Tuesday 6 December 2016

Arsene Wenger has paid Zlatan Ibrahimovic an incredible compliment

Tom Rooney

Published 12/09/2016 | 18:19

Zlatan Ibrahimovic while at PSG
Zlatan Ibrahimovic while at PSG

Perhaps only his ego outsizes that towering frame, so it is very likely that Zlatan Ibrahimović will have been nodding in complete agreement should he have heard some of Arsene Wenger’s latest comments.

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The one-liners extolling his own virtues are widespread and manifold, so repeating any of Zlatan Ibrahimović’s monologues of self-praise would be redundant.

Instead, why not let someone else do it for him?

It’s no doubt a little strange for the Swede not be taking centre stage as the Champions League begins again but, having joined Manchester United as a free agent over the summer, he’ll have to make do with Thursday’s trip to Feyenoord in the Europa League.

The 34-year-old has scored in three of his first four league appearances at United, including in Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford, so there will be great hope he can fire them back into Europe's blue-ribbon competition.

Conversely, Arsenal are set to embark on their 18th consecutive Champions League campaign, starting with tomorrow’ trip to PSG, where Ibrahimović performed with distinction over the last four seasons.

The former Barca striker played a pivotal role in the Parisian club winning four consecutive League 1 titles and, over the course of 122 appearances, he netted an improbable 113 goals.

There has been considerable flux at the Parc Des Princes of late, as not only did Ibrahimović depart, but Laurent Blanc was also dismissed as manager after three seasons at the helm.

During his stint Blanc was unable to guide PSG beyond the quarter final stage of the Champions League, a record which ultimately cost him his job.

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Unai Emery, having led Sevilla to the last three Europa League titles, was drafted in to address the shortcoming, but the transition has not been seamless.

PSG are currently in seventh place in  Ligue 1, having won just half of their opening four games and, most recently, drawing with St Etienne.

Asked of their struggles, Wenger pointed to 6’5 void left behind by the Ibrahimović and having acclimatise to a new manager’s methods.

"They will be continue to be the dominant team in France but they lost more than a player with Ibrahimovic.

"He was the leader, the captain, a charismatic carrier of the ambition of the club and it’s always difficult to measure when you lose a player of that stature, how big the damage is.

"At the moment they have also changed managers so they are trying to find their feet at the moment."

Indeed, Gunners fans will be hoping their side can progress beyond the last 16, which they have failed to do in last six attempts.

For all the frequency of their presence in the competition under Wenger, Arsenal have reached the final just once, in 2006, when they were beaten by Barcelona.

Arsenal and PSG comprise half of Group A, which also features Basel and Ludogorets, so they will be fully expected to progress to the knockout stages. 

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