Should Wenger now focus on domestic success with Arsenal?

Arsene Wenger at Training - 18/02/2014

Arsenal take on Sunderland this weekend following their disappointing 2-0 defeat at the Emirates to European champions Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

The Gunners’ hopes of progressing past the Bundesliga champions were dashed by the second goal scored late in the game by Bayern Munich substitute Thomas Muller after Toni Kroos had opened the scoring just after half time against the ten men of Arsenal who had been reduced when Wojceich Szczesny was sent off for a foul on Arjen Robben.

The 2-0 defeat at home now leave Arsene Wenger’s side with a mountain to climb on the return leg at the Allianz Arena next month and the boss will be hoping his side can overturn the two away goals deficit, should the Frenchman now be targeting domestic competitions as his priority?

Arsenal have put themselves in a fantastic position in the Premier League just one point behind current leaders Chelsea with just 12 games left to play as we head into the business end of the season.

Arsenal knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup in the fifth round last Sunday to progress through to sixth round where they will meet Everton next month at the Emirates. At present, there are just three Premier League teams left in the competition apart from the Gunners (Everton, Sunderland, and Manchester City) with holders Wigan facing the runners up from last term at the Etihad next month.

Arsenal have a very good opportunity to end their eight year trophy drought this term with Manchester United’s fall from grace under David Moyes leaving the door open for the Gunners to fight with City and Chelsea for domestic glory.

Wenger’s side did go out of the Champions League on a high note last term and at the Allianz Arena, no less, where they beat Bayern Munich 2-0 – whilst the chances of Arsenal achieving that result are slim, it is not impossible for the North Londoners to knock out the holders in the Champions League but they would be defying the odds to do so. With their position domestically so strong, should Wenger prioritise the Premier League and FA Cup now and leave the game at the Allianz Arena up to fate and chance to some degree?

I think, if Arsenal and Wenger really want to win a trophy, they have their best chance in years of winning the Premier League title which hasn’t been this closely contended in years and they must be favourites for the FA Cup along with Manchester City. Even if the Gunners did the impossible in Munich next month, there are still the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, and Chelsea to think about in the Champions League and huge ties with clubs of that level will only drain the resources of Wenger and his squad.

Theo Walcott is out for the season, Aaron Ramsey remains injured and isn't expected to return until the end of March at the earliest, Thomas Vermaelen is injured meaning Per Mertesacker and Laurent Kosicelny couldn't even get a rest if they wanted to, whilst Olivier Giroud's personal life has sidetracked his season in the last couple of weeks, Mesut Ozil's form has dropped substantially, and Kieran Gibbs is also out injured after being taken off in midweek.

The squad is being pushed to its limits with the likes of Yaya Sanogo starting the last two games in succession, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being used a lot since returning from his knee injury and either Mathieu Flamini or Mikel Arteta banned week in week out. Lukas Podolski seems to be a mysteriously peripheral figure this term and Santi Cazorla has been inconsistent since returning from his injury at the start of term. Wenger simply cannot afford another injury, suspension or dip in form from any of his squad with games still to be played in the next month or so against Everton (twice), Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Defeats in the latter two fixtures mentioned especially could curtail their title challenge in the space of a week at the end of next month and Everton are not going to be push overs in the FA Cup either. We have seen Arsenal score four goals against AC Milan at the San Siro a few years ago and two goals at the Allianz Arena last term but the Gunners best chances of a trophy this term are in domestic competitions which is where Wenger and his squad's focus should be from now on.

image: © Jenny Leigh

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