Shock loss to Blackburn prompts Wenger to question his players mental abilities.
Arsene Wenger accused his Arsenal stars of lacking mental maturity after their shock FA Cup defeat against Blackburn added to the gloom around the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger was so furious with his players’ lacklustre showing against the Championship club on Saturday that he delivered a rare public dressing down to the team when asked what had gone wrong in the 1-0 fifth round loss.
The Gunners manager, reportedly set to be offered a new two-year contract, believes his players may have underestimated Blackburn, a failing that showed a lack of the character needed to play at a club where winning every game is vital.
“I think we have a great team, but this shows that we still have to show more maturity on the mental front. We have to understand what it means to win big games, and this was a big game for me,” Wenger said.
“I am the first to stand up and say I am responsible for the team selection, but that is not an excuse: if we cannot beat Blackburn like that, I don’t think it is down to the selection of the team.
“The top level is about consistency in every single game and that is what we could not show.
“Coming after the Sunderland game we came out with a flat performance and that shows that, mentally, we are not capable at the moment of preparing in exactly the same way for every game.
“Maybe they still thought ‘okay, we are playing at home against Blackburn, it will be difficult, but we will win the game anyway’ – it doesn’t work like that.”
Arsenal now face an uphill battle to end their eight-season trophy drought, with the Champions League their last remaining hope of silverware.
Bayern Munich, who face the Gunners in the last 16 first leg on Tuesday, are likely to pose a stern challenge to Arsenal’s European ambitions and even Wenger concedes it is unlikely they will be able to go all the way.
“It is vital for us to fight for silverware, but unfortunately this one will not happen for us now and we can only look at ourselves and not complain about anything else,” Wenger added.
“Now it is vital for the end of our season that we respond in a strong way on Tuesday night.
“Just now it would be a bit pretentious to say that we can win the Champions League, but you never know. We have to give it a good shot and see where we stand afterwards.
“The players are really hurt, but now you have to take it on the chin and come back with a strong response. That is all we can do.”
While Wenger is downbeat about Arsenal’s chances, the club’s England midfielder Jack Wilshere is more confident.
Wilshere claims Arsenal can draw inspiration from the way Chelsea struggled in the Premier League last season but still managed to win the Champions League against the odds.
“Chelsea are an inspiration for everyone. They weren’t having a good season and, okay, they got a bit lucky in some games but they showed great character and we need to do that,” Wilshere said.
“We need to come together as a team We have good leaders here, a good team atmosphere. That will help us.
“We know what Bayern are capable of. They have a great team. We need everyone behind us and we go again.
“We have beaten big European teams here before so now we need to do it again.”