Arsenal column: Layth Yousif’s All Guns Blazing – Pep Guardiola’s fiery post-match principled political defiance in stark contrast to increasingly tired Arsene Wenger
PUBLISHED: 20:32 25 February 2018 | UPDATED: 23:09 25 February 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
The contrast between the two managers during their post-match interviews could not have been more pronounced. While tired-looking Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger bemoaned bad luck but refused to address the gulf in class between the two sides – as Manchester City routed the Gunners 3-0 at Wembley to deservedly lift the 2018 Caraboa Cup – Pep Guardiola spoke powerfully and eloquently about Catalonian independence and his support for jailed politicians.
The new Wembley cannot have seen too much like the incredible post-match press conference Etihad boss and proud Catalan Guardiola gave after his team lifted the first domestic silverware of the season.
After the Citizens eased to victory against a sorry Gunners side through a first half goal from Sergio Aguero before two strikes early in the second half from Etihad stalwarts Vincent Kompany and David Silva sealed the victory, Guardiola praised his side and everyone associated with the club.
However, wearing a yellow ribbon as a sign of support for Catalonia’s jailed former vice-president Oriol Junqueras the City boss spoke about events in his homeland.
Mr Junqueras was arrested in November 2017 for his role in October’s declaration of independence from Spain and is the leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia.
He was remanded in custody without bail on accusations of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.
Speaking after the match City boss Guardiola said: “I accept the [FA] fine [for wearing a yellow ribbon in support of jailed Catalan politicians].
“I am human. But there are four guys in jail in Catalonia. It will always be with me.
“It’s not about politicians it’s about democracy. Before I am a manager I am a human being.”
In a powerful discussion the 47-year-old Catalan-born former Barcelona player and manager accepted he would be fined again if he wore the yellow ribbon but defiantly vowed: “The FA know I’ll wear the yellow ribbon. Always.”
As George Orwell, who fought for the Republican movement during the Spainish Civil War noted: “Football is war minus the shooting”.
However if that were the case then on Sunday’s evidence Arsenal possess an extremely weak army – led by a fading General.
Wenger had nothing to offer after the game but the usual tick-list of complaints – real or imagined against officials while also finding time to bemoan bad luck – as he singularly failed to address why his team played so badly.
Or to be charitable to Guardiola’s impressive outfit, why the Gunners were completely outplayed and outclassed.
It was almost painful to watch a once-great master brought low by events, circumstances and to use current jargon, to see his leadership arc dip.
At one stage as he tried to bat away mention of critics he plaintively said: “I would like to be respected for what I say.”
Unfortunately, while he will always deserve respect for what he did in the first ten years of his reign, he is becoming an increasingly derided figure – which is sad to see.
What was even sadder was the direct contrast between the fire, energy and dynamism of the younger Guardiola, not afraid to take on all-comers on and off the pitch compared to the listless Wenger.
As Orwell also said: “Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
In which case Wenger needs to be told he has to leave Arsenal in order for the club to progress.
While the FA should be reminded the principles of the inspiring Guardiola are far more powerful than their petty rule book.