The Arsenal supremo has called Manchester United “anti-football”, Aston Villa a “long-ball” team and Chelsea “dull”. In Wenger’s eyes, Arsenal’s approach to football, regardless of results, renders the club superior.
Whilst Wenger’s appreciation of the beautiful game is admirable, at times it is irritating to listen to the Frenchman in post match interviews. After being resoundingly beaten by the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United, but still insisting his team were better, Wenger’s words are at times a waste of breathe. Wenger cannot honestly believe Arsenal were better in such circumstances, and his eccentric answers appear to reflect the extent of the Frenchman’s frustrations. For example, Wenger told the Times:
“You have to congratulate Chelsea but we didn’t get a demonstration of football… We had 70 per cent possession of the ball. We were not running after the ball. They [Chelsea] did not dominate.”
This comment was Wenger’s analysis of the match between Chelsea and Arsenal in February where, once they took the lead, Chelsea have seldom looked more comfortable. Wenger’s post-game analysis following a defeat are therefore often reminiscent of the ‘I didn’t’ see it’ defence Wenger would deploy following a contentious decision in favour of his team (think Robert Pires against Portsmouth at Highbury).
Wenger is using his team’s ‘superior’ morality in terms of footballing philosophy and finance to deflect attention away from his teams own shortcomings, which is infuriating when it is clear that Arsenal have the ability to challenge at the top of the table. Arsenal are just three points off the top spot going into March, and so, rather than providing his players with excuses, perhaps it is time Wenger exerted pressure on his players, instead of trying to defend them a la ‘I didn’t see it’.
Following resounding defeats to Chelsea and Manchester United, Wenger should have been honest enough to come out and criticise some of his players, rather than allowing them to hide behind morality. Players such as Clichy, Sagna and Walcott, who were all poor against Chelsea for instance, can and should have done better against top opposition. It would be refreshing to see Wenger demand more from these players, instead of reverting to their age, and his clubs attempt to play football the ‘right way’ as readymade excuses.
Arsenal announced pre-tax profits of £35.2m for the six months ending 30 November 2009, whilst the Highbury Square Project and player sales have further assisted Arsenal Holdings plc in cutting the total net debt from £332.8m to 203.6m. Arsenal will be debt free within the foreseeable future, and Wenger will then be free to add to his squad in a similar vein to Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. This is perhaps a more realistic criticism that can be levelled at Chelsea for example. Abramovich has to a certain extent bought success, and Wenger can understandably be bitter about this when his club is striving to compete with a sound financial plan and hard work.
However, with Arsenal’s debt free future now firmly on the horizon, Wenger will soon have the money he needs to compete financially with the league’s elite. When this comes to pass, Wenger will no longer be able to hide behind morality if the club’s trophy cabinet continues to gather dust. However, if Wenger starts galvanising his talented pool of players, rather than gibbering on about possession and passing, the five year wait for a trophy might yet be at an end…
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