feel Arsenal have gone. Confidence is shot, and I don’t think they’ll be up for a fight against Brighton. I can’t see Arsenal being able to live with them. For me, they’re the worst team in England without the ball.”
It’s harsh criticism of the players from Merson, although it isn’t a complete defence of Wenger and he believes there will be a change of manager in the summer.
When asked if he believed Wenger will still be in-charge at the Emirates next season, Merson replied:
“No. As I sit here I say no.”
The next two weeks could well decide Wenger’s future, with the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie in Milan next Thursday followed by a tough home Premier League match against a decent Watford team.
The return fixture of their European tie is then on March 15 and an exit from the competition could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Peter Reynolds, Pundit Arena