Arsenal: Was Arsene Wenger's Team Selection 'Disrespectful' to Supporters?

Ian RodgersWorld Football Staff WriterFebruary 17, 2013

Paul Merson remains a legend to Arsenal supporters, and when he declares a team selection is disrespectful to the fans, people tend to listen.

The former Gunners striker voiced his opinion on Sky Sports after Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup on Saturday by Blackburn Rovers of the Championship.

Colin Kazim-Richards scored the only goal of the game as a weakened Arsenal starting lineup failed to breach the Ewood Park side's back line.

But it was the omission of key first-team stars Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla from the start which has frustrated Merson and the supporters.

Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger have not won a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup triumph over Manchester United at the Millennium Stadium.

The lack of silverware is the heaviest of burdens at a major club such as the Gunners, which has a timeline running around the Emirates Stadium not having been updated since the club moved into the new ground from Highbury in 2006.

With the financial muscle of Manchester City and Chelsea usurping Arsenal in the challenge to Manchester United for the Premier League title, supporters' emphasis has been on cup competitions as a best resource for success.

But capitulations to teams such as Birmingham City, Bradford City and now Blackburn Rovers are taking the sheen off Wenger's previous successes during the initial years of his reign.

The prospect of a Champions League last-16 tie with Bayern Munich this week should be an enticing one for all Arsenal fans, but, after the loss to Blackburn, there will be many fearing the worst when the runaway Bundesliga leaders arrive at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

Wenger reached for the bottom of the statistics barrel as he attempted to deflect the fans' ire in his post-match analysis on Saturday.

The Gunners boss told reporters, per the Daily Star, that a record of having never been beaten by a lower-league club before during his tenure in the FA Cup "says something." Sadly, it is merely a muffled cry to the Arsenal supporters, who crave some kind of tangible success after a barren eight years.

The sight of Wilshere, Walcott and Cazorla on the bench must have been even more galling for supporters paying the most in the Premier League for matchday tickets, according to a Daily Mail report.

Wenger is correct to claim that he put out a team capable of winning the FA Cup tie, but that matters little when the same side don't.

Arsenal's record of qualifying for the Champions League is impressive, but few would argue their hopes of reaching the Wembley final this season are, at best, limited.

So why not send out your strongest team for the one competition you have the best chance of winning? The logic behind Wenger's team selection is unfathomable. Resting players for a game few expect you to win anyway is simply bizarre.

Wenger may well point to the number of shots on target Arsenal had against Blackburn (12), but the fact that not one went in is a far more painful figure.

The lack of a cutting edge has cost the Gunners, but they also lacked the engine of a Blackburn which had Jordan Rhodes, Lee Williamson, Jason Lowe and Kazim-Richards running for every ball. Rovers goalkeeper Jake Kean also had an impressive match, but players such as Gervinho must have the ability to find a way past him and his resolute defence as they chase their only potential trophy this season.

Arsenal's defence, the plinth on which past successes were built, was barely troubled but still managed to lose focus when it came to preventing Kazim-Richards firing home the winning goal.

Merson speaks with his Arsenal heart on the sleeve and, in the immediate aftermath of another cup humbling, his words were understandably emotive. This time, though, he was echoing a louder holler from fans within the Emirates. 

Supporters once loyal to their manager ("In Arsene We Trust" read one regular banner at home matches) are rapidly losing patience, while others lost hope in the wake of so many other disappointing results.

Time is running out for Wenger, and even a shock Champions League win this week will not offset the meek surrender of Arsenal's only realistic cup shot.