Arsene Wenger in danger of tarnishing great Arsenal legacy

Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger is running the risk of ruining his legacy at the club, despite being one of their greats. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2018
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Arsene Wenger in danger of tarnishing great Arsenal legacy

LONDON: The FA Cup will not offer redemption for Arsene Wenger this time. No manager has been more successful in the competition and winning it in three of the past four seasons has helped deflate at least some of the pressure mounting on him.
But last Sunday’s defeat at Nottingham Forest, as Wenger, banned from the touchline, fretted toward the back of the stand was another low. It was a first defeat for him in the third round but it also laid bare the poverty of options Arsenal now have.
That they responded to that defeat by drawing 0-0 at Chelsea in the League Cup was typical. Inconsistency has become a familiar mode. The players, of course were largely different, but you would expect some measure of continuity of organization, discipline and attitude to run through the club. But what’s more worrying from an Arsenal point of view is that there was a time when we waited to watch his second string with a sense of anticipation.
In 2007, for instance, Arsenal blazed by Newcastle, Sheffield United and Blackburn with a team that included Justin Hoyte, Armand Traore, Denilson, Theo Walcott, Fran Merida, Henri Lansbury, Kieran Gibbs and Mark Randall, all of whom were in their teens at the time. They played fast, fluent, exciting football and they were regarded with a sense of awe. This, it seemed, was the future: Wenger was building a young army
of players brought up in his philosophy and they would dominate for years to come.
Only Walcott remains, body wearied by injury, his face oddly youthful despite his experiments with a beard, the oldest teenager in the world, and even he is likely to be gone by the end of the transfer window. These are the lost boys, the kids whose potential was never quite realized, and in whose stories is written the failure of late-period Wenger.
But worst of all is that the hope the new generation once offered isn’t there any more. That is not to say that the players are not talented. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, for instance, has slotted impressively into the first team (so long as he is played at wing-back rather than full-back, where his lack of heading ability can be exposed). But it is to say that the sense of stagnation has crept down from the top. The vivacity the young back-ups used to exude was gone. They did not lose at the
City Ground because of naivety or a lack of composure; they lost because of a basic lack of organization and drive.
That in turn raises ominous questions. Wenger has been an enormous positive both for Arsenal and for English football. He has helped revolutionize thinking on nutrition and recruitment. As well as his seven FA Cups, he has won three league titles, one of them passing through the season unbeaten, and reached two European finals. He has overseen the move to the Emirates. He stands alongside Herbert Chapman in the pantheon of great Arsenal managers.
And yet the stasis has been going on so long that, almost unthinkably, there’s a serious risk he leaves the club in a worse position than they were when he took over.
Wenger arrived in October 1996, replacing Bruce Rioch, who had quit following a dispute over transfers. The previous season they had finished fifth, 19 points off the top. The comparison is not entirely fair given how astonishingly good Manchester City have been this season, but at the moment Arsenal lie sixth, 23 points off the top. But last season, they finished fifth, 18 points off the top.
The side Rioch left included not merely David Seaman and the great back four constructed by George Graham but also Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright. Wenger quickly added Patrick Vieira and Nicolas Anelka, and then, before the double-winning season of 1997-98, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars. But the nucleus of a good squad was there.
If Wenger left this summer (and he almost certainly will not), what would he leave behind? Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will be gone. Hector Bellerin has been persistently linked with moves away. Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere have long-term struggles with injuries.
After 22 years, half of them glorious, Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Alexandre Lacazette doesn’t seem like much of a legacy.


Liverpool return to top of the table with 3-1 win over arch-rivals Manchester United

Updated 16 December 2018
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Liverpool return to top of the table with 3-1 win over arch-rivals Manchester United

  • Shaqiri braces gives Reds deserved win over United at Anfield.
  • Mourinho's men well beaten as Liverpool leapfrog Manchester City ti return to top of the table.

LIVERPOOL: Two deflected Xherdan Shaqiri strikes handed Liverpool victory over Manchester United in the Premier League for the first time in nine attempts as Jurgen Klopp’s men moved back to the top of the table with a 3-1 win at Anfield on Sunday.
United manager Jose Mourinho claimed ahead of the game that the league leaders have had luck on their side this season, but while there was fortune in substitute Shaqiri’s two goals in the final 17 minutes, the visitors did not deserve anything more than a fifth defeat of the season.
Liverpool leapfrogged Manchester City to finish the weekend where they started, a point clear at the top, and move a mammoth 19 clear of United, who remain in sixth and are now 11 points off the top four.
The contrasting form showed by both sides this season continued as United strained to keep a rampant Liverpool at bay and were only level for so long thanks to a huge error by home goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead before Jesse Lingard levelled when Alisson dropped a routine cross at the feet of the England international.
United had the ball in the net first on a rare foray forward but Romelu Lukaku was flagged offside despite not getting a touch to Ashley Young’s free-kick.
But Liverpool then laid siege to the visitors’ goal with David de Gea stretching to keep out a low drive from Roberto Firmino, Young clearing off the line and Fabinho firing wide from the edge of the box.
Only Manchester City have kept Klopp’s side from scoring in the Premier League this season and a United defense that has kept just one clean sheet in the league since September never looked capable of holding out like they had in their two previous visits to Anfield.
Mourinho’s men were finally breached when Mane controlled Fabinho’s chipped ball into the box on his chest and volleyed past the onrushing De Gea.
However, Liverpool’s momentum was punctured by an Alisson gift 12 minutes before the break.
The Brazilian was Liverpool’s hero with an injury-time save to secure the Reds’ place in the last 16 of the Champions League against Napoli on Tuesday.
But he spilled Lukaku’s simple cross into the path of the grateful Lingard to bundle the ball into an unguarded net.
The second half followed a similar pattern with one-way traffic toward the Kop as Liverpool sought the goal to take them back to the top of the table.
De Gea scrambled low to his left to palm Firmino’s prodded effort to safety, while Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk saw efforts deflected behind.
Jurgen Klopp turned to Shaqiri to unlock the United defense 20 minutes from time and the Swiss international needed just three to put Liverpool back in front.
De Gea did well to prevent Ander Herrera turning Mane’s cross into his own net, but the ball fell for Shaqiri and his effort cannoned off Young and in off the underside of the bar.
Seven minutes later, Shaqiri got lucky again when, this time on his favored left foot, his shot flicked off the diving Eric Bailly to leave De Gea helpless.