Meanwhile, back in the relentless and unforgiving world of football, it continues to go wrong for Arsenal and that nice man Wenger. NIGEL CLARKE feels that the game is up for the Frenchman.
As this column has mentioned at least twice, the game is up for Monsieur Wenger. He’s been rumbled; the club he has led for 18 years is losing its reputation for quality and class. And the only situation now is for Le Professeur of North London to make a discreet exit from the Emirates.
He was shown to be tactically naïve against the French side, as he failed to inject any passion or hunger into the Gunners’ play.
Many fans believe that the time has come for Arsenal to take another direction. There are those within the club, at the highest level, who are beginning to believe that, too.
Wenger is in charge of a side that still over plays, still attempts to score the perfect goal and, in doing so, has become easy to beat. Other teams no longer fear them.
For two years at least, they have needed at least one centre-back, yet on Wednesday it was in the middle of their defence they made appalling errors.
They failed to get their wingmen to operate wide, allowing them instead to come inside and thus be crowded out by Monaco. At no time did Wenger get off his touchline seat to redirect the traffic.
Once again, it was painfully clear that when Gunners are faced with any side other than the mediocre opposition in the Premier League, they are no longer good enough.
Arsenal will ignore what happened on Wednesday night at their peril. Of course Wenger is popular at the club; he is a thoroughly nice man.
But this is no time for sentiment in the cut-throat world of the Premier League. This is the question: is he up for the job of winning Arsenal European honours? The answer is no.
Forget the FA Cup or the Capital Cup. They are irrelevancies. English football is judged by how clubs perform in the Champions League. Arsenal allowed an ordinary Monaco side to win with some comfort.
Perhaps the biggest mystery is the form of German Mesut Ozil, who once again was posted missing.
All managers want is for their star players to perform when it really matters. Ozil, the man Wenger swore would light up the English game, never seemed interested.
So why wasn’t Wenger down on the touchline, shouting his anger and frustration? Instead, the longer the game went on the less impact Ozil made.
Wenger is reputed to be superb at getting the best out of players. The word is they respect the old professeur, but that he no longer carries the authority that made him such an outstanding manager.
Once respect goes out of the dressing room, then it’s time to go. He may be a practising Zen Buddhist, but what is happening around him must soon start to ruffle that sober philosophy that suggests he always knows best.
It’s obvious he doesn’t. It’s clear he no longer has the drive and enthusiasm. There are too many excuses now. After 18 years. what do we expect?
Wenger stood for so many things that made the Premier League the major attraction it is. He has done his job most times with his dignity intact, and his knowledge of the game has seen innovative change at Arsenal.
But there comes an occasion when time catches up with you. The tide of change is washing around his feet. Canute couldn’t hold it back, so what chance does Wenger think he has?
It will take some time for Arsenal to get over this defeat. Now we shall see just what his players think of Wenger in his time of need. Maybe it’s already too late.
PICTURE COURTESY OF: Ronnie MacDonald