There must be some sympathy for Arsene Wenger after his stag at bay act at the press conference which preceded the home European game against Bayern Munich. The furore among the fans which followed the abysmal Cup home defeat by modest Blackburn Rovers was understandable but hardly justified.
The most cogent observation on the subject of that defeat was surely made by Gary Lineker, who shrewdly wondered why Wenger, by contrast with Barcelona, should have decided to put out a much weakened team when the Catalans quite happily deploy Messi and company days before a major Euro game. For this Wenger, beyond doubt, paid a heavy penalty, yet the Gunners arguably even with their secondary line up created enough good chances to have won the tie in some comfort.
To what extent meanwhile could Wenger be blamed for the loss of so many key players: Cesc Fabregas has perhaps been the most missed of all, but he yearned to get back to Barcelona from whom let us face the facts the Gunners had filched him in the first place just as some years previously they had filched the teenaged Nicolas Anelka (now suddenly and unexpectedly leaving Shanghai for Juventus) from an outraged Paris Saint Germain.
It would always have been hard to keep the irreplaceable Robin Van Persie, seemingly lured by the extra money and the greater prospects of success at Manchester United. Nasri and Clichy also seemed attracted by the money.
Yes, Wenger has made some dud acquisitions. Above all that disastrous Brazilian left back, hardly following in the footsteps of Nilton Santos and Roberto Carlos, Andrei Santos, now belatedly packed off on loan. Nor is one convinced by the hefty presence of German international centre back Per Mertesacker, surely past his peak and vulnerable on the turn.
But Wenger till now simply hasn’t had the money to spend of the two Manchester clubs, and in my view has suffered from a lack of valid support at directorial level. Stan Kroenke the multi millionaire owner of a profusion of sports franchises is an absentee chief shareholder, Peter Hill Wood, last of the distinguished succession of Arsenal chairman, is no more than a peripheral figure who never wanted Kroenke in the first place, but had eventually to eat humble pie and fly across the Atlantic to beg him to come on board. It was Hilaire Belloc who wrote those sceptical lines, “Always keep a hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse.”
If Wenger at the end of his contract went, who would be in line to do a better job; not forgetting that Ashley Cole and Jack Wilshere apart, the highly expensive Arsenal youth scheme has largely been a mountain parturating mice.
Brentford might be thought unlucky both in failing to beat Chelsea in the Cup when, at Griffin Park, they deserved to, and not being awarded the opening goal at Stamford Bridge when the referee was so quick to blow his whistle for a free kick just before the Bees had the ball in the net.
Some years ago when they were in the old Second Division, Brentford were known as the sleeping giants. By contrast with nearby Queens Park Rangers, they had large loyal local support. But the giant, alas continued sleeping.
In all their long history the Bees have won only one major tournament and that was the wartime 1942 London Cup which, alas, doesn’t officially count. I saw that final at Wembley as a 10-year-old. Two goals against favourites and FA Cup holders Portsmouth for young left-winger Leslie Smith. Inside right, George Wilkins, father of Ray. Always a match then for Arsenal whom they beat then in a replayed semi-final, it was Arsenal who beat them 1-0 at Griffin Park in June 1947 with a goal headed by Paddy Sloan. Whom Arsenal would promptly and productively replace with Brentford and Scotland right half Archie Macaulay.