Arsene Wenger is still too eulogised for my liking in England. The presence of a cerebral polylinguist with a background in economics at the heart of English club football continues to daze many a hack, who sum him up with tired labels like ‘genius’ or ‘the professor’.
Make no mistake. Geniuses achieve wondrous things and Arsenal have won nothing for four seasons. After the Arsenal-Man U hegemony of the 1990s, they now risk being overtaken by Liverpool and Manchester City. In creating an empire and a new castle at Ashburton Grove, Wenger is clearly the Gunners’ most important boss since Herbert Chapman, but his trophy-less years leave him too open to flak to justify the genius tag.
Wenger lays his soul open to Matthew Syed over 13 pages here, touching upon his political beliefs (one-world government) and art preference (abstract, though he has never been to Tate Modern) amongst other things. It is an intriguing interview the like of which you could never see Harry Redknapp giving. Wenger, not Mourinho, is the special one.
Wenger finally confesses to lying, ackowledging his ‘I did not see it’ Judi Slot mantra as dishonest, but also refuses to concede that his buying policy, or lack of it, needs revision, when it was quite evident by the end of last season that for Arsenal, youth is not enough.
I am glad Wenger arrived and stayed in the previously closed-minded world of English football, forging an alternative way of doing things, fulfilling Voltaire’s maxim to cultivate your own garden, while bringing many new ideas to the table.
But powerful reservations about him remain, paticularly regarding his apparent dismissal of international football and self-confessed robotic drive to make Arsenal the best, a direction he seems unable to swerve from, even when it seems to most eyes not to be the best route.
Anyone who has lived and worked in London for 13 years and could not show a visitor around because they have never visited the sights themselves is someone I find it hard to warm to.
Whatever one’s opinion on the Frenchman off the field, the league does not lie. Wenger bravely predicts in the Syed interview that Arsenal will win the league this year, but should four barren years become five, the mythology of Mr. Wenger will unravel that bit further.
Alonso leaves Aquilani arrives
Aquilani set for Anfield as Liverpool move quickly to replace Alonso
Liverpool may have finally lost Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid after a summer long transfer battle but manager Rafael Benitez has wasted no time in finding a replacement. The man set to fill the void is talented Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani, who is set for a medical later this week.
The two clubs agreed a fee of around £20million for Aquilani just a few hours after Alonso completed his £30million move to Madrid. A statement on the Liverpool website confirmed that Aquilani has been lined up as a replacement for some time. It said: “Liverpool completed their discussions with Roma once the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid was finally agreed.”
Manager Rafael Benitez added: “As soon as he [Alonso] told us that he wanted to leave we started working, looking for players”.
Aquilani is a creative midfielder in the Alonso mould and at just 25 years old (three years younger than the Spaniard) could prove to be an inspired signing by Benitez. The Liverpool boss said: “Alberto has a winning mentality and great experience in both Serie A and the Champions League”.
Aquilani has also become a regular in the national squad and has made 11 appearances for Italy since making his international debut in 2006.
“Aquilani has long been recognised as a top class talent in Italy, captaining his country at both Under 19 and Under 21 levels before establishing himself in the senior national side,” said Benitez.
The one concern for Liverpool will be the Italian’s fitness record, with Aquilani making just 14 appearances last season due to an ankle injury. However the problem has since been operated on and though he may not be fit for the start of the season, the injury is unlikely to reoccur.
Xabi Alonso was arguably Liverpool’s player of the year last season and his transfer was undoubtedly a blow to the club’s Premier League title chances but with Benitez moving quickly and decisively to find a replacement of similar stature, there wont be many critics writing them off just yet.