Wednesday 7 December 2016

John Giles: Gunners shooting blanks and blowing any chance of another title for Wenger

Read John Giles' exclusive column every Wednesday in The Herald

Published 02/03/2016 | 18:28

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

It's almost a cliché now for Arsenal to fall apart in February. Optimism and real belief have once again been replaced by disappointment and Arsene Wenger must take the blame.

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I've been a defender of his for a long time now but I have to acknowledge that there is a flaw in his vision and in his thinking which translates into defensive chaos when big pressure games must be faced.

It has happened far too often to be an accident and unless he's very lucky indeed, Wenger has blown the best chance he will ever have to add another title to his honour list.

Alone of the top four teams, Arsenal had a bad week. Leicester marched on at the top of the table while Spurs tucked in behind and kept the Europa League route to Champions League football next season alive.

Manchester City had the best week of all and I was absolutely delighted for Manuel Pellegrini, a professional to his fingertips who has one trophy in the bag in his final season at the Etihad and might fancy a few more.

The Gunners had a lesson from Barcelona and Lionel Messi and lost a crucial Premier League fixture to the worst Manchester United team in three decades.

And while Wenger suffered on the touchline, he got to witness the moment when the dam which has been containing Louis van Gaal's anger and confusion burst.

I have no doubt in my mind that van Gaal hit the deck at Old Trafford because he was feeling some freedom for the first time since he took over Manchester United.

I think he was in a pretty good mood, perhaps for the first time in the job. All the pent-up angst, all the the relentless questioning of his ability was released in that single moment.

At the root of his happiness is a young man nobody heard of two weeks ago. Marcus Rashford is yet another home-grown talent making a huge impact at a Premier League club.

It's been a theme of mine all season and like Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, he is proving that there is nothing quite like a local lad making good to give fans hope.

Fans can identify with Rashford because he grew up among them and as we saw in the media yesterday, he was back in school the day after he beat Arsenal.

He has sparked a mini-revival which gives van Gaal a chance to somehow, drag himself out of the hole he has been wallowing in. I saw the video doing the rounds of Jose Mournho behind a rifle just before the Dutchman falls to the ground and I must say, I had a good laugh at that.

There's a lot of truth in it too. I'm sure Mourinho's mood darkened as van Gaal's fortunes improved and by the time the game was over and the Dutchman had recorded a third straight win, the improbable possibility that he might yet survive had to be considered.

Just ten days ago, there seemed to be an urgent need for Ed Woodward to act and his only option was to hire Mourinho. It seems like a much less desperate situation now.

Van Gaal must feel buoyed up. He has won the Lotto and found a player under his own nose who can win football matches. Sometimes you just know when you see a player that he is going to be something special. Rashford has all the hallmarks. Big, powerful, fast and he's a natural finisher

Four goals in two games is an astonishing way to start your senior career and nobody more surprised than van Gaal, I would bet.

It's funny, I like van Gaal more now after seeing him seeing him under the hammer than I did when he first arrived, puffed up and perched on a very big reputation.

He knows from the history of the club he is managing how the greatest manager of them ALL was within minutes of the sack and found a path to unparalleled success through the club Academy.

Rashford is only one player but out of all the young lads van Gaal has been forced to throw into his team this season, he is the one that changed things on the pitch and did it almost immediately.

Nobody is talking about boring football or Mourinho now. It's all about Rashford.

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