In the World's End, N4 on Saturday I was half-watching the Arsenal game, half-catching up with Gooner mates I've not seen all summer. It wasn't a corker was it? The best analogy I heard was from an old taxi driver, a stalwart of the 60s eras at Highbury, a man who told me he used to jump on the milk train for a free ride back to London from St James's Park in the 70s. He said Arsene Wenger is beginning to look like 'Comical Ali'.
Remember, Saddam Hussein's right hand man during the second gulf war, going on television each night declaring that everything was fine, the Americans were not storming Baghdad, no buildings had been blown up, nobody had died, everything was under control. While behind him in the background missile after missile pounded the city, destroying everything in their wake leaving Baghdad in flames.
In Friday's traditional press conference, Wenger attempted to delude not only the gathered gentlemen of the press but also himself. Firstly there was the frankly ludicrous suggestion that he "expected nobody to leave", while Cesc Fabregas was busy packing his bags and kissing goodbye to the dinner ladies at London Colney.
Next he suggested that the delay in selling Fabregas was Barcelona's fault. “The pace of the negotiations is set by people who want to buy." Barcelona have wanted their man for 2-3 seasons now - they've been virtually hammering down his door while he stubbornly refused to accept reality. Right up until the opening day of the season when he finally did accept reality and sold our captain. Good timing sir.
Next he tried to suggest it was difficult to find centre backs "“Everybody looks for centre-backs in the whole world. People with unlimited resources look for a centre-back. We are not in a supermarket where you go to a shelf and you ask where are the centre-backs?" Forgive me for being slightly obtuse but Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Christopher Samba and Scott Dann are literally sitting there waiting to be bought by a top club. It's not that they aren't there Arsene it's that they cost money. And not the pitiful amounts that you're prepared to spend.
Firstly there was the frankly ludicrous suggestion that he "expected nobody to leave", while Cesc Fabregas was busy packing his bags and kissing goodbye to the dinner ladies at London Colney.
The situation, as most pundits now accept, has reached breaking point. As Man City, having already ousted us out of the automatic Champions League group places rev up their title challenge, United and Liverpool add significant strength to their squads and Chelsea bring in a hungry, young manager, Arsenal are now predicted by many (including the majority of their own fans) to finish out side of the top four for the first time in Wenger's tenure. They are also predicted by many to struggle against Udinese over two legs and fail to qualify for the Champion's League since 1998.
Wenger too seems calms about the season ahead whilst talking to the press. It's a shame that calm exterior fades into an anguished expression as soon as the match kicks off. One wonders why he does it too himself, adding pressure and stress when it could all be resolved with a wave of the chequebook.
Whatever happens tonight, these two legs are a defining turning point. If we fail to qualify the fans will not accept a season trudging around obscure European grounds in the Europa League. Anything short of a win tonight will bring booing from the crowd direct towards the home dugout. The away fans were restless at Newcastle, the home fans will be similarly impatient.
In 'Arsene We Trust' has turned into 'In Arsene We Really, Really Want To Trust But We're Just Not 100% Convinced Anymore'.
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