Who Is This Man Masquerading As Arsene Wenger

Wenger shows unusual charity of spirit regarding Adebayor

There’s actually quite a bit to discuss today but let’s start with Arsene’s press conference.

If there’s one thing you can count on in this world, it’s that Arsene Wenger will complain vociferously about the impact of international competition on the fate of the club. Under the best circumstances, he barely tolerates international breaks. So it was edge of the seat viewing as Arsene gave his press conference today. I was excited to hear him vent his spleen at Togo coach Jean Thissen for choosing to play Adebayor this week. After all, the headlines blared this week, “Adebayor ready to risk wrath of Wenger with trip to Togo.” We were certain to hear some classic Wenger refrains today. You can imagine my surprise when he gave us this answer to the question about Adebayor’s international call-up,

“Will he play or not, he has tests. For us, he was ready to play.
Ideally, it is good for us and for him to have a game. There is no
problem. I had a meeting with their manager and we knew he would be ready for
this weekend, whether it was for us or for Togo.”

Shocking response as far as I’m concerned. Apparently, I feel more aggravated by Adebayor’s decision to play then Wenger. Who knows, maybe Arsene is already counting the preposterous €35 million that AC Milan apparently want to offer for Ade. Maybe Wenger genuinely believes it will help get his striker back to match fitness. Regardless, it seems to be a dead issue. And maybe that’s what Wenger wants most. At a time when the club seems to be coming together, the last thing it needs is a distraction that could risk pulling it apart. Distractions are a bad thing for a club making a late season run, and Wenger’s approach to the Adebayor debacle might simply be his way of diffusing the controversy before it really gets started.

Coincidentally or not, Adebayor was reached for comment today. Interesting that his comments come out at the sime time as his club manager’s. Almost as if they coordinated their statments… I’ll give him this at least; he’s saying the right things to keep his club and its supporters mollified.

“[Playing for Togo] is not an issue at all. My boss, Arsene Wenger, gave me
the permission to play for my country and if I did not have his blessing I would
not be here.”

I’m not sure that Adebayor is the kind of player that waits for his boss’ blessing before going about his business, but at least he had the thoughtfulness to say it. Arsene Wenger’s comments, along with Adebayor’s seem to put the matter to bed, an open the door for Ade’s possible return to the lineup against Manchester City. Truthfully, I’m not sure I believe all this positivity, but I’m glad for it. We’re a better team with Adebayor at our disposal.

Speaking of being a better team, Arsene also confirmed in his press conference that Cesc Fabregas will be available for the Manchester City match. (And there was much rejoicing.) However, he stopped short of saying that Cesc would start. I’m not sure that it matters if he starts. Just having the captain on the subs bench should inspire the team to exact a measure of revenge for one of Arsenal’s ugliest losses of the season.

Arsene was also asked about the recession and its impact on football. He suggested that seven or eight professional teams in England may go into administration this year. With the global economy contracting, it puts more emphasis on running a football club efficiently. Wenger waxed philosophic on the difference between debt that is repaid from investment in the club, and a yearly deficit where the club are run at a loss. He suggested that the latter was more dangerous long-term and showed poor management. Regarding his own strategy of managing at Arsenal, he said,

“I prefer to be accused of being cautious with investment than being accused of
running the club to bankruptcy.”

I couldn’t agree more. Supporters want silverware and great players, but tend not to think long-term. Just ask Leeds United supporters. Arsenal have a strong financial foundation that will allow them challenge at the top for years. We owe much of that to Arsene’s influence.

Tomas Rosicky was in the news today as well. He had some nice comments about his impending return to fitness. He injury saga has been the subject of a lot of jokes on blogs and among supporters, but seeing his interview reminds you just how much he has struggled. It’s sad to watch clips of his performances and realize that this freak injury has almost wiped out a wonderful career. Arsenal fans were filled with sympathy for poor Eduardo because his injury was horrific and happened on camera for the entire world to see. But Rosicky’s injury has been similarly damaging to the player and he deserves our support and patience. Speaking about the injury today, he said,

“I am much better. The bad things are behind me. There were times when I could
not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I would take two steps forwards and
three back. I now have a groin injury, but after the long-term problems with my
knee, which was a very rare injury, I know it will be all right because I was
already doing almost everything on the pitch. I am at the end now and can say
that I am boiling inside to play again. I can’t wait.”

I think many Arsenal supporters feel the same way. We look forward to seeing him lash the ball into the back of the net from 25 yards out sometime soon. Hopefully, sometime this season.

Robin Van Persie apparently doesn’t understand the concept of “bulletin board material.” If Villareal didn’t already have enough reason to give their all against Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-finals, Robin Van Persie was more than happy to supply them with another. Regarding the quarter-final draw, Van Persie let this gem slip from his lips,

“If we could have picked one team, I think we would have picked Villarreal. We
are quite happy with it. We will see how it goes.”

Right now there’s an office in Spain working overtime to reprint that quote in a font big enough for every fan at El Madrigal to read it. Villareal, like us, are fighting for fourth place in the league and the right to play in next season’s Champions League. Van Persie might be right that they are the team we wanted to face, but you’re not supposed to say that out loud.

Robin also seems to be a little too comfortable with our hold on fourth place. Apparently he feels that we can still challenge for third. This is a sentiment that other players have echoed. Now, I’m all for confidence and ambition. I like hearing our players express their belief in the team. But we need to be very careful about complacency. Complacency saw us drop to fifth and it can put us back there quickly.

Our current run is nice, and we have played some wonderful football recently, but it has also happened against imminently beatable opposition. Since the nil-nil draw with Fulham, we have beaten West Brom, Burnley, Blackburn, Hull and Newcastle. One team plays in the Championship, and the other four are candidates to do the same next season. Our last “quality” win was over Chelsea in November. Believe me, I am not undermining our currently success. You play the teams that are on the schedule. That’s all you can do. And recently we’ve done a wonderful job against those teams. But before we get to carried away, we should be careful to remember that tougher tests lie ahead. Villareal are just three days after Manchester City. Chelsea and Liverpool follow directly after the second quarter-final leg. We need to be confident, but certainly not complacent.

It’s time to start touching wood (or as us Yanks say, “knock on wood”) that our players make it through this week unscathed. The matches start tomorrow and I’ll be looking forward to reporting a clean bill-of-health for the international players this time next week. A special request to Emmanuel Adebayor, that he doesn’t do anything to damage that beautiful 35 million euro body of his.

Enjoy the games.

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About Yankee Gunner

Loyal Arsenal Supporter, Obscure Television Personality
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