If you want to know what has happened to the two main London teams this season, there are two words that explain most of the problems.
Arsenal and Chelsea are in shambles at the moment, the Blues in general, and the Gunners in Europe, and it does not look good for fans of either team. Lets start with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side, and then take a look at Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
Twice Tuesday, it looked as if Arsenal, hosting Olympiakos for the fourth time since 2009 in this competition, got back into the game, after falling behind the Greek visitors.
But each time, the Gunners had terrible lapses of concentration, and now look like they will be out of the Champions League at the group stage for the first time in their last 16 appearances.
Right before the halftime whistle, with the score 1-1, goalkeeper David Ospina carried a corner kick into his own goal, to give the visitors a 2-1 going into the break. Why was Ospina in the goal, and not Petr Cech, the Gunners only signing of the summer, in what many say is the worst transfer window of all time? Wenger said Cech had a slight calf injury. But then why was he on the bench?
Although that was a devastating goal to concede right before the break, Arsenal leveled the score at 2-2 in the 65th minute, and the Gunner fans all rallied behind their team, thinking that the next 25 minutes was plenty of time for the hosts to find a third goal, and get themselves right back into the Group F race. That fuzzy feeling lasted all of 65 seconds, as Olympiakos struck back in the 66th minute to take a 3-2 lead, which it would hold on to for the rest of the game.
Apparently, Wenger’s charges had not heard about the universal football rule, that a team is most vulnerable defensively in the two minutes immediately following a goal. If you have ever been to a high school, or maybe even a recreation league match, you may have heard the coaches and players yelling “Two minutes,” after scoring, which is referring to just that situation.
Congratulations, you know more than Arsene Wenger.
But that is the Arsenal of late. Fans have come to expect such things from the Gunners. Roy Keane, the ex tough tackling midfielder for Manchester United, and current Champions League pundit on English Television channel ITV, did not hold back in his assessment of Arsenal, on Wednesday night’s ITV Champions League highlights show.
“They’re soft. They’re weak. The goals they give away – you saw (on Tuesday) night, two set-pieces again. You’ve got no chance of winning any big game if you defend like that,” Keane said on the program. “They’re weak. The goals they give away, you’ve got no chance of winning any big game if you defend like that. There is a certain weakness to the group. They look like they lack characters, leaders and winners. I enjoy watching Arsenal, I think they’re great to watch, particularly going forward. But part of football is, unfortunately, is defending. And mentally, they’re weak.”
Maybe the Gunners can get back into the group race, if they can win the next two matches. All they have to do is beat Bayern Munich, home and away, and they are right back near the top of Group F. Bayern Munich, which has 3-0 and 5-0 wins in the group, and has won all seven Bundesliga matches with a plus-20 goal differential.
Should be an easy task.
I would say welcome to the Europa League to Arsenal, but the Gunners may not even make it to the Thursday night competition, with a third-place group stage finish, at this rate.
Chelsea may be in worse shape, with a mid-week loss in Porto, but even dropping that 2-1 decision, the Blues should still walk the group. The Blues problems are domestically, where they sit in 14th, already eight points behind table-toppers Manchester United, and seven behind favorites Manchester City (who both won their Champions League games midweek, to restore a shred of credibility to the league.)
Jose Mourinho’s man (and woman, see the Eva Carneiro fiasco) management this season has been appalling, and he is in danger of losing the dressing room. The episode in week two with Carneiro, the former first team doctor that left the club last week, put a dark cloud over the Blues, and the play on the pitch has done nothing to lift the pall.
Club captain John Terry has been benched, while reigning EPL Player of the Year Eden Hazard found himself benched midweek, and looks a shadow of what he was last season.
Chelsea still have time to turn it around, but the question is, will Mourinho be there with the Blues, if they do? His shelf life at a club is usually three years, and we are fast approaching that date.
Maybe the better question is, who will be at their club longer, Wenger or Mourinho?
If I had to guess, I would say it is dead even, and both could go at the end of the season.
Sean Miller can be reached at seanmillertrentontimes@