Wenger going back to Arsenal makes no sense
Mikel Arteta would finally appear to be moving Arsenal forwards. It has taken a while and his team are still short of where they need to be, but there are signs of progress.
Which makes his recent comments about Arsene Wenger very strange indeed.
Arteta said last week: ‘Hopefully we can bring him close. I think he will have a great time just seeing the environment that he can create around him and around this place.
Mikel Arteta (L), who played under Arsene Wenger (R), wants the ex-boss back at Arsenal
‘I would like him to be much closer personally to me, because I think it would be a great help — and it would be a great help for the club.’
Wenger stayed many years too long at Arsenal and has now been gone for a little over three. It has taken that long for Arteta — and Unai Emery before him —to unpick much of the mess the great Frenchman left behind.
Finally, Arsenal now looks and feels different. Arteta’s squad has a little balance to it in terms of its qualities and the age of its players. It is beginning to develop an identity that belongs very much to the Spaniard.
The Frenchman was sacked as manager in May 2018 after 22 years in charge of the club
Why do anything to jeopardise that now?
Wenger’s chosen path since he walked out of the Emirates having not won a Premier League title in 14 years has been a haphazard one. He has written a bad autobiography and is now the man at FIFA who strangely thinks a World Cup every two years is a good idea.
Certainly, it seems somebody should give Wenger, 72, something more worthwhile to do. His brain remains sharp and his appetite for work and influence remains undiminished.
It is sad and rather hard to understand that he has never been back to north London. He gave Arsenal so much of what they are now. He designed the training ground and gave them the financial security to build the stadium.
Wenger won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups as Arsenal manager (above)
Each of the 58,000 home supporters present as Arteta’s team beat Newcastle on Saturday are forever in Wenger’s debt.
But Arteta and Arsenal categorically do not need Wenger back. Not now. Not with any great influence, anyway.
There should always be a seat reserved for him in the directors’ box, even if he never sits in it.
He should be to Arsenal what Sir Alex Ferguson is to Manchester United. Give him a fancy title if need be. But in reality he should never be more than an honorary guest.
When pressed on the club’s precise intentions, Arteta was vague. He explained the two had spoken at the premiere of a new film about Wenger and hinted something may yet be agreed.
Current manager Mikel Arteta (above) does not need the former Gunners boss back at the club
But the truth is Arteta has already done enough.
Recently he had a picture of his old manager installed at the entrance to the training ground. Some players high five it as they walk in.
That is proof of Arteta’s understanding of respect but also his confidence. Some managers hide from a club’s great past but the better ones embrace it.
Arteta has shown due deference to the architect of the modern Arsenal and that is enough. Anything more would be a grave mistake.
The hiring of Ralf Rangnick by Manchester United is being presented by many as a coup. Hardly. They are taking him from Lokomotiv Moscow, not Real Madrid.
It does feel like a positive appointment, though. What will be intriguing is how he goes about dragging a broken team back to their feet. Much has been made of the 63-year-old’s devotion to ‘pressing’ football. Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp is a disciple.
But for any coach to implement that style, he needs the right players.
Can Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes do that? Will they wish to? Have Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay got the engines for that kind of work for 90 minutes?
The coming weeks will be a challenge for United’s squad. They will be a challenge for their new coach, too.
New interim manager Ralf Rangnick will have his work cut out for him at Manchester United
‘Diversity’ in Qatar is just a cynical ploy
They tend to do window dressing well at World Cups.
In Cape Town in 2010 they erected hoardings so visitors could not see the townships on the journey from the airport.
In Moscow in 2018, they moved the homeless from the street corners. For a month they were given somewhere safe to sleep.
And so to Qatar. A delegation from the FA has returned from Doha with assurances that LGBT supporters will be safe should they wish to attend next winter’s tournament.
Asked about this recently, FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: ‘We have asked the question as to whether all of our fans will be able to come, particularly those from the LGBTQ community, and we received the unequivocal answer that everybody is welcome to Qatar.’
This begs two questions: What would the FA have done had the answer been ‘No’?
And secondly, what happens once the World Cup is over and everybody goes home?
It is against the law to be gay in Qatar, so all this talk is not only cheap but deeply offensive.
A World Cup ceasefire for the LGBT community. Put the guns down for a month. How jolly nice of everyone.
An FA delegation returned from Doha with assurances that LGBT supporters will be safe
Blades falling short of those Wilder days
When Chris Wilder left Sheffield United last spring, it felt like a bad day for him but an even worse one for the club.
Since then the Blades have won only 10 of their 30 league games and now they have sacked Wilder’s replacement Slavisa Jokanovic. They are 13th in the Championship.
With Wilder in charge, it always felt Sheffield United were punching above their weight.
We should not be surprised that gravity has taken over.