He is one of a number of solid shouts for players that look old before their time. We also have the final words on lovely D-Beck and a rejection of end of season playoffs...
That's one opinion, but others give their thanks to the man. We also have ideas for a relegation playoff, happy memories of the season and a defence of Liverpool's campaign...
Trust is Wenger's biggest mistake
Arsenal were dire on Saturday. Blackburn defended well but the home side were devoid of creativity, verve and vigour. Post-match Arsene Wenger admitted that his side "were not good enough to win".
One of Wenger's biggest fault is trust in his players. He has trusted goalkeepers that have not been good enough (Almunia, Mannone). He has trusted defenders that are not good enough (Squillaci, Santos, Djourou). He has trusted midfielders that are not good enough/too fragile (Diaby, Coquelin). And he has trusted forwards that are not good enough (Giroud, on current evidence). Fringe players should seize an opportunity to impress, but there was no sense of that against Blackburn
A great deal of Alex Ferguson's success has come from a ruthless treatment of his squad. Players are not trusted (and therefore played) if they are not up to scratch, but Wenger seems oblivious to such a stance. With one trophy left to realistically fight for, why trust the same players that have consistently let down the club? Those that point to transfer funds as the excuse need to change the record. Arsenal's manager has spent £105million in 18 months. The time for excuses is drawing to an end.
Thanks for the memories, Arsene
So where now for Arsene Wenger? Arsenal blogger GunnersBlog (side point - is there another club with a better selection of blogs than Arsenal? They're virtually all excellent) put it best when he said that it doesn't seem that Arsene Wenger has a clear idea of what he wants from Arsenal these days - he still seems to consider them above the smaller trophies, but they're not good enough to compete for the bigger ones.
Arsenal's season doesn't necessarily depend on beating Bayern Munich, especially if you use Arsene Wenger's definition of success - they're four points behind fourth place, with Tottenham's thin squad and Chelsea's capacity for self-destruction ahead of them. It's not a stretch for them to qualify for the Champions League, but actually doing anything in that competition is a rather more remote possibility. Bayern beat Wolfsburg on Friday night to maintain their 15 (fifteen) point-lead at the top of the Bundesliga - it was their fifth win in a row without conceding a goal. They have conceded seven goals all season in the league, and just one away from home. They have scored in every competitive game they've played this season. Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez are on the bench most weeks. They're the most dominant major team in Europe at present, meaning it might take something close to a miracle for Arsenal to beat them.
So if they do lose to Bayern, as they probably will, then what then? That will be eight seasons without a trophy, adding to the sense of ennui among Gooners everywhere that is just as damaging as their ludicrous ticket prices. As I have written before, the big question is not necessarily whether Arsene Wenger should definitely go, but whether when the time comes there is anyone strong enough at the club to tell him that time is up. It's understandable that many Arsenal fans are torn on the question of Wenger's future, but at present it's looking more and more like anyone who still thinks he should stay is doing so out of an emotional attachment to the man that revolutionised their club 17 years ago.
Friend of F365 Adam Bate wrote an interesting piece for Sky Sports this weekend about the perils of when 'first-mover advantage' fades - i.e. when what was once exceptional becomes the norm, and those that pioneered the exceptional thinking do not move on. Wenger is the classic example of this, and his stubbornness seems to be holding Arsenal back. As the banners reluctantly proclaim, it must be time to say thanks for the memories, Arsene.
Oh Henning, oh Venky's
The list of Blackburn's results this season makes for very strange reading. A solid start of 23 points from 13 games put them comfortably in the play-off places, but then a run of ten games with only one victory saw them slip down to 17th, before a recent upturn (only one defeat in eight) has moved them back into eighth, but still six points off the top six. And they topped that run off nicely with a scrappy but terrific win at Arsenal.
That middle ten games represents the spell Henning Berg was their manager. Venky's have made some unbelievably stupid decisions in their time at Rovers, but if the appointment of the Norwegian costs them promotion this season, that will be up there with the worst whoppers.
Jelavic form a cause for real concern
Nikica Jelavic's spell on Merseyside has almost been completely opposite to logic. Not many expected an SPL striker to hit the ground running as fast as the Croatian did last season, scoring nine goals in 13 Premier League appearances. This campaign, after a full pre-season with his Goodison team mates, Jelavic has stalled. With just two goals in 19 games since October, the forward is no longer automatic first choice. Against Oldham, it was strike partner Victor Anichebe who impressed, whilst Jelavic's first touch repeatedly showed a lack of composure.
The statistics indicate that it is the striker's finishing that is most concerning. His nine goals last season were taken from just 38 shots, a ratio of 24%. This season in total this ratio stands at 10%, and is just 6% since October. Whilst the Croatian is working hard, his shooting prowess has dramatically fallen away.
Whatever the reason, David Moyes is only too aware that for a club with Everton's budget to spend £5.5million on a player, six months of success is not enough.
Premier League clubs may look back in anger
One suspects that, come May, Premier League managers will be regretful of their treatment of the FA Cup this season. It has made for the most exciting cup season in years, but the presence of at least three Championship teams in the last eight of the FA Cup (with Middlesbrough v Chelsea to come) is due more to Premier League complacency than Football League resurgence.
Liverpool, Arsenal, Norwich, Aston Villa, West Brom and Sunderland all made changes for FA Cup games that ended in defeat. The presence of Barnsley, Millwall and Blackburn in the quarter-finals emphasises the lunacy of that choice. All six clubs will end the season trophyless.
There are effectively only two trophies available to 16 of the Premier League's clubs, and the FA Cup is the best opportunity for success, glory and European football. Why would you ever throw away the opportunity to win silverware?
Lampard's faults are ignored
Another one down in Super Frank Lampard's relentless chase to beat Bobby Tambling's goalscoring record for Chelsea, and once again expect the Monday papers to be full of wailing at how appallingly he is being treated by Chelsea. We've written before about how ludicrous this notion of him being painted as a victim of a great ill is, not least because it means journalists and commentators tend to ignore all his faults. In the first half of Chelsea's win over Brentford, Lampard missed two very easy chances, both from around ten yards out, both with almost no defenders in front of him. He was variously described by the ITV commentators as 'unlucky' and 'so close again'.
The problem with Lampard is that, this season at least, he offers not a great deal other than his goals. That might sound like a stupid statement, because as long as he's scoring he is contributing to the team, but Lampard is a central midfielder - he should be doing more than simply scoring. While stats don't prove everything, a look at Lampard's this season is revealing - he is yet to provide an assist, his 81.6% pass completion rate is worse than every regular outfield first-teamer apart from Fernando Torres, has made only 20 'key passes' (i.e. created a chance) and makes fewer than half as many tackles as Oscar. He does take more shots per game than any other Chelsea player, which might explain why he scores so many goals, and why he doesn't tend to lay too many chances on.
Lampard is still useful to Chelsea, not least in the field of 'intangibles' such as what his personality brings to the squad (although even that may have caused problems in the past, but that's a whole different issue) and if your dear correspondent was in charge then I would treat him in the same way as Manchester United do Ryan Giggs - give him a one-year contract, then see what the situation is this time next year. However, some balance must be provided - Lampard's contract situation is not one of the great injustices of our time, because if/when the goals dry up, Lampard is close to being a passenger.
Time to go?
The end of a beautiful, perfect marriage may be nigh. One of the most disliked managers in the land in charge of one of the most disliked clubs in the land was rather neat, but Neil Warnock may not be Leeds boss for much longer. The fans travelling over from Yorkshire to see their side casually flicked aside by Manchester City made their feelings known (when they weren't asking the famously loyal City fans where they were 'when they were sh*t', the quickest answer being 'Maine Road') , singing 'Warnock, time to go.'
This game was the last flicker, the final realistic chance of getting something from this season for Leeds, because at eight points off the play-offs with 15 games remaining of their league season, their chances of winning promotion are receding by the week. They have lost five of their last eight, winning just two of those games, and the word on the street is that if another takeover bid succeeds (the latest one mooted is by former Hull and Derby chairman Adam Pearson) then Warnock will be ushered out.
Warnock will no doubt find someone to blame for his failure at Leeds, because it sure as sh*t won't be his fault - he was quick to emphasise the importance of Manchester City's correctly awarded penalty after their defeat on Sunday, the second goal of four. However, one thing rather summed things up for his time at Elland Road, and that was Ross Barkley returning early to Everton from his loan spell because Warnock 'couldn't guarantee' football. If Warnock couldn't find a place for a young player as classy as Barkley in a side as listless as Leeds, then something is quite seriously awry.
What's the priority?
A genuine question, this - would fans of 'smaller' clubs like Oldham be happy with, say, getting to the FA Cup semi-final but being relegated in the same season? I recall a couple of years ago fairly confidently asserting that winning the League Cup was a poor trade-off for going down for Birmingham fans, and being taken to task on the basis that, while Blues will probably be back in the top flight soon enough, they won't have a chance to win a trophy at Wembley in the near future.
Of course Oldham would like to do both, but one will inevitably impact on the other. Years ago when Chesterfield reached the semi-final, they were left with a heinous fixture pile-up that left them with 13 games in 36 days, including an absolutely insane run of playing on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday, Wednesday then Saturday in the final week of the season. They spent the majority of that campaign around the play-offs, but in the end missed out by five points - these things inevitably impact league form. Oldham have two games in hand on their relegation rivals, and they now have a replay to fit in on February 27, meaning their game against Preston will have to be rearranged. These issues will only worsen if they progress.
So do you favour the pragmatic solution, reasoning that as high a league position as possible must be maintained, knowing how easy it is for teams who drop into League Two to disappear from the Football League altogether? Or celebrate the glory of such minnows achieving the implausible and possibly getting to Wembley? Football, and indeed sport is supposed to be about glory after all, but we live in a pragmatic age. Oldham chairman Simon Colney told BBC Radio 5Live on Saturday that survival was their priority, but what do you say?
The idiot box
Once again, Manchester United's FA Cup tie will be on the television on Monday night. We know why this is - TV companies have audiences to think of, and Manchester United have bloody loads of fans, so the maths are relatively simple when put like that. However, while it might be simply boring for the rest of us, it's actively detrimental to plenty of small teams who make it through to this stage of the competition.
Here's what John Harris, chief executive of Macclesfield Town, told The Guardian before the fourth round: "It is farcical. When we beat Cardiff City here in the third round, the scenes at our stadium were magnificent and a giant-killing could be on the cards again. No disrespect, but is Manchester United playing Fulham more attractive to a football purist?
"For us, that money, £135,000 (the fee TV companies pay each club selected for televised games), would be massive, it would save our season after relegation to the Conference, which was a huge blow. If David Gill [United's chief executive] is feeling generous one morning and wants to divert that money down the A34 to Macclesfield, it would be very welcome."
This is not quite so much of an issue for this round, because Oldham and Luton will have gratefully accepted the TV cash, but something to keep in mind for the future. .
Hats off to Barnsley
Probably the most low-key result of the cup weekend was Barnsley's 3-1 win over MK Dons. In isolation, a relegation-zone Championship side beating a mid-table League One team is not particularly interesting, but what is fascinating is the run Barnsley are currently on. After the Tykes sacked Keith Hill on December 29 they appointed David Flitcroft as caretaker manager - his first game in charge was a 2-1 defeat to Peterborough three days later, but since then they have won four and drawn one in the league, as well as three fairly comfortable successes in the cup. From stone bottom at the turn of the year they're now a point from safety and in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Not bad, Mr Flitcroft.
Hump. Show me in your post where you were commenting on what happened in the FA Cup then? Nothing is there, you were just trolling, as per usual, just can't help yourself. And go and read my oiginal post again, it wasnt about a plastic being somebody who watches more than one team, I was refering to the fact that Synergy was a United fan and his friends were Chelsea fans, so that meant to me that it meant a load of Northerners followed a southern team or a southerner followed a (very successful) nothern team - plastic. As it turns out Synergy isnt from these shores, but probably has supported United since, hmm lets see...the mid 90's?? So Hump, when half term finishes and you are back in class, learn to read s l o w l y and you might actually grasp the point of what is written in front of you..on the other hand, keep trolling boy, its what you do best after all.- Grimupnorth