The Arsenal ship is sinking under Arsene Wenger — now it is time to rock the boat

Arsene Wenger is through to the quarterfinals of the Europa League, but that should not mask how off the pace his Arsenal side are in the Premier League. (Reuters)
Updated 16 March 2018
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The Arsenal ship is sinking under Arsene Wenger — now it is time to rock the boat

LONDON: In 1968, the Portuguese leader Antonio Salazar collapsed in his bath and suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. He was not expected to survive and so the president of the country, Americo Tomas, replaced him with Marcelo Caetano. But Salazar did not die. Nobody felt able to tell him he was no longer in power, and so for the final two years of his life Salazar believed he was ruling Portugal when, in fact, his instructions were being destroyed by civil servants as soon as they received them.
It was a weird end for one of Europe’s weirder dictatorships, but you wonder whether it may offer a potential solution for Arsenal. As Arsene Wenger clings desperately to power, openly dismissive of his new head of scouting Sven Mislintat, and the internal politicking ramps up, perhaps the best way out is for the club to let Wenger believe he is still in charge — perhaps inventing some spurious FA charge and stadium ban to explain why he is no longer welcome on the touchline — while actually appointing Carlo Ancelotti, Brendan Rodgers, Thomas Tuchel, Jogi Low or whoever.
Yet even to write that seems unfair. It shouldn’t have come to this. Wenger should not be a man despised by a vocal minority of fans. He should not have become a joke figure. The subject of Wenger’s future should not have become a staple of phone-ins and panel debates. But the truth is there is no debate any longer. Arsenal are sinking. Their performance in the League Cup final was inexcusably limp — a not uncommon occurrence in big games.
They find themselves in the quarterfinal of the Europa League after an impressive 5-1 aggregate victory over AC Milan, but even if they go on to win that competition, there have been too many false dawns to believe this is the start of serious regeneration. If Wenger does, at last, lead Arsenal to a European trophy, all the victory is likely to do is provide a high on which to exit.
Wenger stands alongside Herbert Chapman as one of the two greatest Arsenal managers in history, a figure who delivered three league titles and seven FA Cups. His angry response to questions about his future suggests he thinks his record alone should be enough to keep him in the job. But Arsenal have not won the league since 2004 and there is little prospect of them winning it again in the near future. Sadly, that possibility recedes with each passing season. Wenger is unraveling everything he knitted and that is desperately sad.
Wenger’s contract runs until summer 2019. Even the manager acknowledged that discussions about his future undermined the 2017 season as he entered the final months of his contract. To avoid a similar problem this year, serious decisions need to be made. Changes in the background, with the appointment of Mislintat and the sporting director Raul Sanllehi, suggest the club is beginning to prepare for a post-Wenger future, but there is no sign of him being prepared to go willingly.
And behind it all is the bigger worry, something that goes far deeper than Wenger. And that is the question of what the club’s leadership want. After the past few seasons of drift, logic would suggest the club would benefit from a jolt of modernization. Perhaps that demands a young, unproven manager such as Thierry Henry. Perhaps it demands somebody experienced, single-minded and unafraid of confrontation, such as Louis van Gaal.
But revolution carries risk. It might go wrong. There might need to be another evolution in a year or two. There might be a protracted period in which Arsenal fail to even challenge for Champions League qualification. Nothing Stan Kroenke has ever done suggests he would be willing to countenance that. He seems to be an owner who is not much interested in glory.
Kroenke just wants his asset to keep ticking over, to gather in the revenues from ticket sales and broadcast deals — and the Premier League yields so much these days that missing out on the Champions League is no longer such a problem — and that means he will not rock the boat. If there is a new manager, it is likely to be a safe choice, somebody who will not rock a boat that desperately needs rocking.


Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

Updated 18 February 2019
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Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

  • Reds boss worried about resurgent German giants ahead of second-round first-leg clash.
  • Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich claims Liverpool are the favorites.

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool side they will have to be at their very best if they are to beat Bayern Munich.
The Reds head into the Champions League clash as slight favorites after months at the top of the Premier League. But having drawn the German giants in the second round, Klopp has told his players they have to keep their feet on the ground worthy could end up out of the competition before it really gets going.
“It’ll be very tough,” there Liverpool manager said.
“(Bayern are) only two points off Dortmund in the domestic league and have been consistent finalists and semifinalists.
“They’re a world class team but at the same time we’re confident we can cause them problems.
“They’ve got world class players so we know how difficult it will be.
“Everyone has to be at 100 percent otherwise we’ll get nothing from the game.
“Having said that we have confidence we have the ability to hurt them, and it’s up to us to show that.”

After a tough start to the season Bayern are up to second in the Bundesliga. 


Liverpool went al the way to the final last year, before losing to Real Madrid. But the momentum created by that surprise run has been maintained in the Premier League and another trip to the Champions League knockout stages.
Bayern currently lie second in the Bundesliga and are starting to look like their old levels agains after a tough start to the season. For Klopp, who managed Dortmund before arriving at Anfield, that could spell trouble for the Reds.
“After six years of pretty much dominating the league it was clear this year was going to be a tougher situation.
“It’s actually still the same, being at the top of the league and still in the last-16 of the Champions League.
“It’s a normal situation with a high quality team.
“Munich’s situation, from my point of view, makes them even more dangerous and even more of a threat from my point of view.
“This is a competition, in Europe, where they always do well.”
For the Germans the role of underdogs suits them perfectly. At least that is according to Joshua Kimmich.
The defender said: “Liverpool are the favorites.
“They have lost one league game all season and have let in only 15 goals. But when you look at us, we are not as consistent as before.”
Before a ball has been kicked Bayern did receive some good news. Winger Franck Ribery was originally left out of the squad to play at Anfield and did not fly with his teammates. But after becoming a father, the Frenchman has now decided to join up with the squad and will be available for selection. One man who definitely will not make the pitch is Jerome Boateng. The central defender is suffering from a stomach virus.
The Bavarians will also have to wait until Tuesdays to determine whether winger Kingsley Coman will be able to play after picking up an ankle injury on Friday.
The Frenchman scored twice but was injured in the final stages of their 3-2 win at Augsburg.

KEY MAN — ROBERTO FIRMINO 

Of Liverpool’s brilliant attacking trio the Brazilian is perhaps the most underrated and important. When he plays well the Reds usually do likewise. He links up the play well, settling up as many goals as he scores. Liverpool will be hoping he turns up with his A-game tonight, because if he does Bayern Munich could be in for a  long night. 

ARAB NEWS PREDICTS

For once Bayern are not having it all their own way in the Bundesliga. But they are improving and giving Borussia Dortmund something to think about in the race for the title. But home advantage will be key and a resurgent Reds will prove too strong for a Bayern defence that has, on occasions this campaign, looked less than watertight. The only question is can Liverpool get a decisive lead and put the tie to bed before the second leg?