Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

High Time Wenger Wises Up and Puts Age before Beauty

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

High Time Wenger Wises Up and Puts Age before Beauty

Article excerpt

Byline: MATTHEW NORMAN

FORGIVE the foray into sub- Peter Alliss snug bar philosophising, butthe human journey is studded with turning points. Every now and then we reach acrossroads, and must decide which path to take.

Sometimes it works out well, sometimes badly, and sometimes the story is mixed,as with Oedipus who had to balance winning the kingship of Thebes against thatminor unpleasantness with his old mummy and the subsequent, self-inflicted lossof his eyeballs. Swings and roundabouts, as I say.

Arsene Wenger, you feel, has reached a crossroads this week. The near-unanimousreaction to Arsenal's Champions League loss at Anfield, narrow though it was,is that three consecutive trophyfree seasons is enough, and he must now come tosome accommodation with the fans's appetite for silverware.

However aesthetically delectable Arsenal's passing game might be, howeverthrilling those lightning breaks that turn massed defence into rampaging attackin 0.37 seconds are to watch, even the romantic cannot fail to notice that itis plodding, soporific Chelsea who are in yet another Champions Leaguesemi-final with Liverpool (Smythson's might as well put the two fixtures intheir 2009 diaries right now). And it is dull, mechanical Chelsea who areManchester United's sole surviving title challengers.

In his own defence, Wenger would argue, as he invariably does, that thisfailure was purely down to bad luck. He has half a point. To lose at Liverpoolto a late, debatable penalty, after being denied such a blatant one in thefirst leg, was unlucky. As for the injury to Eduardo that had such a murderousimpact on the team's self-belief, no one could deny that was monstrous illfortune.

But luck, as every clichemonger knows, evens out over time, and Arsenal haveendured enough agonising near misses in recent years to establish a pattern ofvulnerability to extreme tension. …

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