Saturday, August 29, 2009
Arsene Wenger Lets Himself and Arsenal Down for the Second Time This Week.
Arsene Wenger is normally a dignified man, but his actions and words this week have let himself and his fans down very badly.
The week started well...
Arsenal were 1/200 to go through to the next stage of the Champions League, as bookmakers decided that the Gunners' 2-0 lead over Celtic was pretty much unassailable.
They were right, but it still took a dive from Croatian international Eduardo to make the unassailable lead utterly impregnable.
Wenger's stance on the dive, a steely silence as his portable stanchion blocked his view again.
"The referee has given it. But, if the TV pictures show it should not have been given, so be it," said Mowbray of the penalty won and scored by Eduardo. "Over the two legs, Arsenal had more quality and deserved to go through."
Tony Mowbray showed Le Prof that you can still keep your dignity with defeat.
Although, if you read Wenger's comments on the Aug. 8, you would perhaps understand why he said nothing after the game they were always going to win.
"It is vital for the club, not only for the prestige, but also for the money," he said. "It would be a tragedy not to be in the Champions League."
Yup, Arsene knows the true value of sportsmanship in this era—dive if you've got to.
The dive row escalated further the next day after the Scottish FA called on UEFA to ban Eduardo for his simulation.
Surprisingly enough, UEFA actually listened.
They've really opened a can of worms now, as they charged Eduardo with deceiving the referee.
But Arsene wasn't taking that one lying down, and he rounded on UEFA for "singling out" the diving Croatian.
"I find it a complete disgrace and unacceptable, and we will not accept the way Uefa treated this case for two reasons," Wenger said. "I believe that you can debate, was it a penalty or not? This charge implies that with intent and with a desire to cheat the referee, Eduardo did act. And it singles out a player in Europe to be a cheat, and that is not acceptable.
"Uefa has taken an action that is not defendable. For me, it is a witch hunt that we see, not an objective judging of the case.
"Eduardo has been touched by the goalkeeper, and we can prove that. And that I wish you good luck to prove that having seen the pictures again. It's funny in football because you can break the legs of players and it doesn't make a debate for anybody, but this case has been treated all over the world like Eduardo has killed somebody. It is a witch hunt. What else is it?"
The Arsenal boss went on to accuse UEFA of undermining referees, and that UEFA have now created a precedent that must be followed up.
Actually, the precedent was set long ago by UEFA when it banned Saulius Mikoliunas, after studying video evidence of the Lithuania versus Scotland European Championships qualifier, and the Scottish FA handed a two-match ban to Kyle Lafferty this month for feigning injury, but none involving such a high-profile club.
But Wenger wouldn't stop.
"The man is not treated fairly, and the existing rules of football have been changed just for this one case," Wenger said.
"This situation is the first time since [I have been involved in] football that a situation has been judged, assessed by the referee, but not accepted by the football bodies.
"Normally a situation that has been assessed and judged by the referee cannot be touched again. They've opened a door here that means every single decision made by a referee, seen by a referee, can from now on be challenged. They have opened a very dangerous door there," he added.
"I have fought my whole life against cheating, and have seen some obvious cases where Uefa didn't intervene. If you take all the games in Europe every week, I will give you 10 cases where UEFA can charge a player. [Diego] Maradona scored with his hand against England in the World Cup and no one charged him. How many times have I come out and said that I am for video evidence? UEFA refuses the video, but they use it to charge our player. So where is the logic?
"Why do we not use a replay straight away? This would spare all this embarrassment and all these cases. They refuse the use of video and two days later they use it. There is a complete lack of logic."
Well, Wenger has made one valid point in his speech on UEFA—logic has never been a strong point.
But let's face it, logic went out the window for Wenger too. Defending the indefensible, Eduardo dived and ended the match as a competitive fixture.
There is no defending the dive, no matter what Wenger tries to draw attention to. He would have been better off just saying that Arsenal football club are conducting their own investigation and we will deal with it internally, they do not condone cheating, and the player will be suspended if we feel if is warranted.
It would have taken all the heat off both him and his team. Instead, he goes off on a verbal bender and carries it into the United game—where he gets himself set off.
The game itself was nothing special. For all of Arsenal's possession, they didn't create any more than United.
And in the end, the scrappy affair was won by United after Manuel Almunia charged from the goal when there was no need. He up-ended Wayne Rooney, and karma was coming home to roost.
Karma wasn't finished though.
Minutes later, Diaby headed into his own net with a header that few words can describe.
I don't know what he was doing. I don't even think he knew what he was doing, but he was on the edge of his own six-yard box under no pressure whatsoever, and he headed into Almunia's top corner.
Wenger was understandably unhappy, and that boiled over in injury time after the referee quite rightly disallowed Robin van Persie's equaliser for offside against William Gallas.
Le Prof turned in anger and kicked a water bottle. It was not the worst offence in the world, but the water went everywhere, and the fourth official called the referee over, and Wenger's game was over.
Instead of acting with dignity and walking down the tunnel, Wenger first tried to get into the dugout. The referee said no.
So, Arsene tried to make his way to the stand, and he got lost on the way.
He ended up on the roof of the dugout, surrounded by fans looking at him with amazement as he held his arms out to the referee in a "what did I do wrong?" kind of look.
He acted like a fool.
The referee called him down, and Wenger went down the tunnel, and 30 seconds later the game was over.
Twice in a week the great man—and great he is—acted like a complete fool.
He went on to compound matters when he accused the referee of getting the major decisions in the game wrong—namely the Rooney penalty and when Darren Fletcher took Arshavin down in the box.
The simple truth is that the referee was spot-on with the Rooney decision but was wrong on the Arshavin one. But they were mistakes, not cheats.
At the end of the day, his team was beaten because it wasn't good enough, and the players only have themselves to blame for that.
Funnily enough, he came as close as he probably will to calling Eduardo's dive a dive when he called on UEFA to treat every dive the same.
Wenger has been one of the greatest managers ever to ply his trade in England. Fans of every team owe him some thanks for the way he helped revolutionise the sport.
He has one major failing though—he defends the indefensible in his own team. All too often has there been something or someone in his way as a major incident or tackle by one of his own players went down.
And when the decision goes against him, he cries from the highest rooftops. Only last year, he accused Martin O'Neill and Aston Villa of "bribing" the referee following Arsenal's defeat to Villa.
As a mature man, he should act that way. You don't have to lie to defend your players, especially when you know you're wrong.
Wenger has been wrong twice this week. It's a year that his team needs him at his mercurial best, because if it's going to break its five-year trophy duck, he'll need to be.
Just concentrate on the football. It's as simple as that.
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