London, United Kingdom, Feb 16 – Former players were brutal in their criticism of manager Arsene Wenger following Arsenal’s latest Champions League humiliation.
And newspapers across Europe were no less scathing of Wednesday night’s “nightmare” 5-1 thrashing at Bayern Munich.
Just a few days after defending his former boss by saying it was “too soon” for Wenger to leave, Martin Keown, a centre-back in all three of Arsenal’s Premier League title triumphs under the Frenchman, pulled no punches this time, saying it had been a clash of “men against boys”.
“It’s almost embarrassing — outclassed, outplayed,” Keown, now a pundit, told BT Sport.
“This is his (Wenger’s) lowest point ever. Twenty years and Arsene must be considering his future now. Arsenal were bullied, weren’t they? Completely.”
Another former defender, Lee Dixon, said he felt Wenger’s demeanour has finally changed following years of belligerent defiance in the face of numerous failures.
“He just seems so low,” Dixon told ITV.
“I think he’s realising that with this team he’s getting no response from them. They’re not doing themselves justice or him.
“That is the first time where I’ve seen him where I’ve thought, ‘he thinks it’s time’.”
Ian Wright, a former striker, let the expletives flow in a foul-mouthed Twitter rant during the game.
Former goalkeeper Bob Wilson, who was a champion with Arsenal in 1971, pondered whether this result would “tip Arsene over the edge”.
“He can only take so much,” said Wilson on BBC Radio 5 Live. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Arsene, given the amount of headlines that are coming his way, might just look at that and say enough is enough.”
Barring a minor miracle in the second leg in three weeks’ time, it will be the seventh year in a row that Arsenal have been knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16, and the third time in five years by Bayern.
And that on top of their failure to win the Premier League since 2004 and last year’s abject challenge when Leicester City ran away to a shock triumph by 10 points.
“Spineless!” screamed Britain’s Dail Mail while The Times described Arsenal’s latest European chastisement as “Groundhog Day”.
The Sun, as ever, opted for a pun relating to Bayern while suggesting Wenger’s time was up with “Bay bye Arsene”.
“Always the same nightmare,” said France’s L’Equipe, a newspaper that usually waxes lyrical about Wenger’s teams.
La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy called it “a slap in Wenger’s face”.
In his first eight full seasons with Arsenal, Wenger won the Premier League three times and the FA Cup four times.
But in 11 seasons since he’s managed to add only two more FA Cup successes and Arsenal are currently fourth in the league, 10 points behind leaders Chelsea.