Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Wizard of Ars (enal)...

"Arsene knows" goes the popular saying around Emirates stadium. You have to have been a follower of Arsenal Football Club to understand it fully. It is a testament to one of the greatest football coaches of modern times. His appointment, his playing strategy and his transfer policy have all been questioned again and again over the years. Yet, somehow, he has managed to carve out one of the most successful legacies in English football.

Wenger revived the beautiful game in English club football. Wenger brought diet control and no smoking to the players. Wenger won three Premier League titles and four FA cups while a study showed that he was the only manager to make a profit from his transfer activities among the 20 managers in the premier league. One would think- think- that would be enough to not be questioned again and again.

Not in this country. I have written previously about the fickle nature of the British press (Pressure- British Press Wags the Dog). So what do you think happened when Arsenal gave up a 4-2 lead against Tottenham one week and lost an away game to newly promoted Stoke the next? A deluge of newspaper articles appeared questioning the managers methods and wondering if his time is up (Times, Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Sun). How ridiculous!

So as the Manchester United dream team of Rooney, Ronaldo, Berbatov and Tevez all converged at Emirates stadium, it was clear that Arsenal needed a result more than a performance. Fortunately they got both. The second goal in particular, showed the manager's stamp more than individual genius- a 59 second, 16 pass move, in which every one of the Arsenal field players except for William Gallas got to touch the ball. It ended up with a thumping shot in the back of the United net by Nasri- another player plucked by Wenger.

It does not answer all questions about Arsenal's inability to win silverware in the last three seasons. It does not take care of the inconsistency playing bottom teams like Sunderland and Stoke. It does however, answer all questions about whether Arsene Wenger still knows- he does. Let's talk at the end of the season!

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