Saturday’s 2-1 win over Reading aside, it’s been a rough week for Arsenal ; they were losers in last Sunday’s Worthless Cup to Chelsea, and were knocked out of the F.A. Cup this past Wednesday by Blackburn. As manager Arsene Wegner rails against the F.A. for their “unfair and dishonest” treatment of Emmanuel Adebayor, the Independent’s Nick Townsend submits the Gunners’ gaffer “appears to be deteriorating before us into the worst example of petulant tyrant. Could he be morphing into the Mad Professor?”
What should cause more disquiet in the aftermath of last Sunday’s events is not the contretemps between 18 footballers, but the spectacle of a man who has deluded himself that he is bigger than the game and, perhaps more disconcertingly, that he is untouchable.
Of course Wenger has every right to dispute within reason what he considers an error by officialdom. But what kind of state has the game descended to when one of our most successful and prominent managers can accuse a referee’s assistant of lying? For the moment, no one appears willing to remind him that his status and power come with obligations to football, and that means right the way down to Saturday-morning Under-11s.
“The FA have one responsibility; it is to respect football,” Wenger continued his theme on Friday. So, too, it must be added, do such touchline tyrants as himself, capable of technical-area tantrums at the drop of an assistant’s flag.
Undeniably the game would be nothing without the constant drip-feed of conflict. Sir Alex Ferguson’s contention that Jose Mourinho should “button his lip” is hardly befitting a knight of the realm, but it is good knockabout stuff. Yet Wenger’s accusation that a linesman “lied” attacks the integrity of officials, just as Paul Jewell did last month with some of his comments as he complained about Phil Dowd, followed by his effective demand that Dowd should not officiate Wigan games in future. Also in relatively recent memory are Mourinho’s accusations against Anders Frisk after Chelsea’s Champions’ League tie with Barcelona two years ago. It is a dangerous, pernicious trend.
Something tells me Townsend will have a field day when and if Mark Cuban becomes the latest American moneybags to invest in the Premiership.