Arsenal’s Champions League future is in serious jeopardy after Everton dismantled the Gunners 3-0 at Goodison Park, and Arsene Wenger fears for the mental state of his squad.
Wenger labeled the club’s chances of making Europe’s top competition as “a serious worry” with Everton now in control of their own destiny just a point behind and a game in hand.
But that was not the headline from the Frenchman’s postmatch press conference.
The 64-year-old suggested his players were not up for the challenge. “Was there a lack of fight? You could say that,” Wenger told reporters in Merseyside.
“We have to go back to basics. Our performance was not convincing, not defensively, not offensively. Everton was better and deserved to win.”
With the 3-0 loss, Arsenal have conceded 20 goals in the four away matches against teams around them in the table – Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Everton.
The manager strained to find the answer for what may be causing their capitulations away from home against fellow Champions League hopefuls, questioning, “Our big-team defeats away from home have taken something of our charisma from the team. Is that belief? Is it fear? Is it confidence?”
Whatever it is, the Gunners must figure it out very soon. Their remaining schedule is much simpler than that of Everton’s. Arsenal have just West Ham, Hull City, Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion, and Norwich City left in their Premier League fixtures, while Everton still must take on both Manchester clubs.
Despite that, the club has shown itself vulnerable not just to the top sides, falling at Stoke City a little over a month ago.
Later Wenger contradicted himself by falling back on his comments and told reporters not to worry about the character of his players.
“I wouldn’t question the spirit of this team,” Wenger insisted. “They are focused and want to do well but they have lost something on the confidence front.”
With the Champions League question marks will surely come more questions about Wenger’s future at the London powerhouse, and he will no doubt have to face those questions in the coming weeks, moreso if the Gunners finish outside the Premier League’s top four for the first time in 17 years.