Monday, 29 August 2011
The tribulations of Arsene
So it was 8-2. Eight! It was C who first looked for the result on the mobile phone while we were away yesterday. She showed it to me and asked if it said 3? No, it was eight. Eight is like a cricket team scoring seven hundred. It very rarely happens. United were excellent, as the highlights partly showed, but not utterly irresistible. They let in two goals and if Van Persie had scored with the penalty it would have been three. Or there might not have been eight. But eight it was. Yes, eight goals, each excellent in its own way.
So now it's crisis Arsenal. While I always had the deepest respect for Wenger's teams, admiring the style of football he got them to play - the closest thing we had to 'the beautiful game' - I have never quite grown to like him. It was the prissiness that slightly repelled me - the tremble of those thin lips, the natural assumption of superiority (one of life's self-made aristocrats, I thought) and the tendency to whine at any bruising tackle by the opposition, as if to say: How dare you filth mess with my objets d'art!
Like all managers (yes, bless you Sir Alex) he was paranoid and like all managers he was a hypocrite in failing to notice any depredations by his own side. But a capacity for paranoia and hypocrisy have long been managerial requirements in football. Demonstrations of both are expected, and in the nervous fury of the modern game and straight after it, it is hardly fair to ask for objectivity. Who, after all, is interested in objectivity when you can have drama instead?
But of course he was, and probably still is, a terrific manager, a genuine thinker and aesthete who rightly thought that- given certain conditions, which in his case would include a free hand in the upbringing of his footballing children and a degree of protection from the journeyman-cloggers of the world - it was possible to win with beauty. Barcelona have in fact proved his case for him, but under different conditions.
His teams were often French in composition and style which is no bad thing in itself but less effective, as countless others have pointed out, in December mud at Stoke, Bolton, or even Old Trafford. Especially at Old Trafford. It did work for a while when he had fierce defenders at his disposal, some of them inherited from earlier teams. He needed a genius or two, a Bergkamp, a Henry, an in-form Ljunberg, a youthful Pires, plus a tough Vieira, a Keown, a Petit, a Campbell, a Cole and Fabregas with Lehmann in goal. There were matches in which there was no British player in the team. Arsenal could win by simply bedazzling the opposition.
It's sad to see him now He looks like a man wrung out by circumstance and his own decisions. As a human study there will be few better illustrated documents of distress. He desperately needs some luck. And some help. Though I suspect he is not a man who welcomes help.
Oh, and the goals. I am of a sensitive disposition and understand how Wenger must feel, so I won't make the video too big:
Manchester United - Arsenal 8:2 by FootballKing1892
But then I can't not have it!