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A tumultuous 80 hours for Arsene Wenger ended with a defeat that can only extend the agony. Bayern Munich's 3-1 victory at the Emirates was a reminder that the most important response to any football crisis is on the pitch - and for all that the second-half rally could have produced an equaliser, it is not hard to argue that Arsenal were fortunate to escape in the shape they did. The home team were not just well beaten, but left utterly baffled; opponents with only 42% possession created chance after chance and will have left surely dissatisfied by comprehensive victory. The football that Arsenal's manager preaches to his players is not supposed to have this outcome.
Towards the end of Wenger's Monday press conflagration, he said: "I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am 30 years in this job and if I was paranoid, you would know it already."
Perhaps this is where he has been going wrong; after all, the only manager with a better record in the Frenchman's 16 years this side of the Channel seems to believe that referees are out to get him despite fans of every other Premier League club being able to recite the decisions that have gone Manchester United's way.
There is another point of comparison with Sir Alex Ferguson, a man who bans journalists for reporting accurately on a player's injury. The Old Trafford press pack is cowed by a man who takes a Trotskyite "if you are not with us, you are against us" attitude; had Ferguson been in Wenger's shoes on Monday then it is unlikely in the extreme that the media would have carried on poking and probing. Journalists are not paranoid: Fergie really is out to get them.
Roberto Mancini has pointed out the disparity in treatment between that given to the Scot and that given to his rivals. But, as I wrote when discussing the Manchester City manager's complaints, what grants Ferguson his power is a record that, compared to anyone else's, is impeccable. Wenger has gone from implacable rival to object of pity since the penalty triumph against United in the 2005 FA Cup final.
There are different ways of looking at The Sun's original story but it is important to accept that there is no single version of the truth. In an era of representatives and 'camps', and of absentee owners, conversations take place around clubs about which you may not know. Perhaps someone at the club, with a sincere desire to express support for the manager, has suggested a new contract beyond 2014 to someone and two and two has become five. Both the report and Wenger's indignant response can be at heart entirely genuine.
If I were the manager, then the question that would have aroused the greatest sense of angry wonder was one that brought together the defeats that put him under pressure and Tuesday night's match: "Tell us why a team that has lost to Blackburn and Bradford can beat Bayern Munich."
Given that he was not about to reveal his tactics, the only appropriate way to deal with the request was to regard the reporter concerned as a Martian fresh off the saucer, green in terms of experience of football as well as skin colour. "Do you think really that Bayern Munich has never lost against a smaller club in Germany?" Though managers spend their time attempting to prevent shocks they know only too well that can happen and it was entirely appropriate to throw this line of interrogation back in the face of the questioner. But after Bayern's win, the gap between them and the vanquished felt almost comparable to that at kick-off between Arsenal and Blackburn, a club who lost their last match at the Emirates 7-1. The reporter who asked the question will feel (misplaced) vindication.
Wenger's reaction to the Sun story was telling of pressure that he should have been feeling and John Nicholson articulated the case for his leaving. As John says, we have heard too many of his answers before, whether the pre-match bluster or the post-match melancholy. Whereas in his early years opposition supporters were scornfully bored of his serial myopia, now it is ever-increasing numbers of his own club's fans who are tired of variations on a theme that reveal a different kind of blind spot. Once a managerial mystic, now he seems more the kind of guru who fleeces his followers, extorting ever greater sums from those in search of enlightenment before disenchantment sets in.
On Monday, immediately after pointing out that results such as Bradford and Blackburn do happen, Wenger said: "What I find is absolutely unbelievable is that when it happens to me, it is a complete storm. You know why? Because in 16 years, it never happened." Nor, for almost as long, did it happen that Arsenal did not qualify for the Champions League; not since his very first part-season, in fact.
This time a year ago Arsenal were fourth but trailing Spurs by ten points, rather than today's margin of four, and overhauled their local rivals to make themselves immune from whatever Chelsea did in Munich. But away from the heat of the contract story Wenger knows that the reaction to the Blackburn game is about the context of a team in fifth as well as being on the brink of having no trophies to compete for.
Still, it remains entirely plausible not only that Wenger will stay beyond the end of another potless season, should Arsenal fail to pull off a miracle at the Allianz Arena (or come unstuck in a subsequent round), but also that he will get that new contract.
During the peak of the economic crisis we heard about businesses that were too big to be allowed to fail. Wenger is no bank or General Motors but Stan Kroenke and his allies will naturally be worried that in these 16-and-a-half years the manager has built himself into the foundations to such an extent that it will be highly risky to replace him, especially amid a crisis. Perversely, failure could even work in his short-term favour: were he to fail to re-qualify for the Champions League then what calibre of replacement would they be able to recruit?
Yet the difficulty of divorce also applies vice versa: after 16-and-a-half years and at the age of 63, can Wenger extract himself from north London? Football managers generally live a life of upheaval, and when he was dismissed by Monaco in 1994 then embarked on his Japanese adventure it was possible that Wenger would do the same. Instead he came to London and put down such deep roots that to wrench them up and start anew at his age may be unthinkable. So, too, as he watches Ferguson roll relentlessly on at 71, may be retirement.
If Arsenal and Arsene do consider themselves stuck with each other then we will have to contend with hearing the same familiar woe for quite a while longer. Even Spurs fans may feel that schadenfreude palls with time.
@solskjaer99, i came up for one for the Gooners. ARSEnal.- hump3