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...
If you have anything to add on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
KP, London - your opening paragraphs about Arsene Wenger are contradictory. Really not sure I get where you're coming from.
In one breath, you put his managerial credentials to the sword by saying he "got lucky" with Arsenal, and that he is "over-rated". In the next sentence, however, you categorically define what he achieved when he first arrived at the club, and offered a barometer by which ANY successful manager could be judged - in doing so, your argument collapses like a house of cards. Lucky and over-rated managers don't, in my experience of watching football, achieve what you then go on to list as Wenger's successes: "Bought some very smart players, revolutionised the training regime and added flair to a solid base". Oh, is that ALL he did?? Wow - suitably impressive for an over-rated and lucky manager, given that all those things are so very easy to achieve...oh, hang on...
Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall Mourinho "building a team", like SAF did in 1999 and then later in the mid-noughties (for example). From what I can gather, his Porto team was largely inherited, and consisted of recalled players plus a few brand-new ones that he just went out and bought. Hardly dirtying himself with bricks and mortar there. Similarly at Chelsea, where he inherited a load of Ranieri's old players, then went out with Roman's cheque book and spent £70m on Drogba, Tiago, Essien, Carvalho, et al. Again, not seeing much evidence of any real "building" there; more an astute view of the transfer market (apart from Kezman) and an ability to galvanise a group of egos into a title-winning team.
Finally, regarding your comment that, "Arsenal have never quite got to Barcelona's level of tiki-taka passing (thank heavens - there's only so much sideways passing my limited attention span can handle)", perhaps you should have kept Hleb after all. He was crucified for his constant horizontal passes and lack of ability to pull the trigger, and look where he ended up....and what did they win in his only year there? The treble. Hmmm. Do you think he knew something you didn't? How fickle can you be? It's no secret that Arsenal were the team most lauded as being Barcelona's spiritual footballing heirs, in terms of their approach to the game, and yet now you're moaning about how "boring" it is to watch? (not that it happens very often now, of course.)
I'm not disputing that perhaps Wenger's position, as it stands now, should be scrutinised and critiqued. But at least put some decent foundations in place, to use your "building" analogy once more, before you start.
...I know that you will get plenty of these but...
KP, London - enough of the attempt to rewrite history! Many of the gripes about Wenger's current management of Arsenal are totally legitimate (though many are not), but to suggest that Wenger only succeeded because of the team he inherited from Bruce Rioch is patently false. That team of world-beaters had finished 12th and 5th in the two seasons preceding Wenger's appointment, since when they have not finished outside of the top 4. There was nothing inevitable about their success thereafter and it was much, much more than just changing the training regime and organising their tactical shape.
Moreover, suggesting that Wenger cannot build a team from the ground up totally ignores the success of Wenger teams once the old George Graham spine had retired. Most notable is of course the Invincibles, who have an argument to be considered the greatest team of the Premier League era. Let's take a typical line-up of the time and see how many were Wenger signings, and how many were inherited:
Lehmann - Wenger
Lauren - Wenger
Cole - youth system
Campbell - Wenger
Toure - Wenger
Ljungberg - Wenger
Pires - Wenger
Gilberto - Wenger
Vieira - Wenger
Bergkamp - Rioch
Henry - Wenger
So the only player who really wasn't a Wenger player was Bergkamp, though I think you could probably make a fairly persuasive argument to suggest that he reinvigorated the great Dutchman's career anyway.
I know I'm picking apart what is just an obviously dreadful argument, but if you're going to throw abuse at Wenger... Accuse him of failing to see his team's or his own shortcomings and consequently failing to adapt. Accuse him of having lost his touch in the transfer market - looking at the above line-up it strikes me how many utter bargains are in there (Toure, Ljungberg, Pires, Vieira, Henry) compared to the current line-up (Cazorla is the only absolute bargain I can think of, and you don't exactly need to be Graham Carr to have known about him). Accuse him of failing to motivate properly talented players and accuse him of being insufficiently pro-active in renewing his best players contracts. Accuse him of banal subsitutions and predictable tactics.
But do not accuse him of having never built a team, and only profiting from the structure that was already in place at Arsenal in 1996. Or Boring, Boring Arsenal as they were known in those days. In almost every conceivable way, and in the teeth of considerable financial constraints, Wenger has done a brilliant job at Arsenal. When he leaves, which may (rightly) be sooner rather than later, he will leave a stellar, visible legacy not just for Arsenal but also for the Premier League and English football at large.
Peter Bacon, London
...KP, London couldn't be more right in this morning's mailbox.
If Arsenal hadn't taken the knee jerk decision to get rid of Rioch and replace him with some clueless chancer, the idea of three leagues, an unbeaten season, 4 FA cups, the record champions league run without conceding a goal, a shiny new stadium a stones throw from the old ground and steady financial position would be an insult to the very fabric of the club.
The whole Highbury area would be replaced with the biggest ground in the country, maybe the world, title after title would have been won, anything less than a quadruple would be a bad year, Chelsea and City wouldn't even have bothered and Man U would be going the way of Liverpool circa mid 1990's. The club would be so rich that Peter Hill Wood would be buying assets from Dubai. Players like Henry, Pires, Vieira, Campbell, Ljungberg, Toure, Van Persie, Fabregas and the rest wouldn't have got a sniff of the club. Why would they when the Arsenal had Zineano Ibramessischoles.
Oh how it could have been.
Graham Callam, Alternate Universe
...Just a quick riposte to KP from this morning regarding Arsene's inability to build a team.
He's brought up one of my major bug bears with anti-Wenger analysis. That he 'got lucky' and inherited a defence, and a squad, which then brought easy success. In 1998 I would possibly concur, although he did change back to 442 from Rioch's 532 formation, and added quickly to the squad that he inherited. But by 2003/4 the back five was thus:
GK Lehmann (signed by Wenger)
RB Lauren (signed by Wenger and converted to a right back)
LB Cole (given his first team debut by Wenger)
CB Toure (signed by Wenger)
CB Campbell (signed by Wenger)
This back 5 was the foundation for an unbeaten league season, and is generally thought as not too shabby. But of course, Wenger can't build a team can he? The fact that nearly all of the other squad members in that season were also Wenger signings (Bergkamp and Parlour being the exceptions) shouldn't really be ignored either.
I'm not a full on Wenger advocate. I'd agree with some of KP's other points but this myth that Arsene inherited a squad ready for success needs to be put to bed. The invincible side, the pinnacle of his league success, was 7 years after he joined! That is nowt to do with George Graham.
Tom (I think Chamakh beat Gervinho in last night's battle of the Barnets but I'm interested in other views) Cheshire Gooner
More On City's Exit
Just thought I'd highlight an interesting comparison offered by Roberto Mancini when discussing Man City's limp exit from Europe after their defeat last night. In the press conference, he was presumably attempting to offer some hope to City fans with a comparison to Dortmund, who last year "went out in the first group" and "this year, for me, they are probably a team that can win the Champions League".
This is of course true; but what is also true is that Man City also went out in the first group last year, as did arch rivals Man United. This year, both Man United and Dortmund have qualified top of their group, while City have (at least on the European stage) gone backwards.
Terry Hall, Switzerland
...Lets do some Rafa style facts about what Mancini has said about this CL campaign:
1) Mancini "We are a new team so it takes time to settle". Yes, they are new to the CL, but that doesn't stop PSG, Malaga, Juventus doing well this season. Ditto debut CL campaigns for Spurs, Napoli, Braga all doing well at their first try...
2) Mancini "Even Man Utd and Arsenal took a few seasons to get into the CL". Yes, they did Roberto, but the fact is back when Man Utd took part (1993), NONE of their players had any CL experience, unlike yours (see point
3) and English clubs were rated #18 by UEFA coefficients after the Hysel ban. Ditto, Arsenal 1998, the English coefficient was still ranked low, showing how poorly English clubs had done in the 90's. Thus Man Utd and Arsenal in fact did better than other English clubs of the period because they increased the coefficient from 1997 onwards. By contrast, when Man City entered in 2011, England's ranking was #1 because its clubs had done so well. Thus, in theory, the English champions, in this period should be doing better as the EPL rankings were higher.
4) Mancini "We don't have much CL experience". Untrue, Roberto....you have four players in the team who have won the trophy (Tevez, Balotelli, Maicon and Yaya), others who have played in many games and finals, Nasri, Dzenko, Kolarov, Garcia, Aguero, Silva, Clichy, Kolo. Some of these players have 50+ CL appearances under their belt for gods sake!
5) Mancini "We were unlucky, leading in Madrid and Amsterdam and then loose". You can be unlucky once, maybe twice, but over two CL campaigns (12 matches) with Man City, luck has nothing to do with it...its about performances....which you as manager couldn't muster from a team you built.
6) Mancini "We were put in a group of death for 2 years running". The reason for this is because of Man City poor UEFA coefficient which is a result of their poor results. The only way of improving it is to win matches Roberto. And people would expect Man City who have spent 20 times more than the opposition (i.e. Ajax) to at least beat them. Getting only 3 points from this campaign represents the worst total ever from an English club...think of that Roberto.
No, Roberto....it isn't your fault...like it wasn't at Inter....yet they sacked you, brought in a better manager, who after 18 months, won the CL.
Sanjay Patel (Leicester)
...Pete , Dublin really doesn't get the Champions League co-efficient rankings and how they work at all. There are a few things to remember:
Every team that makes it to the Champions League Group stage draw is seeded. There are the 8 top teams in Pot 1, the 8 next best in Pot 2 and so on.
City moved up in this year's draw to Pot 2 from last year's Pot 3. So that's the 2nd tier of teams.
Ajax were in Pot 3 and Dortmund were in Pot 4.
The co-efficient each team gets is based on a rolling 5 years of European Football results with a 20% addition based on that country's overall performance in Europe.
Dortmund were in Pot 4 because they got knocked out last year in the Group stage, but also have no real record in Europe in the previous 4 years.
City on the other hand have been in Europe for a number of years including a couple of decent runs in the Europa League. I'm happy to stand corrected on this last point, but with this years entry into the Champions League, City have probably been in Europe for the last 5 years.
Their co-efficient rating will not go down and will most likely go up slightly. The difference next year is that Dortmund will probably be in the same pot as City and a Group of Death scenario should be avoided.
Tim (hoping there's no backlash on Sunday)
Champions League Thoughts
*Ajax, despite the defeat, are really rather good. Technically, they look far better than any of the English sides.
*Screw Lewandowski, Blaszczykowski should be the focus of United's attentions on Dortmund. Quick, direct, skilful and physically robust (unlike Ashley Young).
*Ilkay Gundogan would be a nice Christmas present too. They're welcome to Darren Fletcher in return.
*I think I love Borussia Dortmund. They play quick, attacking but skilful football, have a dearth of twattish players, produce the majority of players internally, or buy them cheaply and develop them, and have raucous, vocal fans.
*How prolonged and wide would the circle-jerk in the British media be if any English club had a trio as young, experienced, creative and talented as Leitner, Reus, and Goetze?
*Watching Rosicky makes even a resolute United fan feel sorry for Arsenal. Not just because of the potential wasted, but because of the decline in the club since he was bought in 2006.
*Ronaldo shouldn't have a black-eye. Something is wrong with the universe, he isn't vulnerable to damage of mere mortals.
*As Chelsea leak goals for fun, didn't Carvalho look good?
*Generally, European football is seeing a changing of the guard. Although established giants (Madrid, Barca, United) will remain amongst Europe's elite, the likes of Malaga, PSG, Dortmund and Shakhtar look to be the new Valencia, Lyons, Werder Bremen etc.
*Are City the inverse of Benitez' Liverpool? Excellent in the league, awful in Europe.
*Platini's plans for the CL/EL amalgamation should be avoided like the plague. There are already too many teams of too little quality in the group stages. Diluting the quality further would ruin on the great footballing successes of the past twenty years.
*Having to go to the gym to watch football is a fantastic incentive to exercise.
Taking A Stand
I've written in about standing before, and think that R "or am I just getting grumpy as I age?" Fernandes is right that there are other issues regarding the atmosphere at grounds other than introducing seats, but these other issues are not as easy to rectify and personally I think bringing back terraces really would benefit the atmosphere.
Seats reduced capacity, albeit at a time when safety was rightly the only priority. The reduced capacity therefore can be linked to an increase in prices, although I will admit market factors would also have contributed. I think this has a massive effect on the crowd. To massively generalise a person who can afford to go now, who can afford a seat and a prawn sandwich, will not contribute as much as Joe Bloggs stood with a cup of Bovril. Maybe that's me being grumpy with age, but I stand behind that statement.
Another thing with seats is when you team scores (it does happen although I thought it a myth until recently) you stand up to celebrate. Huge sections of fans stand up throughout matches already, I've done it, and it's bloody annoying having the seat hindering you. I consider it a safety hazard if I'm honest, I've seen people fall forward over them celebrating. The terrace areas were historically working class, you wouldn't get the screaming kids in there as mentioned in a previous mail, but people who were there to stand and sing. I would say that the closer proximity to your fellow fan makes you feel more part of the crowd and therefore more likely to participate in singing and supporting rather than being isolated at a cinema or theatre with your own seat. Football used to be panto, you played a part, it's not anymore, you sit and watch.
My earliest memory of going to football was standing in the terrace at the Abbey stadium when Cambridge beat Millwall 1-0 in the FA Cup in 1989 in extra time via a half way back pass that went wrong. Batsh*t mental. The last game I went and stood at was Cambridge beating the northerners of Histon (for whom I played once upon a time), again stood shoulder to shoulder and it was electric, (although I concede that any game can turn into an epic). Basically I would sign up to any and every measure introduced to ensure safety at stadiums if standing was allowed again in designated areas, I think it would do the game the world of good. No, it won't fix football, but done correctly it's a move in the right direction. Small steps for long journeys.
Who knows, It may even reduce ticket prices*
Chris ITFC, (*This will never happen) Liverpool
Not A Singer
I went to Old Trafford last season for the first time since 2004. I used to go regularly when I was younger due to a family connection at the club but once that came to an end, I just got used to being an arm chair fan. At the game last season I was one of those silent fans, but for a good reason. I wanted to watch the f*****g game, not sing a bunch of generic rhyming chants that some fat old drunk git has thought up in a pub! Perhaps it may be different if I'm there everywhere week, but probably not.
In those 90 minutes, I didn't contribute to any songs (a few UNITED, UNITED when we needed a lift perhaps) but what I did do was study the game. To me it was like being in a university lecture that was actually entertaining and could actually teach me something. I observed warm ups (simple 5 yard passes to feet, Park whacking it in Evra's stomach every time. S**t player) but best of all I observed Carrick. I was on the "Carrick is awful" bandwagon until this game, but christ he is excellent. Had I not been playing central midfield for my team at the time, and had I spent the game singing, I probably wouldn't have noticed just how good he was. I got a lot more out of it by concentrating on what I was seeing than worrying about singing some songs.
Having said that, the atmosphere the Turkish fans made at Galatasaray the other night was insane. They whistled and howled every time United had the ball, which seemed to guarantee they'd win it back in 5 seconds. When the Turks had it the fans were ferocious too. Maybe that's the way forward? I still would rather observe the game than sing though.
More On Liverpool Fans
To those Mailboxers saying that Liverpool fans do not deserve their status as 'wags' on the terraces any more and that they are no longer capable of witty chants, that may well be the truth, although personally I have no idea. I'm restricted to TV coverage only these days and I find it hard to pick up on the words of many songs from a lot of clubs even though I have a pretty decent telly. So I can't comment on the existing quality of 'pool fans and their singing but I can most certainly attest to how great some of their routines were from years back when I was still living in Manchester. (And this is coming from a Manchester United fan). Still, in the interest of fairness and all that...
Way back, probably in the very late 1960's when Leeds United were still a major force and way before their more recent rise, Liverpool were playing Leeds at Anfield on Boxing Day, I believe. No doubt someone will correct my memory if I am wrong but it was definitely winter and it had been snowing. This was in the days before under-pitch heating was even thought of and there was a decent layer of snow right across the pitch. Welsh goalkeeper Garry Sprake was in goal for Leeds and bent to pick up the ball in his gloved hands and made to throw the ball to one of his teammates.
And that's where it all went dreadfully wrong for Sprake because he made the normal over-arm throwing action only to be completely mortified when the ball stuck to his glove and he ended up chucking it into his own net as his arm came back! I have not seen the like either before or since.
Anyway it took mere seconds for the Anfield faithful to start singing a dreadful song that had somehow made its way into the singles charts by average comedian / cum average TV compere / cum awful singer called Des O'Conner called 'Careless Hands'. If Sprake could have dug his own grave in the frozen pitch then I think he would have cheerfully done it.
It was a brilliant piece of improvisation that carried across thousands of supporters in mere seconds. It is on such stories that 'The Anfield (and more specifically, The Kop) Legend' was created..
Ice Hockey Goals
I love this idea from Naz, Nigeria of an ice hockey style pitch where you can continue behind the goal. Imgagine a tricky player working his way directly behind the goal to lob it back over the cross bar into the path of an oncoming Duncan Ferguson type. Undefendable.
You Have Miller And Stanger Mixed Up
Last night I had a dream. It involved me working in 365 Towers and rubbing shoulders with the great and good of 365, your Winties, your Johnny Nics and your Millers. While large parts of the dream are sketchy, I remember vividly that Matthew Stanger was in every way Jack Whitehall. He was tall, skinny and incredibly camp. I find Jack Whitehall quite irritating but feel as though me and Matthew should be friends. Please help me, I feel my world is falling apart...
Confused in Dublin