Much has been made of Liverpool's breaks between games helping them physically, but Philip Cornwall thinks it's the time they have to rest their minds that matters...
There are some harsh words for Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini in the Mailbox this morning, as well as some rather nicer ones for Tony Pulis and his magic hat...
1991 was a strange time for aficionados of rock 'n' roll. Big hair glam metal gave way to plaid-shirted grunge and it left a lot of mascara and hairspray redundant on rock 'n' roll's bathroom floor. Reluctantly, we had to put away our patent leather pointy boots, remove the rolled up sock from our tight-assed PVC pants and wipe off the eyeliner for the last time. Our snake hips where no longer needed. What had been cool was suddenly not cool at all. All those years of dressing slutty and shaking your leather-clad ass outside the Whiskey on Sunset, a la Motley Crue - even if you lived in Middlesbrough - was now very much yesterday's thing and by god, there is nothing less cool than that which has just been cool.
There are always fashion leaders, there are those who follow, and those who stand outside of it all and go their own way but I've always believed what Tower Of Power told us in '73 in their classic funk track, 'What Is Hip?' when they said 'sometimes hipness is what it ain't'. In other words, doing your own thing, regardless of the prevailing fashion is the coolest thing you can do. Arsene Wenger might not strike you as a fashionista, not with that bloody coat, but he really should have taken note of this years ago.
As Arsenal sit on top of the league, despite a horrible loss to David Moyes' Red Toffees, it's worth remembering that for years Wenger wanted to be the most fashionable and hippest of things - the English Barcelona. And in doing so he perfected an all-foreplay-no-f**king form of football in the belief that this wasn't just successful football, it was a morally and aesthetically superior type of football, egged on by self-appointed aesthetic elitists who pointed to the Catalan club as proof of their belief.
It always was delusion. Plenty of us were with Jorgen Klopp in both literally and metaphorically favouring heavy metal over the smug self-indulgent superiority of the symphony of the 'silent song'. Kicking a ball long or crossing it for a header never was culturally or aesthetically second-rate. But finally, this season Wenger has freed himself from his addiction to this fashion and started to play a variety of football which in previous years would have been unimagined. Result? Top of the league. Or at least it seemed like they had changed before turning up at Old Trafford with their inferiority complex and tendency to being wimpy fully resurrected. Some fashions are not so easily cast aside as a pair of tight pants it would seem.
For up to eight years Wenger was wrong and his critics were right. He was far too wedded to an ideal which was never worth striving for; addicted to a mere fashion created by one club to suit that one club's unique playing resources. It never took great vision to see what was wrong with Arsenal. His so-called project (you're no-one unless you have a project) was transparent in its strengths and weaknesses. Wenger just ploughed on with the fashion and was, in early '90s musical terms, still convinced Winger were hip and not Mother Love Bone.
We all told him to spend big on a world class player or two, to stop basing the team around lightweights, to think about having a centre-forward who could head it, to vary the play, be more physical and put a few crosses in. He wouldn't do it. He thought he was right. He was wrong. He clung to a fashion that only ever suited one club, convinced of its supposed stylish superiority. Then, as Tower Of Power told us, what is hip became passé.
Now, with the success of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund sides that combines high skill with raw physicality, Wenger has belatedly tried to follow them instead. Maybe it's because the German sides are now fashionable and that has convinced Wenger to change to a style that had been out of favour. Forever the follower, rather than the early adopter (apart from in advocacy of pasta consumption, apparently), Wenger is rightly being praised for finally seeming to get it right, at least until he failed in typical style to inspire a performance against Moyes' Everchester. But as he impotently rocked to-and-fro on the bench, clutching his stomach like a man trying to shift a reluctant stool, lagged like a boiler in that ridiculous coat, I did wonder how much has really changed. Maybe he's still trying to be hip when hipness is still what it ain't.
So in that spirit, I must just put on a Faster Pussycat record, rub talc on my thighs, find my 28-inch waist black PVC pants, a rolled up sock, and party like it's 1988.
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