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Poor old Wenger still tortured from without, and from within

The purpose of this Arsenal side seems to be to find subtler and more excruciating ways to torture Arsene Wenger.

Most people now consider his failure to sign a goalkeeper an act of madness as deranged as any there has been, not just in the history of football, but in the history of the world. All would be well, it is said, if Wenger replaced Manuel Almunia.

Wenger has, of course, tried to replace Almunia and not just with Lukasz Fabianski. In the summer, he attempted to buy Pepe Reina from Liverpool. Then he looked to get Mark Schwarzer from Fulham, a move which indicates that he hasn't given up hope of signing Pepe Reina from Liverpool.

Once the attempt to sign Schwarzer failed, Wenger's act of insanity in most people's eyes was to ignore the talents of Shay Given or not offer more for Fulham's goalkeeper.

Wenger must see things differently which is not to say he shouldn't have signed a goalkeeper. For him, the first act of insanity is to listen to too many people. If there is a generally agreed upon solution then Wenger's first instinct, and perhaps his second, is to disregard it.

So he finds himself in a position where his urgent need for a goalkeeper is stressed repeatedly by people who move on to tell him that it's good he's finally started taking the Carling Cup seriously.

Wenger's decision to field an experienced team in the game against Spurs was hailed as unprecedented, except that there was a precedent. Last October, Arsenal played Liverpool in the Carling Cup and Wenger selected a team with Senderos, Silvestre, Nasri, Ramsey, Eduardo and Bendtner in the 11. Some of them aren't very good but they were experienced.

So it wasn't so much of a leap to send out a team one round earlier -- away from home, against a Champions League side -- with Rosicky, Wilshere and Nasri alongside Henri Lansbury.

Unfortunately, it also wasn't unprecedented for Arsenal to go and lose at home to West Brom and the dark prospect looms that they will lose at Chelsea today and Wenger will again be tortured.

He does, of course, deserve more. He has managed his club in the correct way, making sure there has been a wise husbandry of resources, even if football has never applauded those who have made sure there has been a wise husbandry of resources.

His club makes record profits and people want to know why he hasn't signed a goalkeeper. Maybe he reasoned that this young side would not mature with the wrong new goalkeeper and they would reach maturity next season with Reina in goal. But if he has to wait until next summer for Reina, he will then be planning without Cesc Fabregas. Mo' money, mo' problems.

Wenger has been tortured by his side and by teams like Chelsea and now Manchester City. Sheikh Mansour issued his latest mission statement last week, promising big things for the future as they made record losses. They would, he declared, aim to make City "one of the most successful clubs on and off the pitch, but to do so without losing any of the characteristics that make it so special". One of the characteristics that makes City so special is their inability to truly embrace the idea that they are successful.

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The corporate class functioned for so long on the basis that everybody agreed that they were doing something right. How could they be wrong? Look at all these people making money.

Now all is sadness in Wales. The Ryder Cup is the pilgrimage for the corporate class, a once in a lifetime opportunity to mingle with fellow believers.

There is no sporting event with a more preposterous sense of self-importance. During the crazed celebrations of the American team in Brookline in 1999, Tom Lehman walked across the line of Jose Maria Olazabal's putt. "And Tom Lehman calls himself a man of God," Sam Torrance said in disgust. I'm no bible expert, but I'm pretty sure dancing across some grass is no sin, not even in some of the more hardline churches that attract the Christian right in America. And they don't let anything slide.

Torrance was just reflecting the worldview of the golf club member for whom the Ryder Cup is the ultimate expression of all they hold holy even while some use it as the ultimate excuse to get very, very drunk.

For men like Tiger Woods and Rory McIllroy, it is something less. People have always wondered what Tiger's beef with the Ryder Cup is but now that he is wifeless and free to concentrate on his game, we can see what one of his problems might have been.

As the wives were paraded, we can only wonder what this bullshit has to do with anything. Tiger had to endure this and the post-opening ceremony analysis centering on whether he might have checked out Kathryn Jenkins as she walked by. (Now that's something a man of God would never do.) But Tiger is a man of Buddha, or at least trying to get back there.

For the 'All Heroes Now' brigade, this is their big weekend (I think that should be the Latin motto for the European team) but this weekend it all went wrong.

The failure of the official waterproof clothing of the American team was the Ryder Cup's Lehman Brothers moment. This was a systemic and symbolic failure. We have been led to believe that the official Ryder Cup uniform is something every golfer should desire but it didn't survive its first encounter with water. So just as the high-rolling risk-taking bankers would ultimately need a bail-out, the waterproofed American team had to turn soaking wet to the club shop at Celtic Manor.

From this, as with Lehman -- the brothers not the man of God -- many things could unravel. Without the enthusiasm and expense accounts of the corporate class, the Ryder Cup may shrink in importance. The tragedy is that it had to happen on Wales's watch. When they pitched for the competition they would have expected the Ryder Cup to transport them from the perpetual gloom.

Instead Friday was just another day of drinking larger in the rain before 8.0 am, with only the phoney chant of "Europe, Europe" distinguishing it from a normal weekend. It was a bad week for Celtic Manor. A sad week for the Celtic Soul Brothers.


Sunday Independent