Early Doors

No complaints for Wenger

Early Doors

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Arsene Wenger can have few complaints about Arsenal's frankly hilarious capitulation against Liverpool on Sunday.

There was a crushing inevitability about Emmanuel Eboue's intervention - the only surprise was that Wojciech Szczesny didn't palm Dirk Kuyt's lob into his own net seconds before.

Wenger's claims that it was never a penalty are, frankly, absurd - it was cast-iron - and the Frenchman's anger at referee Andre Marriner's decision to allow eight minutes of stoppage to progress to 12, during which the equalising penalty was scored, is also unjustified.

At the time ED - who watched the game on a dodgy feed on a creaking old laptop - was inclined to agree with Wenger, but the cold light of day showed less than a minute passed between Robin van Persie's finish from the spot and Eboue's rash, stupid and utterly unnecessary shove on Lucas Leiva.

"Extra time was eight minutes," Wenger bleated. True - but Cesc Fabregas was clipped by Jay Spearing with the clock still short of 97.

The referee has every right to stop his watch as players from both sides dilly-dally around a penalty and the subsequent restart. Add the 'ball-in-play' time between the initial decision and the award of Liverpool's spot-kick and you're still short of the 98 mark.

Furthermore - and this is something injury-time whingers consistently fail to grasp - the amount of added time signalled by the fourth official constitutes a minimum of 'x' minutes, with the assumption that any further delays within that spell will be accounted for at the end, and that anything up to an additional minute was accounted for in the original tally.

There were several opportunities for Arsenal to close out the game - why did Szczesny not let Kuyt's speculative lob from kick-off go over, which is where it was headed?

And, following his decision to keep it in play, why on earth did the young Pole not smack the ball to touch as soon as it dropped to his feet? Doing so would have eaten up a further 30 seconds or so, forcing Marriner to blow before Liverpool could get the ball back upfield.

That can be put down to the lack of experience that Wenger repeatedly fails to address in his squad, particularly in the key decision-making positions in defence and goal.

Eboue's moment of madness is hardly surprising - he is a good player but not the brightest spark, and it is unfortunate for Arsenal that Bacary Sagna was injured.

The summer may see Arsenal be in the bizarre position of having an owner who wants to spend large sums of money on key players but a coach reluctant to do so.

ED often mocks Arsenal's (relative) fragility, but similarly finds the expanding anti-Wenger brigade of fair-weather supporters shrill and unhelpful.

Having spoken to several Gooners who attended the match, ED was surprised to find their reaction to be closer to amused resignation, with the overriding feeling even among the staunchest Arsene supporters that the club's greatest manager needs to spend relatively big in key positions this summer.

Weng is a stubborn sort - while Sir Alex Ferguson will publicly back his players, you suspect that, in private, he read the riot act to Paul Scholes after his mad lunge during Manchester United's dire FA Cup defeat to City (NB - ED is leaving that debacle to Paul Parker); you get the feeling that Eboue would have been spared any kind of serious rollicking.

But now even he must admit that playing the best football and having the best technical players is not enough in the modern game - god knows it took Spain long enough to figure it out and, when they did, they became unstoppable.

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FOREIGN VIEW: "Are you the director of AS? If not, I can't reply. Because according to your philosophy, if you won't speak to my number two, I will only speak to the directors... Punto Pelota didn't have the respect to talk to someone who deserved respect. A person who had won three European cups with this club, who has all the credibility to be my representative in a press conference" - Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho continues his war of words (or lack of) with the Madrid media following the 1-1 draw with Barcelona.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I can't remember anything. As soon as I came round I was absolutely fine. It was a little clash of heads and these things happen in football. The main thing was to get the three points" - Jamie Carragher, clearly not "absolutely fine", mistakenly celebrates Liverpool's last-gasp equaliser for a winner.

COMING UP: Queens Park Rangers can edge closer to promotion with a win at home to Derby County this evening, while Villarreal - the most entertaining side in Spain outside the top two (TM) - host Zaragoza as they try to cement a top-four finish. Later, Paul Parker will no doubt have his view on Manchester City's FA Cup semi-final win over a frankly rubbish United.

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