Football: Wenger's grafters make their point

Derby County 0 Arsenal 0 Attendance:29,018

LIKE AN avuncular professor denied the pleasure of working with his brightest students, the Premiership's most cerebral manager was reduced yesterday to chivvying his less gifted grafters through a best-we-could- hope-for class.

Six of Arsene Wenger's cleverest kids had produced valid sick notes. Without them, six matches have now been and gone since Arsenal last won. But the avoidance of defeat, in the face of feisty opposition, at least denies Wenger's all-too-hasty critics the chance to build pressure.

In the long and varied history of football followers' notoriously short memories, none can have suffered such an acute dose of selective amnesia as the Arsenal few who, barely six months since the completion of the double, have begun booing at this awkward autumn.

Regardless of them - and for the record, Arsenal support yesterday was indeed only supportive - Wenger confirmed afterwards that he will sign a proper Highbury contract this week. Tomorrow, perhaps? "But the office is closed tomorrow." His reluctance to complete the paperwork hitherto had been because "I don't see any difference between my word and my signature". Real Madrid, it seems, can forget him. Guus Hiddink can sleep more soundly.

Wenger was glad of his team's mental strength, spoke of it having been "important not to lose" and only bemoaned Arsenal's failure to kill the game off in the final quarter. "Parlour and Overmars can score," he said, "but they aren't scoring at the moment."

The truth is that Adams, Bergkamp, Vieira and Petit can play but they aren't playing at the moment. Arsenal cannot be the same without them.

The absence of the French pair in midfield left acreage out of which, in the early stages, Lars Bohinen and Stefano Eranio threatened to make much capital. The Norwegian, leaping on an imprecise pass from Parlour, ran from box to box before driving wide; the Italian was pivotal in the move preceding Paulo Wanchope's drive which had David Seaman plunging to his left.

Not that Arsenal, despite their injury problems and their lengthening winless run, were without some coherent contributions going forward. Parlour, the recipient of a sublimely timed and weighted pass from Wreh, scuttled unfettered into the area before meeting goalkeeper Mark Poom's boldly spread frame.

A patternless second half grew increasingly tetchy and the referee Mike Reed, hardly one of the Premiership's reticent brandishers of the card, proved himself surprisingly temperate.

Arsenal threw on Fredrik Ljungberg and Luis Boa Morte in search of fresh width and thrust which, to an extent, they found - without reward.

Wednesday's trip to Greece, which might have been an exercise in dream fulfilment, turns out only to be about fixture fulfilment. None of yesterday's absentees will play in that game. But given Arsenal's problems with injury and fatigue, perhaps some should make the trip. A mini-break in Athens? Just the trick.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'