Arsenal must prove they’re not the stupid ones against Liverpool and Bayern
PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 February 2014 | UPDATED: 18:18 16 February 2014
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The price of failure has been the hot topic de jour among the Premier League elite and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger knows better than most its bitter taste - he’s “specialist” according to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
That was the Portuguese’s no holds barred assesment of the Frenchman’s nine-year barren spell in the silverware department, once the Gunners chief had claimed the Blues boss, among other counterparts, was afraid of losing out in the title race.
Wenger has now insisted that failure provides an education.
He said: “You learn from failure that is for sure, especially intelligent people.
“Some stupid [people] never [learn], the definition of stupidity is they make always the same mistakes.”
The next four days could therefore prove, by his own definition, whether he has really been hitting the books and studying for the best part of a decade.
Liverpool are the visitors to the Emirates Stadium this afternoon in the fifth round of the FA Cup - same stage of the season where last year the north Londoners failed the first of two major examinations.
Twelve months ago Championship side Blackburn started the rot, handing them a shock one-way ticket out of the world’s oldest knock-out competition. Three days later Bayern Munich put them to the sword in north London and dealt a fatal 3-1 first leg blow to their Champions League aspirations, which rendered a stunning 2-0 victory in Bavaria irrelevant.
This year, insert Liverpool in the place of Rovers as Arsenal’s FA Cup oppoinents and the same situation presents itself. Defeat will ramp up the pressure ahead of Wednesday’s last-16 Champions League re-run against Bayern, which is the final instalment of a four-game February test that has so far seen Arsenal flatter to deceive.
Having led the Premier League for much of this campaign they were humiliated at Anfield last weekend in a 5-1 destruction that allowed Chelsea to leapfrog them to the summit. There the Blues stay, despite offering the Gunners a window of opportunity by dropping two points at West Brom - one Wenger’s men passed up with a 0-0 draw against champions-in-turmoil Manchester United.
Now, the challenge, as their manager has laid out, is to not make the same mistakes twice.
Asked if the next two games will once again define Arsenal’s season, Wenger said: “Part of it.
“It’s like the guy who goes to the Olympic Games and after four years he prepares for one race that will decide his success, that’s it.
“I think we have shown quality until now. We just have to focus on that and expect that the quality of our game will decide the results.”
Their continued presence in the Premier League title race suggests an Arsenal team more prepared, than in any of the previous eight campaigns, to cope with the rigours associated with sharp end of the season.
But the early months of the New Year have so often seen the wheels fall off Arsenal’s trophy pursuits, with 2011’s League Cup final heartbreak to Birmingham the harshest example.
But Wenger does not expect similar slip-ups this time round.
“We are much more mature,” the manager said, adding: “People say we collapsed, we crumbled. We never collapsed.
“We had some disappointments but if you collapse you finish 10th in this league.
“We never crumbled. We always finished strong. If you look at the number of points we have taken, at the end of the season we have never collapsed, despite some big disappointments.
“I must say as well, we went out [of Europe] twice against Barcelona and once against Bayern on away goals.
“We have not been very lucky with the draws in the Champions League.”
That may be so but the outcome has still been failure and you’d have to be stupid not to recognise it.