Arsenal turned in a creditable performance at Old Trafford last weekend and, despite not quite being able to find a goal to spoil the party, they did restore some of their battered pride. A nervous-looking Manchester United seemed happy to defend and hold out for a draw whilst the Gunners held the majority of possession and came close to nicking a goal on a couple of occasions. The score finished nil-nil which was all United needed to take the title and Arsene Wenger’s men could at least leave the stadium with their heads up.
Most of the talk this week though has been about the future of Arsene Wenger and Emmanuel Adebayor. Wenger was reportedly upset by some of the questioning he faced at the club’s annual shareholders’ meeting. This was followed by some interview quotes from the manager that seemed to suggest that he wouldn’t be entirely averse to considering taking the job at Real Madrid. Only a matter of days later these rumours were dead in the water and all seems to be sweetness and light again as the team go into their final match against Stoke on Sunday at Ashburton Grove.
Wenger has stated clearly that he wants to stay and finish the job he has started. Whether this story was just mischief-making by Madrid or whether the manager was looking for some sympathy after getting a rough ride from the shareholders is open to question. For him to have gone to Madrid would have represented a massive volte face from a man who has made a big play of his word and integrity. After all, this is manager who does not walk away from a contract. The other thing to consider is that any criticism he may have received this season is nothing compared to the white-hot attention he would have to fend off on a weekly basis in Spain.
When the time finally comes for Wenger to leave, the more likely scenario for his departure would seem to be him walking away from the club at the end of his current contract. That way, he gets to leave with his integrity intact and no one on the Board has to be tagged with the dubious label of the man who sacked Arsene Wenger. As it is, he looks set to lead the club next season and most supporters will be happy with that news on the proviso that he does make a few adjustments to the squad. His contribution to Arsenal Football Club cannot be understated and for him to leave following this current situation would have been unsatisfactory for all parties.
The situation with Emmanuel Adebayor is completely different though. After an interview given to British TV last weekend where he appeared to blame fans for his poor form this season he has well and truly burned his bridges with most Arsenal supporters. It will be interesting to see if he features at all in Sunday’s match or in the post-match lap of the pitch. His presence in either scenario is sure to provoke a negative reaction. Here we have a player who worked hard in his first season, conned an improved contract out of the club with threats to leave during last summer and has delivered little this season. If medals were given out for lack of effort and being persistently caught offside, he would be Arsenal’s most decorated player this term. His behaviour and general demeanour over the past twelve months represent so much that is wrong with the money-soaked modern game. He has shown no loyalty to those who gave him a chance and has only sought to line his own pocket on the strength of one good season. It is irritating that he is always the first player to talk to the press to explain where things have gone wrong but always the last one to actually do anything about it on the field of play. Reported to also be a negative and destructive influence in the dressing room, Arsenal will be well-rid of him in the summer. The only regret will be that he was not sold for maximum profit twelve months ago.
So, as another season comes to an end the sadness of the last match and a few months without our beloved team looms. Before then though, we have the pleasure of seeing the Arsenal youth team contesting the final of the FA Youth Cup against Liverpool. The first leg is at Ashburton Grove on Friday and the return leg is at Anfield next Tuesday – poignantly on the 20th anniversary of the Gunners’ famous title-winning match up there on the last day of the 1989 season. The Young Guns have already clinched the FA Youth Premier League with a one-nil victory over Spurs at White Hart Lane last week and they are sure to be up for completing a notable double. A crowd of over 20,000 are expected at the Grove tomorrow night to see Jack Wilshire, Emmanuel Frimpong and a whole host of up-and-coming young Arsenal players hopefully get their noses in front against a strong Liverpool team.
Though the first team were unable to clinch any silverware this season, should the youngsters win the highly prestigious FA Youth Cup we could go into the summer with at least something to smile about.