Paul Parker

Wenger antics embarrassing

Paul Parker

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I'm embarrassed by Arsenal and Arsene Wenger's reaction to what happened in the 3-1 Champions League defeat to Barcelona.

Whenever Arsenal lose a game Wenger fails to be complimentary to the team that beat them - it's always about 'decisions' - and this time he's gone on about it well beyond the post-match interview, when you can be forgiven for letting rip.

Obviously it's not just him, everyone's at it, but he is one of the worst. To say that the Robin van Persie sending off changed the outcome of the game? Come on. Arsenal are the best passing team in the league yet they barely strung two passes together, there was no penetration at all and they didn't have a shot at goal - all before Van Persie walked, rightly in my view.

This isn't just opinion, take a look at the stats before his sending off: zero shots on target, zero off, around 20 per cent possession and hardly any touches of the ball.

If it was a fight it would have been stopped at half time. They didn't go through because they didn't deserve to - they weren't good enough and Arsene should have accepted that.

You could deem the second yellow for Robin as harsh if, as he claims, he didn't hear the whistle.

But only one person knows the truth and that's Robin: a second is a long time in sport. Did he hear it? I think so - he didn't take the chance on as if he was trying to score, just thrashed it away in frustration. Harsh, but fair in my view. Everyone knows the rules.

It wouldn't have made any difference anyway - Barca were cutting them apart and Van Persie barely got hold of the ball.

Arsene is probably bitter because he wants - and is trying to build - a team like Barca, but he will constantly fail to if he doesn't create the spine of experienced pros that Barca has (Puyol, Xavi, Abidal...) and that his successful Arsenal teams used to have back in the days when they won stuff.

Whether it's to save money or not I don't know: I suspect he prefers young players who he can father, speak to like a schoolteacher maybe. That way they do exactly what he wants - fine, but the problem comes when they need to think on their feet. Does he simply not want strong characters that may undermine him?

The fans will be restless next season - they wouldn't mind the club spending a bit, maybe even hedging on a bit of debt. If he doesn't go for it in the summer market, that loss to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final could well be the last straw.

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Obviously a few weeks ago Sir Alex Ferguson did the same as Arsene with regards to a referee rant and I said in my last blog that it smacked of unprofessionalism for United to blank the media afterwards.

Coaches try to play mind games to perhaps make future refs think twice in future games - but it's happened so much now that the refs have gone the other way.

If you pick on someone enough they will stop being passive and, no matter how powerful you are, they eventually hit back. I think that is happening now - and rightly so.

We have to leave the culture of blaming referees. If they don't have access to all the technology officials have in other sports, particularly with the pace of the game, players will always indulge in gamesmanship and mistakes will always be made.

It's reached that tipping point now - the 'Respect' campaign may be working at grassroots level but it has clearly failed at the highest level of the game, where players and coaches think they're above the rules.

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Manchester United v Arsenal: Both teams are wounded and both teams have to go out and win the game. United have Marseille during the week but Arsenal do not have any excuses to hold back.

At the same time though, after two losses United want and need a good performance ahead of the Marseille game: Sir Alex needs to play Darren Fletcher as that midfield can't do without him in terms of energy and organisation.

Their problem now is that, with Nani injured, they don't have any flair players in midfield that can pull something out of the hat - so they have to look to the strikers.

I think he's got to start Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney but Javier Hernandez will be annoyed if he doesn't play. He scored and is a threat and Sir Alex may as well use all three,

You may as well play Patrice Evra in goal and Rooney as a left winger as United have to go for it.

Prediction: United to take an ugly, narrow win against a moody and petulant Arsenal who will still feel persecuted after midweek, while United have had time to forget their gripes.

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Manchester City v Reading: This is City's best chance of silverware - their only chance in my view. They're not going to win the Premier League because they are too far back and their system  isn't flexible or creative enough to sustain a huge, attack-minded assault, despite all the  players they have.

City's English players will be a bit wary of Reading but is Roberto Mancini going to understand or respect Reading? Is he aware that, simply because it's the FA Cup, an 'inferior' team will be psyched, that anything can happen at this stage? Will he get the motivation the Reading players will feel?

I think this could well be an upset - either way I can't see City taking them to the cleaners after their long and unsuccessful trip to Ukraine so it will be tight.

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