Sunday 21 January 2018

Wenger expects a more serene Pardew as Magpies boss makes his return to the sidelines

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal's Lukas Podolski celebrates scoring his side's third goal against Hull at The KC Stadium

Jeremy Wilson

There will be a certain irony tonight that Alan Pardew's return to a dugout should coincide with a fixture at Arsenal and the managerial counterpart against whom he had his most explosive touchline exchange.

True, his confrontation with Arsene Wenger way back in 2006 constituted handbags compared to butting Hull City's David Meyler but Pardew still felt sufficiently remorseful of his "overzealous" celebrations of a West Ham goal to issue a swift apology.

Wenger himself was fined £10,000 for the way he reacted by shoving Pardew away but believes that he will be facing a significantly changed and calmer opponent tonight.

As well as the seven-match touchline ban, of which three included the entire stadium, Pardew was fined a combined £160,000 by Newcastle United and the Football Association for the Meyler incident.

"He will try to control himself much more," said Wenger, who also believes that the design of the Emirates Stadium will help to minimise any touchline conflict. Unlike some older grounds, the dugouts at Arsenal are deliberately positioned well apart, meaning both sets of benches are less conscious of what the other is shouting at either the officials or the players.

"I think it's better for the incidents," Wenger said. "For you (the media) maybe it's worse. It's a job where you are under huge pressure. At the Emirates we had no incidents because the distance between the two managers is big.

"Sometimes you get upset because you hear what the other manager is saying and you go: 'What is he doing, why is he talking to the referee and the fourth official?'

"At Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, you are very close. I believe it is linked as well with the period of the season. It's easier to be calm in September than in March because every game is kill or be killed.

"This period of the season you feel much more under pressure as a manager.

"In September you think: 'OK we lost this game but we still have time to catch up'. Now, one, two, three games to go you look at the table and everybody feels a bit like playing Russian roulette."

Being physically close to their players during matches is important to most managers, especially Wenger, even if the overall view of the game can be distorted.

Newcastle have lost six out of the seven matches while Pardew has been absent from the touchline. Wenger has experienced several European touchline bans himself over recent seasons.

"You feel frustrated when you are not close to your team physically because you are used to it and you feel you still have a level of intervention," Wenger said.

"Maybe it's purely subjective but it exists in your mind. And you can be quicker in your decision-making. I remember when I was banned in Europe, sometimes I wanted to make a decision but it took time to get down, time to get listening from downstairs. You feel your speed of intervention is too slow."

While Newcastle have slipped badly in recent weeks, Arsenal appear to have rediscovered their form after a similarly dreadful sequence of results in February and March.

The Gunners also have the added motivation tonight of being able to open a four-point gap over Everton after Roberto Martinez's team were defeated 2-0 by Southampton on Saturday.

It means that a win tonight followed by a home victory against West Bromwich Albion would seal Arsenal's place in the top four for an 18th successive season under Wenger.

Should that happen, and Arsenal also defeat Hull City in the FA Cup final, the manager would certainly renew his own contract at the end of the season.

Wenger is acutely aware of how different the landscape would have looked if Arsenal had not survived going both a goal down and then a penalty shoot-out against Wigan in their FA Cup semi-final.

"It has been a relief because we knew that it was a tricky game," he said. "We came out of a bad period and we had to play the semi-final.

"Did we have a bad period because we had to play the semi-final? I don't think so. I just think we knew coming out of a bad period and losing the semi-final would have been terrible for us. So that's why there was a bit more at stake." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

ARSENAL V NEWCASTLE UTD,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 1, 8.0

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