Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 0: Fans turn on Wenger chanting 'you don't know what you're doing'
00:38 GMT, 25 November 2012
With a wild, haunted look in his eyes, Arsene Wenger refused point-blank to explain the 86th-minute substitution which caused Arsenal fans to round on him and sing: 'You don't know what you're doing.'
The result was still in the balance against struggling Villa when the Frenchman took off his only striker, Olivier Giroud, and replaced him with midfielder Francis Coquelin.
It caused outrage in one corner of the ground, where Wenger's judgment call was openly dismissed and even mocked for the first time by his normally faithful travelling fans.
Frustration: Olivier Giroud could not get on the scoresheet before he was substituted
Aston Villa: Guzan, Vlaar (Lichaj 51), Clark, Stevens, Lowton, El Ahmadi (Holman 63), Westwood, Bannan, Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann (Albrighton 90)
Subs not used: Given, Ireland, Delph, Bowery
Booked: El Ahmadi
Arsenal: Szczesny, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arshavin 77), Ramsey, Cazorla, Podolski (Gervinho 69), Giroud (Coquelin 86)
Subs not used: Mannone, Sagna, Vermaelen, Wilshere
Referee: Lee Mason
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In one of the most bizarre press
conferences of his career, he scoffed at the idea that the club's
supporters deserved an explanation, insisted that he was still at the
height of his managerial powers, and claimed the assembled media were
suffering from Alzheimer's disease if they thought differently.
If a meltdown was possible in freezing Birmingham, this was it.
Toothless Arsenal managed just one accurate shot, but Wenger was in no mood to appease anyone.
'I won't explain my decision to make that substitution, I don't have to explain every decision and substitution I make.'
Asked if the taunts had hurt him, he
turned on his interrogator and said: 'No. I have managed for 30 years at
the top and if I have to convince you I can manage a team, it would be
an insult to you.
'How long have you managed for How
many games have you managed If I come to see one of your matches I
promise you I'll sit in the stand and say, “You do know what you're
Battle: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tries to wrestle the ball from Christian Benteke
Race on: Olivier Giroud (left) is pursued by Ron Vlaar
He is clearly wounded by the attacks,
because he reminded his critics how they had laid into him last season,
only for his team to recover sufficiently to make the Champions League.
'You forget what you wrote last September, October, November. You have a little bit of Alzheimer's.'
Yesterday there was almost nothing to forget.
But Wojciech Szczesny did save the
Gunners from total humiliation when he tipped Villa substitute Brett
Holman's powerful shot on to the crossbar.
Penetration: Oxlade-Chamberlain could not create the killer chance for Arsenal
Unlucky: Aaron Ramsey tries a flick in front of goal
But even a point at Villa could not
paper over the cracks as the visiting supporters repeated the
now-familiar refrain: 'We want our Arsenal back.'
Such an inept display in the final
third could hardly be explained away by Wenger's assertion that his side
were jaded after their recent Champions League exploits.
This side simply are not hitting the heights required to qualify for a 14th consecutive Champions League campaign.
Doubtless the fans were also frustrated by Wenger's failure to inject some late quality in the form of Jack Wilshere.
The manager said he wanted to protect the England midfielder in such harsh weather.
Asked if he or Theo Walcott might
play at Everton on Wednesday, Wenger snapped almost childishly: 'I'll
decide and I will not explain to you why.'
Villa certainly would not have been
disappointed that Wilshere sat out this match, as they were able to
press and unsettle their guests at will.
Manager Paul Lambert was serving a
touchline ban and admitted that he found the experience 'not great, when
I got punished for contesting something and I was right.
Dejected: Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker clap the visiting fans
'But I thought we played really well
and I think we might have nicked it. Our defence was really strong and
offensively we were well in the game, too. We're a young side and we're a
Santi Cazorla did show a rare flash
of brilliance soon after the interval, when he swerved past a couple of
defenders and shot narrowly wide.
Aaron Ramsey looked as though he might score, and even forced Brad Guzan to save with his leg.
Otherwise the Villa keeper was
largely untroubled, though Laurent Koscielny really should have beaten
him from six yards in the first half.
Instead, the central defender ballooned his effort over the bar.
Villa striker Christian Benteke had a
couple of chances to score with his head against the club he once
supported, but squandered both.
Stalemate: Brad Guzan kept a clean sheet
Settle for one Arsene Wenger's team could not get the breakthrough
Gabriel Agbonlahor unleashed a
powerful shot at the Arsenal goal after Holman had dithered, but
Arsenal's rearguard were equal to the challenge.
And that's about the best that can be said about Wenger's team – they stopped a struggling team from scoring.
A stubborn man at the best of times,
Wenger is clearly rattled by the fact that others don't have as high an
opinion of his recent managerial achievements as he does.
He may very well be right when he
suggests that he will one day be sorely missed, if Arsenal and the
Champions League eventually begin to lead separate lives.
The problem is that it could well
happen on his watch – next season – unless there is a dramatic
improvement before it is too late.
Just about: Gabriel Agbonlahor felt he deserved a penalty, but Per Mertesacker got a toe on the ball in the box