Peter Bills: Wenger dealing in fantasies

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The Independent Football

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes the 3-0 score line at Manchester City on Saturday "flattered" Mark Hughes’ team.

Well, from what I could see, use of the word flattered was highly appropriate. City could and probably should have had six.

But then, should we be surprised at such illogical choice of words from a man who deals in fantasies? Wenger, after all, told us earlier this season that he was not pressurised by four seasons without a trophy and would not even consider use of the word crisis if that run was extended by a further 12 months.

These are as valuable in the field of considered views as the beliefs of optimists on the Titanic. Everyone else can see the Arsenal ship listing, a nasty chunk denting its side. Wenger sees only what his football purist eyes wish to focus.

Manchester City, an up and down, in and out sort of unit with one or two obvious stars attempting to mask a largely grey firmament, had beaten Arsenal only once in their previous 22 attempts. But the way the Londoners kept losing the ball in midfield, the manner in which City kept creating and scorning clear goal scoring chances, it would have been obvious to a blind man that Wenger’s afternoon was within touching distance of meltdown.

Of course, the Frenchman has long been renowned for his selective eyesight. Fouls perpetrated upon his own players are viewed in perfect focus; those committed by his charges, frequently unseen. We smile in indulgence at such selectivity from the Frenchman because he has brought so much to the Premiership through his philosophies and the young players he has developed.

But as the days begin to run out on this tired old year, likewise Wenger’s credibility begins to diminish under such circumstances. When teams as modest as Manchester City, Robinho notwithstanding, put Arsenal to the sword, then only the supremely optimistic or, dare we say it, foolish can deny the reality in front of them.

The William Gallas affair reveals the raging currents flowing behind the scenes at The Emirates Stadium. We can be sure that the former captain’s publicly aired views regarding certain players may be shared by some in Wenger’s dressing room. Refusing to discuss the issue publicly may be astute on the manager’s part but it does not mean the issue no longer festers in some minds, behind closed doors.

All of this has arisen from a single, undeniable fact. Wenger did not buy last summer to remove the weaknesses in his side which had been apparent at times last year and indeed for some seasons. Four years without a trophy cannot be explained simply by bad luck.

Until he addresses the fault lines, the festering sore may continue. To who knows what cost?