London - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger found himself
attacked from all sides on Wednesday after his selection decisions backfired to
leave his team facing an embarrassing group-stage exit in the Champions League.
Wenger elected to pick David Ospina instead of first-choice
goalkeeper Petr Cech at home to Olympiakos on Tuesday, but the Colombian
committed a first-half howler, palming a corner into his own net, as Arsenal
lost 3-2 to register a second consecutive Group F defeat.
"OOPSPINA" was the headline in British newspaper
the Daily Mirror, while the Daily Express said the former Nice goalkeeper had
committed a "calamity" and The Sun said Wenger's men had been
Wenger claimed afterwards that Cech had been left on the
bench due to a "slight (fitness) alert" prior to Saturday's 5-2 win
at Leicester City, but Arsenal great Ian Wright said the Frenchman had made a
"For somebody who's not playing often -- and this is a
must-win game -- how can you put Ospina in goal? You've got to question the
manager there," Wright, Arsenal's second-highest all-time goal-scorer,
said on BT Sport.
"I think that's a big mistake. Why not start with Petr
Cech, simply because of the experience he's got? Because we have to win this
game. Arsenal have to win this game."
Also read: Wenger says Arsenal must win home games after Zagreb defeat
Cech, an 11 million ($16.7 million, 14.9 million euros)
signing from Chelsea, was Wenger's only close-season recruit and the calamitous
cost of rotation in the Champions League has revealed serious shortcomings in
Wenger made six changes for the group opener, a 2-1 defeat
at unheralded Dinamo Zagreb, and five for Tuesday's game, which saw Olympiakos
prevail on English soil for the first time after 12 consecutive defeats.
Arsenal may have shared the back page of The Sun with
Chelsea -- beaten 2-1 at Porto -- beneath the banner "EURO TRASH",
but whereas the Premier League champions' trip to Portugal represented their
toughest Group G assignment, Arsenal's biggest battles are still to come.
Their next group fixtures are a double-header against Pep
Guardiola's formidable Bayern Munich, in-form Robert Lewandowski and all, who eliminated
Arsenal in the last 16 in both 2013 and 2014.
- 'Disaster' -
Should Arsenal fail to win at least one of those games, they
will face elimination at the group stage for the first time since 1998.
"Normally we're out by the quarter-final, last 16,"
added Wright. "This time we've got a massive hill to climb."
Wenger has built his reputation on his success in
establishing Arsenal as Champions League perennials, leading them to the
competition's group stage 18 times in succession and to the knockout phase for
the past 15 seasons.
But their record in recent years has been one of diminishing
returns. They were beaten finalists in 2006 and semi-finalists in 2009, but
have gone out in the last 16 for the last five seasons in a row.
Paradoxically, Arsenal fared better in the Champions League
when Wenger's ability to invest in new players was hindered by the cost of the
Now free to splurge money on global stars like Mesut Ozil
and Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal curiously look more vulnerable than ever.
Echoing last season's fatal 3-1 loss at home to Monaco in
the last 16, the defeat by Olympiakos highlighted what have become habitual
failings for Wenger's men, who have lost six of their last 12 Champions League
Ospina's blunder was the latest in a long line of avoidable
individual errors that have hurt Arsenal in Europe, while Alfred Finnbogason's
66th-minute winner arrived just a minute after Sanchez had equalised.
"The Ospina mistake and conceding the third goal like
they did is a disaster," said former Arsenal defender Martin Keown.
"I can't remember a more disappointing European result
To compound matters, Arsenal lost Laurent Koscielny to a
hamstring injury in the second half, weakening them yet further ahead of
Sunday's home game against Premier League leaders Manchester United.For
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