Arsene Wenger has been quick to play down his side’s shock FA Cup defeat at home to Blackburn, insisting that Arsenal’s season is not over.
With a tough looking tie against Bayern Munich to come in midweek, the FA Cup perhaps represented the Gunners’ best chance of silverware this season. Certainly their odds over at betvictor.com put them among the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Instead their trophy-drought could now tick over into an eighth painful season and the frustration of the supporters is almost at breaking point.
They appreciate the importance of regular Champions League qualification for the finances of the club, who are still paying off the loan amassed during the building of their new stadium.
But the fans crave the glory of winning silverware above all else and a club who less than ten years ago went the whole season unbeaten should not be going eight years without a major honour.
A home tie with Championship side Rovers on Saturday represented a great chance to reach the last eight of the FA Cup. But the changes made to Wenger’s starting line up suggested he was placing greater focus on the upcoming game with Bayern Munich, a side who sit 15 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and who are heavy favourites in the champions league betting to reach the last eight.
He was made to pay a very high price for that lack of focus, with Colin Kazim-Richards grabbing the only goal of the game in what was very much a smash and grab win for Michael Appleton’s men.
Wenger, under increasingly pressure this season, downplayed the significance of the result, despite the anger shown by the club’s supporters at the end of the game. He also angrily dismissed allegations he did not take the tie seriously.
“I’ve been accused of not taking the FA Cup seriously. I won the FA Cup four times. Who has won it more? Give me one name,” snapped the Frenchman.
“The second thing, we were accused of not putting a strong team out. That’s an insult to the players who started the game – there were 11 international players. We accept we have to take the blame, but the rest you have to put into perspective.
“We live in a democracy of experts and opinions, but we have to live with that and show we have the mental strength to deal with any opinion. There are a lot of experts who are not necessarily always right.
“What is important is not what people say. It is what happens on the pitch.”