Monday 23 January 2017

Arsenal are now a non-football person's idea of a football team

Published 24/04/2011 | 05:00

I think history will be kind to Arsene Wenger. It will certainly be kinder to him than Emmanuel Eboue, Nicklas Bendtner, Wojciech Szczesny or the others among his team who he protects and who have tortured him this season.

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History will be kinder to him than these men. History will recognise his noble project and his attempts to treat the Carling Cup as a lesser prize than finishing in the top four of the Premier League.

History will have some questions for him but history will try to make those questions different than the questions Jamie Redknapp has for him. Otherwise history, along with Jamie Redknapp, will be bunk.

History might discover some reasons for his failure to sign a goalkeeper or a centre-half; history might establish his reasons for sending Nicklas Bendtner on when Arsenal need a goal or when they don't need a goal or at any time at all.

Wenger knows the truth. He knew the truth last Sunday when Emmanuel Eboue clattered into Lucas, but the truth would hurt Emmanuel Eboue. He knows the truth is painful. He hears the platitudes and perhaps he lumps the talk about goalkeepers and centre-halves in with all the rest. He knows that even the talk that Arsenal are great to watch is now a cliché. He knows that Arsenal these days are usually very boring to watch. The Tottenham match was gripping, but too often they play with a sense of entitlement which, when added to their over-developed sense of themselves as victims, makes them increasingly pathetic to watch.

They have lost their substance. Where once they were Oscar Wilde, they are now Stephen Fry. Julie Burchill described Fry as "a stupid person's idea of a clever person". Arsenal now fulfil this role in the lives of football-watchers who talk about how much they love to watch them play.

Wenger is too smart not to realise that some of the things everybody has told him might be true, but like all great obsessives he is helpless because he knows most of what they say has to be ignored. More importantly, he has tried to nurture a team which, with rare exceptions, do nothing to repay him.

So instead he makes himself look foolish by denying that Eboue gave away a penalty, by talking up Arsenal's unbeaten run which may be the most depressing streak anyone has ever been on. He has no alternative now. He could turn on his players because they are making him look foolish but what good is loyalty if you only observe it while it's making you look clever?

Wenger thinks his loyalty is necessary now but is it merited? Do Manuel Almunia and Eboue need him to look stupid in a vain attempt to conceal the truth?

In the summer, perhaps, Wenger can find some peace. What Arsenal needs is a Truth Commission. Its aim will be the reconciliation of Arsene Wenger with himself. Wenger will be the main witness. Others might be called but it will be Wenger who has the need to unburden himself.

Eboue, Almunia and the rest have unburdened themselves long enough, now it should be Wenger's turn. He has so much to say, so much to get off his chest. Wenger needs this now. Football owes him this opportunity.

"Time will tell," he said when asked about the damage done when Arsenal threw away a four-goal lead at Newcastle. Now, perhaps, Wenger can tell with the help of time and the Truth Commission.

There is so much pain. Wenger might explain how his side lost in the Cup to a United team containing John O'Shea and Darron Gibson in midfield. How can Arsenal reconcile the view that they have spectacular young talent with that performance?

There are Arsenal fans who feel they are the victims of injustice and they will be able to petition to have their say, but nobody has been more of a victim than Wenger, even if, like many victims, he has contributed to his enslavement too.

The commission will allow him a safe place to speak the truth. He can talk about Bendtner's miss in the Nou Camp; he can just talk about Bendtner. There is so much from this season: losing at home to West Brom; not winning away at West Brom; drawing at ten-man Wigan when a team with title aspirations would be expected to win at 10-man Wigan or 11-man Wigan or even 12-man Wigan.

Others will be called to account and asked to justify what they did to Arsene Wenger. The young goalkeeper Sczczesny will explain his hard-man act last Wednesday. He will be asked if part of him fancied saving a penalty against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. He had already revealed the adrenaline rushing through him from his clattering into the world's best player, Gareth Bale, and he might have simply thought there was nothing to lose in taking out a lesser man in Aaron Lennon.

They will ask him too about Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas was the latest player to be stitched up by a magazine which asked him some questions and then printed the answers.

Fabregas made some interesting points about the Arsenal project but he really didn't need to make them now. Wenger blamed the magazine and he had no other option. The Truth Commission will be created and finally give him another option.

He has made mistakes. He set a standard with his teams for ten years and the world expected this team to match them. He set a standard too by defending those teams, but there is a difference between defending Patrick Vieira and defending Emmanuel Eboue.

Wenger sees it differently. It set him apart and left him at times teetering on the brink of despondency and despair. He needs a break. The truth will set him free or at least free him from the chains of defending Emmanuel Eboue.

dfanning@independent.ie

Sunday Indo Sport

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