Friday 24 November 2017

All is well in Wenger's world as Arsenal look to future

In his programme notes yesterday, Arsene Wenger outlined his pride when he was recently told that Arsenal had now fielded players from 49 different countries. "It's highly important in the modern world that football can be ahead of society and contribute to a better world tomorrow," he wrote.

Arsenal may have gone without a trophy since 2005 but Wenger's brief now appears to consist, like a Miss World contestant, of making the world a better place. Well, it beats competently defending set-pieces.

For many at Arsenal, Wenger's words underline the sense that, in the boardroom and in the manager's office, there is no sense of crisis. Arsenal's easy victory against Bolton Wanderers yesterday is likely to harden the view that all is well with the world before the next calamity.

Wenger also seems to be sensing a conspiracy. He didn't engage when asked after the game if Inter Milan had contacted him last week. In his mind, even the question suggested a campaign. "You were consistent in wanting to get me out and I was consistent in wanting to stay so we both were consistent," he said.

Arsenal's crisis was not made by the media but forged at Wembley and St James' Park, Old Trafford and Blackburn Rovers.

There was nothing to add to it yesterday. Arsenal were never tested by a Bolton side which when the game began had conceded more goals than every team in the league bar one -- Arsenal.

Wenger has achieved so much in football that it's understandable if he rejects the suggestion that his side should appoint a defensive coach, the latest solution put forward to solve all Arsenal's problems.

Wenger once said that the day Arsenal appointed a director of football would be the day he left the club so the idea that his football team, his creation, his vision for a better world, could be broken into pieces was never going to be tolerated, certainly not under current conditions.

By dismissing the suggestion Wenger raised the stakes while retaining the control that is essential to all managers, even if he grips it a little too hard. If people want a defensive coach, Arsenal will have to hire a defensive manager. Wenger's heart is in a nobler project.

His refusal to compromise is understandable when great managers know that they never got anywhere through compromise. Wenger may have been pragmatic in the past, but his beliefs have stayed the same.

After a dynamic second half, Wenger could again claim that this is a tremendously talented side that just needs to rediscover its belief.

In the first half, his side had played as if it was never coming back. There had been moments when they penetrated but this was an Arsenal side that played in hope that their occasionally elaborate passing would open up Bolton rather than aside with the conviction that it would.

Gervinho had angered Van Persie early on when his heavy touch allowed Jussi Jaaskelainen to rush out before Gervinho could either shoot or pass to Van Persie.

Theo Walcott was central to much of Arsenal's play, going down easily when touched by David Wheater in the second half, contact that led to the Bolton player being sent off.

Walcott would later demonstrate that being through on goal isn't a clear goalscoring opportunity for him when he shot tamely at Jussi Jaaskelainen after being put clear but Arsenal had a real force in Van Persie and some drive in midfield from Alex Song and Aaron Ramsey. He was then withdrawn with a knee injury.

They were helped by a Bolton side that look to be already in a relegation battle-even if they've had a tough run of games and have now conceded more goals than anyone else.

Gary Cahill's absence through illness added to their problems, although he hasn't stopped them conceding goals. Yet, at half-time, they held Arsenal. "We felt at half-time we had a platform to achieve a positive result from the game," Owen Coyle said. Within a minute, things had changed with Van Persie showing purpose and scoring his 99th goal for the club.

The game went one way after that and Arsenal were in complete control with Van Persie getting his 100th and celebrating with a bow.

When Alex Song curled in Arsenal's third goal against a Bolton side down to ten men after Wheater's sending off, the Arsenal fans chanted 'There's only one Arsene Wenger'.

Wenger acknowledged the chants and looked to the future. There is no other way as a football manager but Arsenal still need more than a better world tomorrow.

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