Inexplainable and scandalous
'Inexplainable and scandalous' said Arsene Wenger after Arsenal's latest humiliation. Lay aside the slight English mistake - that was the least of the horrors to come out of the Emirates last night (Tuesday) - just what was Wenger referring to?
If he meant the pre-match demonstrations calling for him to go then I agree. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Look - I fully support the right of the paying public to have their say - I do about how SISU are destroying my club Coventry - but there is something unedifying about Arsenal supporters getting involved in protests. It just doesn't sit well with me. This is 'The Arsenal' - a club with long standing traditions for doing things 'right'. The Arsenal are a classy outfit and I can't remember any other time in their history when I've seen such a thing. And let's not forget they're protesting about Arsene Wenger- somebody for whom I have the utmost respect. The guy is also a class act and he will for some time be Arsenal's most successful ever manager. He's a legend. Whether I believe it's time for him to go is another matter - I'll get round to that.
Back to the 'inexplainable and scandalous'. Was Wenger referring to Arsenal's performance on the night? If he was - he was right again. It was a shocker. It hasn't been good in recently and, I say again, I completely understand the frustration that surrounds The Emirates.
Actually we know exactly what Wenger was referring to. He was slating the Greek ref, Tasos Sidiropoulos, who first awarded Bayern a pen, booked Koscielny and then decided to send him off on the advice of his assistant behind the goal. We can argue all day about whether we thought it was a pen, or whether the new 'double jeopardy' rules applied, once the ref had given the pen, he was right to send Koscielny off on the basis that a 'clear goal scoring opportunity' had been denied. Crucially, he was also well within his rights to change his mind. And get used to it Arsene - we're going to see plenty more of this going forward.
Let me explain. The ref can 'correct a mistake' as long as play hasn't re-started. Let me ask Arsenal fans if they remember benefitting in such a way in Sept 2004 when Mark Halsey awarded Fulham a pen in a game at Craven Cottage? Arsenal's players hounded Halsey and got him to change his mind after consulting with his lino. A drop ball re-started the game and Arsenal went on to extend their unbeaten run to 45 games. The Fulham boss, Chris Coleman, described Halsey's performance as 'crap' incidentally!! Sorry Mark!
Wenger is also an advocate of video refs. Last night's incident is exactly the sort of situation we're going to see in the FA Cup next season when VAR's are introduced. You can't have it both ways Arsene. It's one thing or the other.
What Wenger should really be concentrating on is not the deflection of that incident, but what he's going to do next. I remember after their last Cup writing this blog and saying I hoped he quit then. He's a giant, who's done so much for the English game, as well as Arsenal, that I wanted him to be able to walk away with his head up. I remember saying that he deserved to go on his terms and not be hounded out. Well it's too late now.
I'm told that the Arsenal Board have given Wenger until the end of March to make his mind up about staying. He definitely wants to and he's stubborn enough to, but it would be a mistake - just as it was when he clung on after Wembley.
The Chief Exec, Ivan Gazidis, is determined that whatever Wenger's decision there will be big changes at the club next season. I don't know what that means, but it's not before time. Of course, Wenger is right when he says there are 'no guarantees' that his successor will have the formula to get The Gunners firing again, but I believe it's in everybody's interests now that change comes. The atmosphere at The Emirates is poisonous these days and it's not going to get any better.
If Wenger announced that he'd decided to go everything would change. Every game at The Emirates would become a celebration and a party marking what he's achieved. You know, it might even be that it could propel Arsenal back into the top four. Sadly I don't think he will - even more sadly I think the chances are Wenger will want to fight on. It's a pity his team don't show the same spirit.
Oh, one last thing, is there any difference between what we're seeing in the dressing room at Arsenal to that which we saw at Leicester? No. Nor me!! All in all it's 'inexplainable and scandalous'.