Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: Arsene Wenger’s ramblings suggest he knows less than we thought

So, how many remain convinced that ‘Arsene knows’ anymore? It has been a traumatic fortnight for Arsenal beginning with genuine thoughts of a remarkable ‘Quadruple’ and ending with just one target still within range: the Premier League.

Shot down: Arsene Wenger was tactically out-thought by Sir Alex Ferguson in their FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford on Saturday

Now the manager isn’t due sole responsibility for this collapse. It may be a mystery why he hasn’t bought a goalkeeper and a commanding central defender but how is Wenger to blame for the comedy cock-up of Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny at Wembley? And the boss didn’t tell Cesc Fabregas to make that cocky and costly back-heel in the Nou Camp.

No . . . but Wenger is increasingly saying things these days that just invite you to punch a hole through his argument. You sense, for example, that there is considerable embarrassment at the Emirates over his attack on UEFA.

How I wish the manager had come into the media conference after the Barcelona defeat and spoke differently.

We’d all have nodded in appreciation if he’d acknowledged that his team hadn’t had a shot on target but, nevertheless, had given their all and had simply been beaten by a better team: that one or two questionable decisions had gone against Arsenal but you move on . . .

Look, the referee’s choice to send Robin van Persie off was grotesquely unfair particularly in the light of several recent decisions to allow players to stay on the pitch when showing a red card seemed the obvious thing to do.

But Wenger must have been watching a different game in claiming he felt Arsenal were going to go through before the Dutchman’s dismissal, and his description of Barcelona as “sterile” is too ludicrous to justify further examination.

Then came Saturday: most seemed stunned by Sir Alex Ferguson’s team selection that included seven defenders and had Wayne Rooney playing mostly in midfield in a 4-1-4-1 formation, but it was actually devilishly clever. Ferguson had prioritised tonight’s Champions League game against Marseille (I think that’s still a tricky hurdle for United to overcome) and heaped all the pressure on Arsenal who’d gone with their strongest available 11. And it came off.

The result is that Wenger and his team, already reeling under the blows struck by Birmingham and Barcelona, must be in danger of psychological collapse. Yes, Van Der Sar was Man of the Match for a number of significant saves but Arsenal looked flat throughout.

I never believed they were going to get back into it and now they have to live with the thought that they couldn’t beat Fergie’s ‘2nd XI’.

They have all week to brood about their situation with Fabregas, Song, Walcott, Vermaelen, Szczesny and now Djourou injured. They play at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, a team scrapping against relegation. Wenger HAS to lift them, to persuade them that the title IS achievable.

If not, if it’s another season without a trophy, and it might well be time for a change in direction.

Belfast Telegraph


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