The Rewind opinion column: Did Arsene Wenger really insist Arsenal can compete with Bayern Munich - despite losing 10-2 in 180 minutes?
PUBLISHED: 23:32 07 March 2017 | UPDATED: 23:38 07 March 2017
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Read Layth Yousif’s latest Rewind Arsenal opinion column as he praises the dignified Carlo Ancelotti and his talented team, while questioning Arsene Wenger’s increasingly myopic statements...
Buy him a pint
Carlo Ancelotti. The man is class personified. He knows more than most the capricious nature of football. Not least when his AC Milan team threw away a three goal lead against Liverpool to lose the 2005 Champions League Final on penalties. He also knew the tie was done and dusted after that appalling second half showing by Arsenal in Munich - or if you like a superb Bayern performance at the Allianz Arena to give him his due. And despite knowing deep down the match was over long before the second leg at the Emirates was due to start he never crowed about the lead. He never appeared smug, or talked disparagingly or disingenuously about his beleaguered opponent. He even said in the press conference at the Emirates the day before he had huge respect for Wenger as a man and as a manager. It was the right thing to do to a footballing friend and his generosity of spirit was noted and admired by many. In the aftermath of the second 5-1 defeat his team inflicted on Arsenal he again refused to be drawn into criticising Wenger and Arsenal. Unlike certain other managers you could mention. And for that Herr Ancelotti - not to mention managing a superb attacking team - we admire you greatly.
Get your coat.
When does disbelief turn into mockery and derision? Arsene Wenger doesn’t deserve such a fate. He too is a class act and the awful start to 2017 shouldn’t cloud judgement over his reign, especially his first decade which brought superlative football from world class teams and players he not only assembled but developed.
But did he really listen to himself when he was asked why Arsenal can’t compete with the likes of Bayern Munich? His reply was simply: ‘We can’ - completely ignoring the fact his team had just been beaten 5-1 twice in the space of three weeks by a vibrant Munich team. He then proceeded to blame the referee calling his performance scandalous. But it was to miss the point entirely. Wenger should never be mocked because he is a man of class and intelligence. But his point blank refusal to look at himself is saddening. As is his descent into Comical Ali due to his utter refusal to see what is going on in front of his eyes. It didn’t have to be like this. But this is the reality. Even if a normally charming, intelligent, gracious, articulate and passionate man is being brought to his knees by events he increasingly seems to have no control over - while even denying their existence.
Take your pick from Bayern’s five goals. There’s something glorious about watching a left footed player open his body up and curl the ball past the despairing dive of the keeper and into the net. Which is what the sublime - and ageless - Arjen Robben did in the second half. So too did Douglas Costa. Yet there is also something magical about a moment of trickery - of illusion - as the Spanish say, And so it was with Arturo Vidal’s impudent chip over an onrushing Ospina. While not at the level of Jupp Heynckes 2013 treble-wining side they are not far off it. Their attacking powerplay when the game required it in both Munich and London was masterful. As was the way they conducted themselves in terms of showing respect to Arsenal off the pitch while crushing them on it. Good luck to them I say. Just one final thing though. Can their fans, impressive as they were, please stop singing that 1996 dirge Football’s Coming Home as if it’s still funny 21 years on. Even if they do sing it in perfectly-accented English...