Top four is increasingly looking out of reach for Arsenal, and it couldn’t be more clear that it’s time for the Gunners to change.
In a season that’s featured numerous embarrassing results for Arsenal, it’s difficult to pick out one and refer to it, definitively, as the most embarrassing. Yet, there’s a very clear argument for Monday’s 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace deserving that distinction.
Arsenal entered Monday’s match seven points behind Manchester City for fourth place in the Premier League, having gained a small bit of ground on their rivals for Champions League places by beating West Ham United last week. But City — along with Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, and Manchester United — had won over the weekend. The Gunners had to win just to keep pace, and against a relegation battler like Palace, they should have been able to do so.
But it was Palace who dictated the pace and style of the match from the start. Arsenal had plenty of the ball, but their chances were limited, and they looked under serious threat every time Palace broke forward. Arsenal’s defending on Andros Townsend’s opening goal in the 17th minute was terrible, with their back line completely disorganized. Things didn’t get better in the second half — it was Palace who came out of the locker room with more intensity, who looked the more likely to score, and who eventually did score the game’s second goal.
Palace’s third goal, a penalty, was perhaps a microcosm of Arsenal’s season. Not only did backup goalkeeper Damian Martinez foul Townsend, but he actually made more contact with his teammate Hector Bellerin, and was lucky not to injure him. Bellerin, it should be noted, was in good position to prevent Townsend from taking a dangerous shot before Martinez decided to clean out both of them.
Arsenal’s goal never came. Their best chances actually came before the penalty. For the first 68 minutes, the Gunners were flat, but from that moment until the end of the game they looked completely deflated. Palace held onto their 3-0 win comfortably.
Gooners were dissatisfied, and the wonderful #tweetyourwatchingArsenalface started popping on Twitter.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 10, 2017
— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) April 10, 2017
With this, it’s difficult to see how Arsene Wenger could possibly stick around as Arsenal manager. The Gunners will not win a trophy this season. They have to make up a seven-point or larger gap on someone to finish top four. They’re an astonishing 14 points behind Tottenham. They haven’t overturned a second-half deficit on the road in five years.
This is the end of the Wenger era. It has to be the end. He can’t possibly announce that he’s staying. And owner Stan Kroenke can’t possibly let him.