The tide turns against Arsenal's Wenger

ENGLISH FOOTBALL

ROY PILOTT
Last updated 14:27 07/12/2012

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I often remind one particularly gloating Manchester United fan that the manager he worships is the one he once most wanted sacked.

Yes, it was in the early days of Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure, but the fact is United fans at that time had no confidence in him. They got it wrong. Two decades later Ferguson is a legend.

So, too, is the man he has most frequently crossed swords with.

But where the Scot has earned and kept the respect of his supporters, Arsenal's Arsene Wenger is going through a confidence crisis.

I've got no time for the chants about him not knowing what he is doing - but they are made by fans who fork out a lot of money to watch a team that should be challenging for honours, and is in fact mediocre.

So in the wake of the 2-1 loss to Olympiakos this week I canvassed five level-headed Gooners for their opinion.

One didn't answer, the other four, with varying degree of love for Wenger, all said it was time he went. And who could blame them? Seven years after his last title, Wenger continues to talk up a side that is woeful by comparison with his previous teams and has the depth of a kitchen sink.

So if Wenger goes at the end of the season - he has indicated he will consider his options - who would replace him?

An ambitious Arsenal might look at Pep Guardiola. Chelsea are lifting their skirts for the former Barcelona boss, but would he want to work for Roman Abramovich for any other reason than it will pay well while he's there?

Guardiola has given himself a year off from football, and could take his pick from PSG, Chelsea and Manchester United when he returns, and if money is a factor, it's a good chance Arsenal won't be in the same league there either.

Joe Cole is apparently up for a loan move from Liverpool to QPR . . . Newcastle will be hoping no- one comes in with [PndStlg]7.5 million (NZ$14.5m) for Demba Ba in January, as that is the trigger in a release clause in his contract . . . Martin Jol, of Fulham, has expressed an interest in Darren Bent, of Aston Villa.

Bristol City clocked up a record loss of more than [PndStlg]14 million in the year to May . . . John Obi Mikel has signed an extended deal at Chelsea.

Rafa Benitez is unimpressed by reports Roman Abramovich wants to bring back Avram Grant in an advisory role . . . Swansea want to add another 12,000 seats to the seven-year-old Liberty Stadium to take its capacity beyond 32,000 . . . bottom-of-the- league QPR have cancelled their Christmas party.

A quick check of club calendars for 2013 gives the tabloids plenty of fodder. The absence of Theo Walcott from Arsenal's and Nani from Manchester United's is being interpreted as evidence of imminent moves. Nani is apparently holding out for [PndStlg]150,000 a week, which United are not interested in spending.

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The death of a 41-year-old volunteer linesman after he was attacked by players following a youth match in Holland is developing into an ethnic issue, with Moroccan immigrants as the target. Amateur football in Holland is cancelled this weekend and professionals will wear arm bands in memory of Richard Nieuwenhuizen.

Manchester City could make Joleon Lescott available on loan next month . . . Middlesbrough may also try to bring back Stewart Downing on loan from Liverpool . . . Thierry Henry will reportedly return to Arsenal in January, possibly for the rest of the season.

Weekend fixtures:

England, Arsenal v West Brom, Villa v Stoke, Southampton v Reading, Sunderland v Chelsea, Swansea v Norwich, Wigan v QPR. Sunday Man City v Man Utd, Everton v Spurs, West Ham v Liverpool. Monday, Fulham v Newcastle. Scotland Kilmarnock v Celtic, Hearts v Aberdeen, Inverness v Hibernian, Motherwell v Ross County, St Mirren v St Johnstone. Sunday, Dundee v Dundee Utd

roy.pilott@dailynews.co.nz

- Taranaki Daily News

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