How bitterly ironic that the occasion of Arsene Wenger’s 1000th Arsenal game as manager should represent arguably the worst humiliation he has suffered in all those games and shares.
Needless to say he said afterwards that he should take the blame as indeed he tends to do on such occasions. Embarrassing hammerings at both Manchester City and Liverpool having preceded the debacle at Stamford Bridge.
But on this occasion there was some substance in his self-criticism. Against a Chelsea team which ran riot from the opening minutes, yet in recent weeks has found it difficult to score on a number of occasions, Arsenal looked not just individually but tactically incompetent.
Chelsea, pressing, were simply allowed almost from the start to dominate the match, dictate the rhythm and find a ludicrous amount of sheer space.
Not long ago Wenger appointed Steve Bould, now the assistant manager replacing Pat Rice, once a central bulwark of a resilient Gunners defence, as defensive coach. One assumed he must have some input so to that extent though the buck stops with Wenger he must share some of the blame. But with all defence to Wenger, his impressive longevity and all that he achieved in the past, the fact remains that unless you are Alex Ferguson, all managerships are finite and judged on those three disastrous results, Wenger has come to the end of the road.
It remains however to marvel at the monumental incompetence, sheer crass ineptitude, of the referee Andre Marriner. What conceivable excuse could he have for sending off not young Oxlade Chamberlain, who had handled the ball by the right hand post, but the hapless full back Kieran Gibbs?
Jose Mourinho called afterwards for technical aids to assist to referees. Sheer common sense and flexibility would seem more apposite. One may accept that Marriner had an indifferent view at best of the handling incident, but why then did he get no help from his linesman, who must surely have seen what happened? And why did he take no account of Oxlade Chamberlain’s frantic and honest plea that he was the offender?
The idea that Marriner should just miss a few Premiership games seems ludicrous to me. He should disappear permanently from the scene. Folly compounded by obduracy.
And while on the subject of Wenger, what possessed him to acquire in the transfer break the Swedish international midfielder Kallstrom knowing full well that he would not be fit for weeks; indeed, only against Chelsea did he at last get as far as the bench? But Arsenal want to renew Wenger’s contract.
Match of the Day overall seems a pretty good programme to me, and Gary Lineker far and away the best presenter they have ever had, fluent, authoritative and far more impressive than many of his guests. The latest of which, in the shape of the repugnant Russell Brand, perpetrator of that sick joke on poor Andrew Sachs, truly scraped the barrel. Whoring, alas, to the semi fashionable.
With Lineker near the end playing amiably along with him after Brand had, purportedly as a West Ham fan, added nothing remotely intelligent or consequential to the discussion, jokily suggesting that he might succeed the departing Alan Hansen.
The fish rots from the head they say and what fish could be more irredeemably rotten than FIFA? That Qatar with his searing heat, its total lack of any football background should be handed the 2022 World Cup always stank of malfeasance. Heads have already rolled and now still more dirt has hit the fan with it being disclosed – surprise, surprise! – that the reptilian “power broker,” alias money pocketing, Jack Warner has been found guilty of pocketing $720,000 dollars for himself, plus $750,000 going to his sons, and another $400,000 dollars paid to his employee.
All this from the capacious resources of the company controlled in Qatar by Mohammed Bin Hammam, himself a leading football figure and once, if I remember correctly, a potential President of FIFA. That Warner allegedly voted for the USA rather than Qatar hardly adds up. As we know, he was belatedly thrown out of his various football offices for offering money to representatives of the Caribbean countries.
“Not me, Guv!” say the Qatari’s. Of course not.
Sepp Blatter who, like the poor, is always with us, with his 51 bad ideas a day as a German journalist once said, contents himself by saying it is now all down to the ethics committee. Which seems to have an effective leader in the shape of the American lawyer Michael Garcia. More to the point perhaps is that the FBI are now going to be involved. But ever since Havelange cunningly ousted Rous as FIFA President, integrity has gone out of the FIFA window. And what of Russia 2018?