Introducing the Arsenal and Liverpool Debates

The Arsenal Debate

My Liverpool-supporting mate commented that my last luvfooty blog (“The Life of Whine”) was a bit anti-Arsenal but I don’t feel it was. Ok, so I was perhaps overly-critical given their achievements this season but you have to expect a bit of bias in the commentary “business”. No man is an Ireland, or something.

So I had a pang of guilt. For 24 hours.

Commenting on referee Howard Webb’s decision to give a penalty against William Gallas for a handball and a free kick against Gilberto Silva for a foul on Patrice Evra, Arsene “good loser” Wenger said: “With the penalty you can give it or not give it. As for the free-kick I do not think Gilberto touched Evra.” He was less willing to comment on the handball by Emmanuel Adebayor when scoring the equaliser.

The media is full of praise for Wenger and his team this year, and rightly so in many respects. But it’s hard to respect the man when he comes across as being so bitter: he is either a fine actor or mentally ill. Week after week it’s all about his great team, bad refereeing decisions, aggressive opponents, anti-Arsenal bias in the FA, fixture pile-ups – a national conspiracy of epic proportions.

Teams have been written off in the past: “you’ll never win anything with kids”, a famous Scottish bard once said. Indeed Wenger’s team was written off post-Henry. So it’s hard to stick the knife in to Wenger given what he’s achieved in the past. But the fans must be wary of his stubborn streak.

“We will continue to play the way we do but better. The main target is to keep the team together. They are absolutely amazing. I feel the difference between success and failure is very little,” he said after conceding the title to Man U yesterday. Part of this is paper-talk – not wanting to reveal his hand ahead of the summer sales – but part of it is Wenger’s unwavering support for his players no matter what they achieve or otherwise.

At this point he should have some concern about the form of Adebayor – or more specifically, the quality of the player. Most players will have purple patches where they score goals (Benjani is a good recent example) but it’s not an indication that they are going to be the second coming of Thierry Henry. Adebayor was as culpable as anyone yesterday for wasting chances – until Nicklas Bendtner came off the bench to keep him company, fluffing a couple of headers. A winner against Manchester United is worth more than a hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Derby – that’s the difference between the good and the great.

Wenger has been unlucky in losing Robin van Persie and Eduardo da Silva to injury but with Theo Walcott not finding his feet yet and a string of sub-standard strikers moving on (Lupoli, Aliadière, Stokes, Owusu-Abeyie) he finds himself short in that department. He needed to go out and buy a Torres or a Villa last summer but he won’t spend the money. Sometimes I think he does not compete for signatures because being out-bid by a rival manager would damage his self-esteem too much.

I believe that his continuous ranting about the unfairness of every referee and opponent and his loyal support for his players, actually sends the wrong message and is damaging to them. Wenger won’t admit to any failing of his players or himself in the belief that this will make them invincible. Instead it makes them arrogant and complacent. I still can’t work out if this is Wenger’s psychology or if he actually believes that his team are as good as Manchester United and Chelsea in spite of what the league table and the trophy cabinet (empty for three seasons) says.

The Liverpool debate

It now seems that Rick Parry was actually present with the Americans at a meeting with Jurgen Klinsmann last year. Rafa, obviously fairly put out by this, has demanded a meeting so that he can get to the bottom of things. The whole soap opera is an embarrassment.

Rafa doesn’t want to leave for two reasons. The first is that he loves the club and the support he has gotten from the terraces in spite of four anti-climactic Premiership seasons he has been in charge for. He continues to live off the 2005 Champions League win, brilliant as it was fortuitous.

The second reason is that he wouldn’t last pissing time at a big European club unless he was winning league titles. Four seasons without being even in the shake-up at the end of the season? Not a hope, mate. He wouldn’t make two seasons at the Bernabeu.

Having said all that there has to be some reason why the top brass at Anfield have little faith in him considering they are on the brink of a third Champions League final in four seasons. In one sense it’s a great achievement but in another sense it’s a shoulder-shrugger. Been there, won that: next!

One has to question why they would pursue Klinsmann though, a man who has only had unexpected success with Germany at the 2006 World Cup in his home country. The obvious target for the Liverpool board if they want a league title is Jose Mourinho, but they better be ready to back him up with the dollars.

Something’s gotta give and if the club are not sold this summer then Rafa may very well end up in Madrid. If he does there will be uproar for a month or so … but just like Mourinho and Jol, people will move on.

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