Arsenal’s season of struggles continued yesterday as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by npower Championship side Blackburn.
A distant fifth in the Barclays Premier League and having been dumped out of the Capital One Cup on penalties by Bradford, it leaves the Champions League as the club’s last chance of ending their trophy drought.
Here we take a look back at a turbulent campaign for beleaguered Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.
Despite Wenger’s best efforts, the club were unable to convince captain Robin van Persie to extend his contract and so decided to cash in on their talisman striker, who had smashed a total of 37 goals to help drag the Gunners back up into third place in the Barclays Premier League on the final day of the season. The Dutchman had his choice, but opted for Old Trafford in a £24million deal and struck up an instant partnership with Wayne Rooney – scoring against his old club when they met in November.
Wenger defended the achievements of his team following a stormy AGM at the Emirates Stadium in October, where chief executive Ivan Gazidis, chairman Peter Hill-Wood and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke were all heckled over the club’s financial strategy and failure to win a trophy since 2005. Wenger had opened his speech with an apology for the recent defeats against Norwich and Schalke the night before.
He said: “For me, there are five ’trophies’ – the first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup. I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they do not ask ’did you win the League Cup?’, they ask you ’do you play in the Champions League?’.”
Arsenal may have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League again, but their domestic form remained inconsistent. Another flat home performance against Swansea saw the visitors grab a deserved 2-0 win with a late brace from Michu as Wenger’s side were booed off the pitch – and ended the day down in 10th place.
Wenger had fielded a near full-strength side for the Capital One Cup quarter-final, but were still on the end of a giant-killing. Garry Thompson’s first-half volley set the tone and although Thomas Vermaelen equalised late on to force extra-time, the Bantams progressed 3-2 after a penalty shoot-out, ending another chance for Arsenal to end their seven-year quest for a trophy. Afterwards, a defiant Wenger said: “Where does it leave our season? To focus on the next game, sport is about that.”
After elimination from Wenger’s “fifth” trophy, the fourth slipped away as well as the Gunners were beaten by another lower-league side in the shape of Blackburn. A weakened side, with Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere benched ahead of the Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, were sunk by former Gunners trainee Colin Kazim-Richards’ scrappy goal after Gervinho had missed their best chance. Wenger said afterwards: “We had 11 international players on the pitch at the start of the game. We made a massive mistake on the goal and we were not good enough to win the game, it is as simple as that.”