LONDON – It has been necessary to remind ourselves that Arsenal FC remains one of the great clubs in English football and Arsene Wenger is second only to Sir Alex Ferguson on the list of Premier League managers who have won the most trophies with their English clubs.
The last two weeks have been open season on Arsenal and Wenger in the wake of the Gunners’ 4-0 thrashing at Liverpool — the visitor was lucky to get none — with the media and ex-players putting the collective boot into club and manager. Having lost two of its opening three games Arsenal has realistically kissed goodbye to any title aspirations, with some observers even predicting a mid-table finish.
Few are surprised by Arsenal’s lame start despite its F.A. Cup win in May. Majority owner U.S.-based Stan Kroenke seems more interested in the share price than success on the field; there is no pressure or accountability on Wenger, who should have stepped down two years ago and is in danger of being remembered as a failure rather than the club’s most innovative manager
Arsenal showed a profit in the summer transfer window, bringing in only Antonio Lacazette (from Lyon for £46.5 million) and Sead Kolašinac on a free from Schalke 04 which, given the improvement of its rivals, is tantamount to self-harming. If anyone at Emirates Stadium seriously believes the arrival of those two players would make Arsenal a Premier League force, they should email the tooth fairy.
There is no riot act to be read because it is not Arsenal’s (i.e. Wenger’s) style. Defeat can be acceptable if the team has given everything, but as the players walked off of the Anfield pitch the laundry lady probably thought she had an easy week coming.
Arsenal fans have almost given up on the Wenger Out protests because they know that as he signed a two-year contract in the summer he will be there until 2019 unless he resigns. Kroenke’s shares are very much in the black, the bank manager is smiling — how can anyone be unhappy?
It is difficult to imagine what satisfaction Wenger gains from his job in the shadow of so much negativity, but a life without football is an empty world for the Frenchman he cannot possibly contemplate.
Arsenal, which is only ever a game away from a crisis, plays 0-3 Bournemouth at home on Saturday. Wenger could not ask for better (or worse) opposition than a team that has lost by at least a two-goal margin in all three of its visits to Arsenal, though optimism is in short supply at Emirates now.
Not a believable defense
A man pleaded not guilty to assault recently even though he was caught on CCTV punching someone sitting next to him at a railway station. “I was yawning,” he told the court, stretching his arms out to illustrate his alleged real action. He was found guilty, but as excuses go, there was an air of unreal hilarity about it.
It was a similar situation with England’s Dele Alli, who, after being tackled by Martin Skrtel of Slovakia and not being awarded a free kick, gave a finger gesture. As it was in the direction of the referee most considered the official was the target, but no — it was to his former Tottenham teammate Kyle Walker, who was 10 meters behind the referee, who did not see the incident.
“The gesture was a joke between me and my good friend Kyle Walker,” tweeted Dele. And the cow jumped over the moon. Why on earth would Dele make a finger gesture to Walker after the referee had not given a free kick in his favor?
Dele was obviously unaware that it does not matter who the gesture was made to, only if it was made. Law 12 states that a player should be sent off if the gesture is considered offensive, insulting or abusive. He was lucky FIFA — so far — has taken no action. The Football Association, almost certainly, and UEFA, probably, would have charged Dele retroactively.
At the World Cup, if the referee sees a finger gesture Dele is likely to be sent off. If nothing else, he and Walker should find something else to joke about.
Rooney in double trouble
Footballers often claim they should not be role models for fans and in the case of Wayne Rooney it is impossible to disagree with this theory. The Everton forward has been charged with driving under the influence (of alcohol) while behind the wheel of a car belonging to a 29-year-old girl of, let’s say, a nocturnal background, while Rooney’s wife, Coleen, who is pregnant, was on holiday with their three sons.
If nothing else, Rooney (and, in fact, all fathers) should at least be role models to their children. Heaven knows what sort of playground “banter” the boy will be subjected to.
We all make mistakes, but being allegedly three times over the legal limit and playing away from home is breathtaking recklessness in every sense.
Did Rooney seriously think he could get away with such a doubleheader indiscretion?
The impression is that if he ever sold his brain the ad could read: “One owner — hardly used.”
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.