James Lawton: Wenger learning curve droops

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The Independent Football

It is a bizarre question to ask of a football man with intelligence to burn, but after Sunday's Community Shield it has to be done.

Will Arsène Wenger ever learn? Will he ever understand that covering up for the lapses of extravagantly rewarded players like Francis Jeffers, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole is not a requirement of the job but a shocking failure of professional duty?

Campbell and Cole could easily have been sent off along with Jeffers. All three of them were guilty of various levels of petulance. But if Wenger was angered by these reminders of the damage caused to Arsenal's Premiership title chances last spring by the similarly gratuitious offence of Campbell when he elbowed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there was no evidence.

True, his expression suggested he had a date with Madame Guillotine rather than another season in the bear-like embrace of Sir Alex Ferguson. But as ever, he was mealy-mouthed on the subject of discipline and its proven role in the psychology of all consistently winning teams.

Said Wenger, "In the last two seasons we have really improved our discipline. Francis has apologised. He made a mistake. He will learn from it. In situations like that he wants to show how good he is?"

In a way he did. He showed us how good he is at kicking somebody when they are on the floor. Campell, a key player for both Arsenal and England, and a superb defender when he keeps his mind on the job, showed us that he could rival his national team captain, David Beckham, in the pettiness of his response to a point of pressure, and Cole might have been carrying a handbag when he lunged at Solskjaer while already in receipt of a yellow card.

Wenger should not have been talking about learning curves. He should have been consumed with a black rage. Until he is, Arsenal will remain desperately flawed.

Connolly's outburst is no surprise to Givens

The diatribe launched by West Ham's substitute match-winner, David Connolly, at his embattled manager, Glenn Roeder, was shocking to some, but not to the former Queen's Park Rangers and Republic of Ireland forward Don Givens.

When the old prolific scorer - who sound judges rate several leagues above Connolly in natural talent - was put in temporary charge of the Republic's team when Mick McCarthy resigned, he called up Connolly as a late replacement for the squad.

Connolly asked what happened to the phone call when the original selection was made. Givens asked whether Connolly wanted to play for his country or not, and when the answer was less than emphatic he dropped the phone - but not before a brief recital on the need sometimes to ask yourself if you are quite as good as you think you are.

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