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Wenger boys against men

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Robbo Robson | 12:23 UK time, Monday, 30 November 2009

Managers, eh? How do they manage? Lest I should be berated for the same old same old, let's be clear. Arsene Wenger's team were thumped. Thumped like they were last year at the Emirates by United in the Champs League.

Wenger's frustrations were many:

1. Disallowed goal for foot-up on Cech. He's watched it four times has Arsene and he can't see what it's about. Well, Cech nearly got tonked on the neck by a high boot so the ref gave a foul. Me, I wouldn't give it, but the modern goalkeeper is a rarer and more protected species than the Giant Panda and the decision was hardly surprising.

2. No penalty for Vela. Well this was because it WASN'T a penalty kick. Vela was crowded out and did that thing that your modern forward does when he's going nowhere - he stepped on the spectral banana skin and hoped - and you can injure yourself badly if you keep hitting the deck with your fingers crossed.

3. No RVP. The club v country debate looms largest when it's deprived a manager of a very influential player. But I don't buy this one. Players can get injured at any time. I don't think the Dutch national team have any vested interest in seeing Van Persie crocked either.

Wenger says the current arrangement favours the national teams too much. Too bloomin' right, sunshine. Ask a player which he'd prefer, a World Cup winner's medal or a Champs League winner's medal and I think it'll be 10 to 1 in favour of the former.

I don't believe that Diaby and Van Persie would've made much difference any road. It's hard to escape the impression that the team in red and white had been formed during a north London schools talent search and the team in blue were Cybermen masquerading as footballers.

I swear I saw Terry shouting 'Delete' as he took out the ball and Eduardo with one top-notch challenge. Mind you, his bleating to the ref after Vermaelen appeared to be fitting him for a pair of slacks took a lot of swallowing. Him and Carvalho virtually patented that kind of corner-kick cabaret.

Then you have the Arsenal footballer, as easy to differentiate from one another as a Subbuteo team: short, fleet, smart, hugely entertaining but, when it comes down to it, weedy (or if you will, Tomas Rosicky).

Drogba, at times, was shrugging off challenges like a quick-change artist getting out of a coat. Essien was a rampaging water buffalo trampling through a bunch of saplings. The Gunners still need some ballast out there.

I'm not claiming my Nostradamus badge here, but I picked Chelsea to win the title at the top of the season and I'll be right by the end of it.

There's some that reckon the African Cup of Nations will hamper them... I doubt it now that they've managed to force open a January window with some jemmy of an appeal.
Here you'd have to whole-heartedly agree with Wenger.

Having postponed the original sentence, Chelsea are effectively not being punished at all. I've heard whispers of Heskey coming in to cover Drogba. Hmmm - it's a bit like depriving a man of a seven-course banquet and saying to him 'Here have a biscuit.' But Chelsea won't struggle too much through that spell.

As they said on MOTD2, Anelka's playing with a smile on his face - a thing as rare and as beautiful as a Mick McCarthy compliment.

Terry's back to his best, the Lampard goal drought of a while back hardly seems to matter now and it's great to see Joe Cole playing the Deco role (far more effectively if you ask me).

So Wenger can bleat all he likes (much like Fergie two or three weeks back, it always takes a defeat to bring it out) and I'd love all that loveliness to win him something, but there's no two ways about it. There's more fight in the Spurs dog right now.

Elsewhere, Everton continue to look a shadow of their former selves. You couldn't criticise their endeavour, but the only thing that looks like causing any real damage is Fellaini's elbow.

Rafa claims the victory at Goodison is a turning point for what he endearingly calls 'the cloob'. Given he's got Blackburn, Pompey and Wolves coming up, you'd have to hope he's right. But by mid-Jan Arsenal home, Villa away, Spurs home will decide whether the Europa League is going to be talked up or not.

Avram Grant was pleased with his new side's efforts against a somewhat stumbling United (the closer they got to the opposition penalty box the more they stumbled). However it's hard to see them scoring with a front two of Dicky Picquionne and Desperate Dindane.

West Ham continue to put themselves in jeopardy by going in front. At 2-0 up I thought they were in real trouble. Turned out they're never more vulnerable than when they're five up.

And Hull seem revived with Bullard in the van. And at a time of utterly tedious goal celebrations - from the 20-yard knee-slider to the Rodallega thumb-suck via the Antonio Valencia deadpan - how great to see a genuinely funny goal celebration by a bunch of lads enjoying themselves.

Sparky didn't know why the pen was given. I suspect if he asks Toure he'll find out. I thought Hughes'd be the first manager to lose his parking space this season. I'll have to settle for second.


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