herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

GILES: crisis is far from over for arsenal

Point in Germany a chink of light for Wenger but picture still bleak

AFTER months of unending pressure and grimness, Arsene Wenger caught a break in Dortmund. Not a big one, but still very welcome I've no doubt.

The cameras never strayed far from Wenger's face during the game and there is no question, he does agony very well. Last night, they stayed focused on him long after the players had left the pitch while he followed UEFA's discipline and stayed in the stand until 15 minutes after the final whistle.

While he kicked his heels, he chatted with a lot of men in suits; some young and some not so young but not one of them carried himself like a footballer.

It looked like a show of solidarity to me and why not, if it was members of the Arsenal hierarchy? He's done a fantastic job for them. In fact, he's done too good a job.



Rash

I couldn't help wondering which of his circle of supporters had a part to play in the rash of last-minute signings at Arsenal and how strange that thought is given the fact that Wenger has been a champion of my most fundamental football belief for so long. The manager must be allowed manage his team from top to toe with no outside interference.

From the outside looking in, it certainly looks like someone eventually took matters in hand and bought Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun, but not necessarily Wenger.

If it was Wenger who chose them, why didn't he buy them months or even years ago when they were available?

I would say they weren't even on his radar and with players walking away one at a time, a decision was made to go into the market and get what was on offer.

Don't get me wrong, I like both Arteta and Benayoun but when you compare them with Fabregas and Nasri, there's a significant gap.

So after all the weeping and wailing over Fabregas and Nasri, Wenger has ended up with a lesser version of both and a weaker team as a consequence.

Oddly enough, in the midst of all the chaos, he may well have found a goalkeeper.

To be fair to Wenger, he always said he believed Wojciech Szczesny would make the grade and he certainly looks the part now.

Odder still was the excellent last-ditch defending by Arsenal after they surrendered an undeserved lead to Borussia Dortmund.

Arsenal's greatest weakness over the last few years has been the concession of late and very soft goals in all sorts of games.

Dortmund's equaliser was a bolt from the blue and a fantastic volley from Ivan Perisic, but I'm certain Wenger's clenched fist at the end was all about the fact that they hung on for a point and didn't collapse completely. There's nothing anyone can do to stop a shot like that one and Wenger is long enough at it to swallow hard and move on.

But it would have been bitter indeed if the Gunners had conceded again. In fact, they rose to the challenge and defenders threw themselves in front of the ball when the Germans looked like getting a winner.

This is something which has been lacking in Arsenal for a long time and yet Wenger only seems to appreciate it now.

These are small chinks of light in a fairly bleak picture for Wenger and I'm not sure whether matters have now proceeded too far to be dragged back.

I would like to see Wenger come good again but unless someone gives him £100m and he can nurse his team to the January transfer window with hope left alive in a few competitions, I would fear for Arsenal this season.



Sharp

Andre Villas-Boas has an entirely different set of problems but he seems like a very calm young man who is happy enough to speak openly about his players.

He has dealt with Fernando Torres very well indeed so far and may even have sparked something in the lad. He was sharp as a tack for Chelsea against Bayer Leverkusen from what I saw of him.

If Torres performs for Villas-Boas, I would be looking very hard at the odds on Chelsea winning one or even two trophies this season.

There's still much to find out about this young man and what he's made of but he has plenty of firepower and, if Torres comes good, serious talent up front.

There's a feast of goalscoring at the moment and the array of talent on view in the Premier League is probably the best we've ever seen.

Tonight, the two sides of Manchester will continue their tit-for-tat assault on defences and I have to say, I'm really looking forward to the coming months with some relish.

It is great to see Manchester City have a real go and I think Roberto Mancini is proving himself a tough and determined operator and his team is playing some impressive football.

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