LONDON: The cloud over Arsene Wenger darkened in the wake of a crushing 6-0 defeat at Chelsea which ended Arsenal’s faint hopes of winning the Premier League title.
The Frenchman’s 1,000th match in charge proved, in his own word, a “nightmare.” After only 17 minutes Arsenal were 3:0 down and had seen Kieran Gibbs sent off in a bizarre case of mistaken indentity.
On its own such a defeat could be dismissed as a derby freak. But the Gunners also collapsed away from home against fellow title contenders Manchester City (6-3) and Liverpool (5-1). To questions about Arsenal’s squad depth and Wenger’s transfer policy were added further queries about his team selection and tactical choice.
Mikel Arteta was badly out of place as the holding midfielder against the rigorous football played by Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea; Wenger brought on the more combative Mathieu Flamini for the second half but by then it was too late.
This was the joint-highest margin of defeat endured by Wenger in his thousand games, matching the 8:2 defeat at Manchester United in August 2011.
The FA Cup still offers the prospect of salvation for Wenger, who won seven trophies in his first 500 games and none in his second half-century. But it may be significant that he has yet to sign the offered contract extension beyond the end of this season.
Wenger, only the fourth manager after Matt Busby, Dario Gradi and Sir Alex Ferguson to reach 1,000 matches with one club, said: “This was my fault. We got a good hiding. When you go into a big game and it is over after 20 minutes it is not a nice experience.
“Now it’s all about how we respond now on Tuesday night [against Swansea] and the best way is not to explain too much the mistakes.”
It was also a bad day for FIFA referee Andre Marriner. In the 16th minute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dived to his left to palm a shot from Eden Hazard wide of a post. As ‘The Ox’ fell so fullback Kieran Gibbs ran in front of him. Marriner, after awarding a penalty, showed Gibbs the red card even though Oxlade-Chamberlain ‘owned up’ to having been the player at fault.
Marriner conceded after the game that he had made the mistake. The almost certain outcome is that Gibbs will be cleared by the FA and Oxlade-Chamberlain will be handed a one-match suspension.
** In the 2002 League Cup semi-final Chelsea’s Mario Melchiot punched Tottenham’s Teddy Sheringham in the face – but team-mate Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was sent off by mistake instead. Subsequently Hasselbaink was cleared and Melchiot was banned for three games.