Early Doors

Is Arsene Wenger finally cracking up?

Arsene Wenger oversees training on Feb.18 2013Arsene Wenger’s bizarre press conference on Monday highlighted exactly how much pressure Arsenal’s long-serving coach is under right now.

Ahead of the Champions League knockout round first leg with Bayern Munich, the Gunners’ normally controlled boss was uncharacteristically tetchy with the media.

He accused the press of trying to “harm” the club after some newspapers reported he was set to sign a new contract and be given a £70 million war-chest to buy new players. Hardly the kind of rumour that provokes internal strife is it?

He angrily refused to answer questions about the FA Cup defeat to Blackburn because it was a presser ahead of the Bayern match; he then refused to answer questions about Bayern. Not the sign of a man in full control of his emotions.

The crowning glory was the moment when he barracked a journalist for looking at him funny, although reports that he and Steve Bould he offered “The Sun, The Mirror, The Mail, all of youse” outside while waving an empty bottle of Pinot G are yet to be confirmed.

It was aggressive, conspiratorial, borderline paranoid stuff. The only thing missing was a rant about how the media are actually 12-foot lizards controlled by a giant Masonic owl who is trying to use 9/11 take away our guns and our religion and replace them with a federal Europe.

Many coaches have ‘tetchy’ relationships with the media, with Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho at times engaged in all-out war with various outlets.

The difference is they appear to be in control of these relationships, using them to a degree of advantage and with a sense of clinical manipulation about their engagement in battle.

Wenger is not and has never been the sort for psychological warfare, and it is clear to anyone who saw the press conference that he was agitated, riled, annoyed.

For a man renowned for his gravitas and composure in the more social situations of football management, the signs are not good.

Arsenal fans do not need to be told that they have not won a trophy in eight years, that the Champions League is their only hope of silverware this season, that this is set to be their worst campaign since Wenger joined in 1996.

They do not need to be reminded that, having claimed Arsenal were turning a new leaf in terms of their acquisition strategy, the club sold their best player to one of their biggest rivals, a player who – having been rated as one of the best players in the league – transpired to be the best player in the league.

Arsenal fans do need to be reminded of one thing though – Wenger will NOT change the way he runs the club.

He has form for this, having turned Monaco into a major force in French football before stubbornly refusing to change his ‘youth farm’ policy and seeing the club eclipsed by big-spending rivals.

Wenger lost that job, in spite of what he had done for the principality side, and while he is unlikely to be sacked there is every chance he will bid adieu in the summer.

One thing Gunners fans can be sure of is that he will not heed their calls to spend big on top players. It is all very well selling Robin van Persie over his contract situation, but you have to replace him with Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao or Neymar.

And, when you are unable to retain your prized assets season after season, an acquisition policy that sees ‘value’ in the game but limited Olivier Giroud is unacceptable for a club like Arsenal.

QUOTES OF THE DAY:

The best of Arsene Wenger’s Monday press conference:

“Why do you look at me like this?”

“We will not talk about Saturday’s game. This is a pre-match conference regarding the Champions League.”

“I’m not talking about Bayern Munich today.”

“Of course we don’t want to win the trophy. In fact, we want to lose tomorrow’s game so you can all be happy.”

FOREIGN VIEW:

"He is a great player who we have met playing against Arsenal and without doubt he can reach the height of the players we have here at Barcelona like Xavi and Iniesta. He has a lot of quality and a great personality. If I was given the chance to choose, he is a player that I would sign for Barcelona " – A familiar chill creeps up the spine of Arsenal fans as Barcelona full-back Daniel Alves urges his club to buy England midfielder Jack Wilshere.

COMING UP: ARSENAL-BAYERN, ARSENAL-BAYERN, ARSENAL-BAYERN, ARSENAL-BAYERN, ARSENAL-BAYERN, ARSENAL-BAYERN, ARSENAL-BAYERN, ARSENAL-BAYERN!