Hit first, hit hard and keep hitting. It’s the golden rule of public relations and Arsene Wenger knows it. In the embittered second half of his tenure, the Frenchman has relied on it more and more, frequently insisting to anybody who’ll listen that his side boasts tremendous ‘mental strength’.
Last year, the club hired the services of forensic psychiatrist Dr Ceri Evans. A former Rhodes Scholar and captain of the All Whites, Evans’ methods helped the New Zealand Rugby Team to consecutive World Cups in 2011 and 2015.
Unsurprisingly, the Kiwi’s success couldn’t be replicated in North London. Last year, Arsenal lost in all the places they usually do as, one by one, Stamford Bridge, Anfield, and Goodison Park were all checked off the list.
But the manner of those collapses was less calamitous, leading some to worry that the Premier League’s most comedic team was slowly getting its act together at last.
Even if they do, though, these four memories will always be there to look back on.
1 Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal – 28 August 2011
'Total humiliation' was how the BBC described Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford in 2011. Arsene Wenger’s worst defeat as manager had long been coming – a defence boasting the dual dunces of Carl Jenkinson and Armand Traoré never stood a chance.
The most striking memory that day though arrived with United’s third goal. With Tomas Rosicky standing in the wall, Wayne Rooney knew his free kick was sailing in as soon as it left his boot. The look of resignation on the Czech midfielder’s face as the ball flew into the top corner, said it all.
2 Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal - 5 February 2011
Arsenal players must hate St James Park. It was here in May 2013, where Arsenal squeezed past Newcastle on the last day of the season to pip Tottenham to the final Champions League spot. The squad were roundly mocked after the game, however, when photos surfaced of them celebrating wildly in the dressing room.
Even with the criticism, it was nothing compared to the wails of abuse they received for their collapse two years earlier. On that day, an early goal from Theo Walcott had his side a 4-0 lead. Slippers on, pipe filled.
Three minutes from time, however, Cheik Tioté completed an incredible comeback. Arsenal had conceded 4 goals in 19 minutes, with the Ivorian’s left-footed swipe being the pick of the bunch. “We were very unlucky with some of the decisions that went against us,” said Wenger at the final whistle. Quite.
3 Arsenal 1-3 Monaco - 25 February 2015
When the Champions League Round of 16 was drawn in 2015, there was a collective sigh of relief amongst Arsenal fans. Bayern Munich and Barcelona had been avoided and Monaco was one of the easier draws on offer. A place in the quarter-finals seemed likely, as long as the Gunners kept their heads.
They should have known better. After Geoffrey Kondogbia’s stunning opener, Dimitar Berbatov broke into a jog to score a disastrous second goal. Whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s last-minute strike provided temporary hope, Yannick Ferriera Carrasco brought everyone back down to earth with a bump.
By the time the return leg rolled around, it was too late. Arsenal’s fourth-place trophy had once again come to nothing.
4 Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal - 8th February 2014
Incredibly, Arsenal were top of the table when they visited Brendan Rodgers’ side at Anfield in February 2014. The game came at the start of a torrid run of fixtures for the Gunners, who had matches against Manchester United and Bayern Munich immediately following the fixture.
Inevitably, Arsene Wenger witnessed his side concede four in the first twenty minutes. Even Martin Skrtel, a man who mastered the art of looking hard and playing soft, helped himself to two.
And those two games, against United and Bayern? The first was a stale 0-0 draw at the Emirates while the second was a comprehensive 2-0 defeat. Plus ça change.
Remember any other Arsenal collapses? Get in touch by commenting below
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?