Arsenal 1 Manchester City 1 comment: Questions over Arsene Wenger’s future are an avoidable distraction

Majority of Arsenal supporters rallied impressively behind their team

The activists assembled outside the directors’ box at The Emirates. They were unprepared to wait for a resilient performance which compromised their theatrical anger. “Au revoir, Arsène,” they chanted, before they remembered the cost of their season tickets and broke into a chorus of “Choke on your caviar.”

A tiny, vociferous minority, they flaunted a single banner with a scrawled order that Arsène Wenger and Stan Kroenke, Arsenal’s majority shareholder, should “f*ck off”. Football is a business which has turned disturbingly personal.

There was a simultaneous, more serious, demonstration at the ground, which called for Arsenal to pay their employees the London living wage of £8.80 an hour. But that was lost in the shrill search for someone to blame.

Success subdues the fair-weather fans. Adversity exposes their shallowness. The game’s culture of instant gratification , encouraged by inflationary ticket pricing and a lack of belief in such quaint, old-fashioned virtues as patience and prudence is at its most dangerous.

 

At least The Emirates, unlike Old Trafford, was a no-fly zone. The vast majority of Arsenal supporters rallied impressively behind their team after an early goal by David Silva, whose passing and movement was exceptional, had reopened recent scars. They booed the returning Samir Nasri with a rare relish.

Defeat would have led to their season imploding. Paul Scholes had gone in, studs up, during the week as the odds on Arsenal failing to extend their 18- year sequence of qualifying for the Champions’ League shortened. They were parodied as a team of wannabes, lacking moral fibre and physical resilience.

There was a strange atmosphere for a match of such obvious importance. The air should have been thick with rallying cries and renewed pledges of allegiance, yet there was an almost audible sense of anxiety until the momentum of the match shifted, midway through the first half.

The future remains uncertain.  Even the Arsenal manager’s embattled acolytes are bemused by the word games over his new contract. Wenger implies he is ready to remain for two more years, yet falls short of providing confirmation of his commitment to a club shaped in his image.

Trust is at the heart of the issue. Managers are no longer revered figures, assumed to possess Papal infallibility. Like the politicians they increasingly resemble, they are obsessed with short-term gain and reactive when confronted by collective ignorance.

No one double-guessed Herbert Chapman when he appeared on Lord Reith’s British Broadcasting Corporation. Yet after 1,002 games in charge, Wenger is still routinely disrespected in post-match phone-ins. But he is understandably contemptuous of being lectured over the airwaves by a monosyllabic cab driver from Romford.

The revolt is muted, for the time being. The lack of clarity in Wenger’s intentions is an avoidable distraction. United’s experience has highlighted the problems created by slackness in succession planning. When a manager of Wenger’s stature and longevity moves on, the tectonic plates shift.

He cannot be replaced by Arsène Lite, a pale imitation. They will need someone of similar instincts but a different mindset. This is a club, and a team, in need of measured change, evolution rather than revolution. That will cost the sort of sums the board have previously been unwilling to invest. It seems certain that the three-year contract offer to Bacary Sagna, a free agent at the end of the season, will be too little, too late. The internal review of the club’s support services cannot come soon enough.

Murmurs about conditioning programmes, amplified by a succession of soft-tissue injuries, will not go away. They cannot afford the sort of stuttering seasons endured by the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, whose pace has been much missed.

City, by contrast, had a striking strength of will and an impressive certainty of purpose. They have dealt better with injuries to such key players as Sergio Aguero. Their goal, the result of the slackness of Lukas Podolski, highlighted familiar weaknesses.

Both full-backs had pushed forward, leaving the centre-backs isolated once Podolski surrendered possession to Jesus Navas in a dangerous position. There was an element of fortune in Silva being perfectly placed to convert the rebound in a penalty-box scramble, but it was deserved.

So, too, was Arsenal’s equaliser, which owed much to the equally familiar listlessness of Martin Demichelis. It took time for them to assert themselves, but since Mathieu Flamini was a key figure in their response to initial adversity, he was an appropriate scorer.

Though the draw means Wenger can no longer realistically indulge the fantasy that the title is within his compass, Flamini has bought him a little time. In this perverse, fractious era, that will have to be enough.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas