Saturday, January 30, 2010

Arsene Wenger Makes Excuses for Arsenal and Talks Nonsense: Martin O'Neill

The sight of an indignant Arsene Wenger has almost become as synonymous with Arsenal's defeats as flowing football has with their wins.

Le Prof has had his fair share of feuds over the years, and now it seems as if Martin O'Neill is the next manager in a long line to upset and be upset by the Gunners' boss.

In the aftermath of the 0-0 draw on Wednesday, Arsene Wenger labelled Aston Villa a "physical, long ball team" and continued his long standing dislike of O'Neill's side.

Last season he launched a furious broadside at Villa after they secured a 2-2 draw with the last kick of the game.

It would now seem that that initial outburst opened a wound and that his remarks after the 0-0 draw between the same two sides rubbed salt into it.

An unhappy Martin O'Neill hit back yesterday in the press conference for Villa's trip to Craven Cottage and Fulham.

O'Neill is one of the most intelligent and articulate speakers in football today. The qualified solicitor chooses his words wisely, and Arsene Wenger and Arsenal now know that the ex-Celtic manager and his team see the Gunners as direct rivals after some years in the footballing wilderness.
'Arsene has an opinion on anything and everything,' he said, 'There's not a subject in this world, political, religious or otherwise, that he doesn't have an opinion on.
'I don't mind that. But if I totally and utterly disagree with his opinion, then I should have the right to say so. And I disagree with him about this.

'It has caused amusement in our camp. James Milner, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing being labelled long-ball merchants, it has caused merriment.

'It's interesting that in the last 20 minutes of the game he (Wenger) brought on a 6ft 3in tall centre forward (Nicklas Bendtner) and hit him about six times with long balls from players like (Gael) Clichy.

'It's a nonsense. Just the very point that he makes that nobody plays football in the manner like Arsenal. If he believes that, good luck to him, but I'd suggest he wants to go and take a wee look at Barcelona.

'We could all learn from that. I think anyone worth their salt in the game would want to aspire to playing like Barcelona.'

'We should hold our opinions until Arsenal play Barcelona. Then if Arsenal lose, wait for the reaction that Barcelona are a long-ball team.'

'You know, he's made a great contribution to the game here. But he's not on a different planet to the rest of us. He's a very skillful manager who has made a great contribution to the English game. Well done him.'

O'Neill also suggested that Wenger's assertions that Arsenal were the Premier League's only footballing team is a deliberate ploy to earn his "little" side more leeway with referees whilst also offering an excuse as to why his side may lose out in the title race to Chelsea and Manchester United, as they will will not resort to battling tactics to win matches.

On this O'Neill certainly has a point. For a long time the main question hanging over this current Arsenal side is that they lack character and courage. All too often over the past couple of seasons have Arsenal been too easily beaten by teams who use a physical approach against them.

They certainly found the going tough against O'Neill's well drilled Villa side, but did come out of the game with a credible draw.

For the most part they have added a little steel to their game this season, but will ultimately lose out on winning the title because they simply don't have enough, and that is the manager's fault.

Arsenal have players who can compete and over the years they have been as "dirty" as the next team, especially in their title winning years, but this team is not in that class.

Their goalkeeper is well short of the required standard, and they still possess a soft centre in central defence and central midfield, even though the addition of Thomas Vermaelan has improved their defensive capabilities.

O'Neill continued, 'You can get carried away with your own importance. You really can. 'I have to say that sometimes he (Wenger) does. He's also had 99 sendings-off and 98 of them weren't Arsenal's fault. That's the whole point.
'There are things that happen in the game where you can't always be fantastically proud of your team. There can be some nasty challenges made by Arsenal players. William Gallas made one just the other week. You cannot condone everything.
'You have to say,  "On reflection, I've seen it again, and it's a nasty challenge." 'You don't have to be running around worrying what people think about you all of the time, but if what you are saying stands up and people can see it, then people will accept it.
'I've said this in retaliation to what was said the other night. And I've told Arsene that too. I told him to his face. I'm not fighting back through the newspapers.

'He's not caught up in this pretty game stuff. He's trying to influence things. He knows the game inside out.

'The idea that it's pretty and that an Arsenal player doesn't make a tackle in the game, it's nonsense. Absolute nonsense.

'Don't be fooled, he knows what he's doing. These are deliberate ploys. 'He wants to make sure everyone is under his spell to make them believe that Arsenal are the only delightful team around.

'That's really what he wants to do. And when you are looking for that, you can actually maybe spot a weakness because that means you are trying to get an excuse ready if you are not able to compete with Manchester United or Chelsea.

'The fact is, they probably are able to compete, because they have enough physical players to cope.

'But it's all a plan. If he puts his hands up in the air enough times then the referee may see that Sol Campbell hadn't fouled Richard Dunne when he was going through in the last minute and that the referee believes him (Wenger).

'So they do foul players. And what about the Arsenal of a few seasons ago? Arsenal teams of old could dish it out, physically, as well as anyone. It's conveniently forgotten.

'So I don't think there is any acceptance here whatsoever about what he said the other night. Not in the slightest. It's made no difference here. We will continue to play as we do until we drop.

'Honestly, Ashley Young being  "long ball".""" It's funny, it really is.'

I think it's easy to say that the next time these two teams meet there could be sparks in the air...

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