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Butler: Self-sufficient and self-fulfilling prophecies FC

Noel Butler
12/7/2012 2:04:04 PM
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Now I like Arsene Wenger and admire very much what the 63-year-old has bought to Arsenal - and by extension English football - through his 16-season tenure. No manager has collected more silverware for the club.

As for Arsenal, I was a frequent visitor to Highbury and in attendance that legendry evening back in 1979 when full back Sammy Nelson pulled his shorts down and mooned the North Bank after scoring a rare goal.

In more recent times - and not simply explained away as a trophy dearth as the club has not won anything since a very fortuitous FA Cup penalty decider back in 2005- achievement is very much on a long run downward spiral for the red half of North London.

In an era where there is deep linkage an almost perfect correlation with success on the pitch breeding the same off it Arsenal defy this logic. Seemingly for every Michu brace and three points squandered at home quite bizarrely millions more register in the Emirates coffers.

The stadium still tops the Barclays Premier League's most expensive ticket table. Arsenal's match day income is almost double that of Liverpool. With the announcement a week back of a five-year extension to their partnership with the Dubai based airline that could usher in an additional £70 million ($110 million), all this makes CEO Ivan Gazidis a very happy football executive.

The inmates though, are far from happy. They could care less for black ink, especially so as the extreme dilution of the talent pool in recent seasons - highlighted by the au revoir from Cesc, Samir and RvP - has significantly added to  Gazidis's driven bottom line.

In recent weeks, a worrisome restlessness has set in with supporters who have not been shy to voice their concerns publically. Be at by mocking Wenger and questioning if he's aware of what he's doing during matches, or in heated exchanges during Arsenal's AGM in late fall.

Uncertainty has even set in with the manager. Following the shock - but highly merited - defeat to Swansea last Saturday, Wenger disclosed he'd be sitting down at the end of the season to decide his future.
Wenger will take stock but has to take the responsibility that his philosophy on and off pitch has had an impact and with it been a highly contributable factor to the clubs worst start to a domestic season under the Frenchman's watch.

His infinite amount of utterances that players need considerable rest and recuperation yet again worked against him in midweek. Incredulously - even this early in the season - Wenger spoke at the Olympiacos pre-match press conference of player exhaustion. 

A second place finish in the group it is. The question though, is will it be followed up by elimination in the round of 16 for a third straight season. That scenario is exactly what Gazidis budgeted for. The supporters, meanwhile, do not buy in at such a low level of expectation.

No one in world football is more outspoken about the need for player rest than Wenger. His amplified complaints of congested fixture lists reach legendary status.

What pray would he do with a player of Juan Mata's football stamina?  Ironically, he was a player Arsenal was expecting to sign until old foe Roman and rival in the global footprint fandom stakes entered the fray.

Following the 2009-10 La Liga season, Mata was a squad member as Spain reigned supreme in South Africa. The following summer he captained his nation to a UEFA Under-21 title. Hardly a bit player this time, Mata was named tournament MVP.

Two months later, he became a Chelsea player and not one (who like many before him) needed a season to bed in. Mata played a pivotal role as Chelsea went on to be crowned Champions of Europe in mid-May.

For an encore, he followed that up six or so weeks later with scoring the final goal in the 4-0 drubbing of the Azzurri in the final of EURO 2012.

Wenger - as he commented for French TV during Poland/Ukraine - probably woke up in a cold sweat and hot flashes as he poured over Mata's statistical data. Playing, scoring and winning for the sheer enjoyment of it, all the while displaying the effervescent enthusiasm of a child.

You wonder if Wenger's position on resting players has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Having repeated and reinforced his recuperation mantra in the minds of his players, they to a man are of the firm belief their football boots - on a regular basis through the course of a season - need to be exchanged for their bedroom slippers as their WAG pamper and fawn over them. 'What about that win bonus,' is slowly draining from the conversations.

It's well documented that off the pitch, Wenger belongs to the buy low, sell high sub set. His impressive ability to discover players and bring them to their professional prime is well documented.

It's not surprising that Wenger's salary comes in according to the venerable France Football at a very healthy £7.5 million ($12 million) annually - making him the fifth-highest paid coach in all of world football.

When negotiating his current deal that runs through the 2013-14 season you wonder if Gazidis was more focused on the extraordinary returns on player investments Wenger has garnered through the years and if the CEO even bothers to check the league tables.

Only Gazidis can answer the question if Wenger is actually employed for his tactical acumen or for his ability to polish and refine uncut football diamonds (Who in many cases have been sold in the market place for considerable profit).

Bankers across the developed world are likely to see a significant drop in their traditional loadsamoney end of year bonuses - will Wenger?

The law of probability - something Wenger knows all about - as an accomplished Economist dictates there is likely to be a positive response Saturday afternoon at the Emirates when Steve Clarke's rebranded West Brom pay a visit.

A win and three points will not make for a sustainable uptick in fortunes or improve faith for the supporters down London, N5 way. I predict right now Arsenal's 15-year-run of Champions League qualification will come to an inglorious end next May and with it a Taxi please for Professor Wenger.

Derby Di Madchester

As this column comfortably predicted back in early August that the Barclays Premier League trophy would not be leaving Manchester next spring and how glory, glory it is the current league leader and the team comfortably tucked in directly below are set to square up and go at it for this weekend's stand out match - the season's first Manchester Derby. It's truly one of world football's epic hot-blooded rivalries and quite peculiarly only one player has been red carded during their 40-plus battles in this the Premier League era (Stand up Impact centre forward Bernardo Corradi). Back in 2006, Corradi was sent marching back for the early bath following a hilariously unconvincing dive in the penalty area. The 'noisy neighbours' go into Sunday's match relishing opportunity to inflict a third straight defeat on a team that's leaked more goals this season than Sir Alex Ferguson has had hair dryers.

Carbon Neutral Geordies

For a club that is renowned for providing us with the globally patented bare chested beer belly now comes news of their latest claim to fame – Newcastle United are the first football club on the planet that can place the words Carbon Neutral on the letter head. So much for Mike Ashley's hot air, just think how much the crafty cockney has collected in recycling fees alone for all those empty cans of Newcastle Brown Ale.

Yuletide Cheer

Like Tottenham last year when he curtailed the traditional yuletide knees up for the players, add The Grinch Who Stole Christmas to Wheeler Dearler 'Arry Redknapp's growing list of monikers following news earlier in the week. QPR players would not be gathering to make merry due to the woeful record for the BPL'S anchor club. Andy Carroll may have been jostling with a photographer on West Ham's 48-hour Dublin Christmas bender last weekend but the most infamous Christmas party that got in the news for all the wrong reasons was Manchester United's in 2007. Occurring on a Monday afternoon at an infamous local casino landmark Rio Ferdinand who organized the gathering is alleged to have invited upwards of 100 Manchester based models and boutique workers. Entertainers included two transvestite cabaret artistes. Missing out on it all was Cristiano Ronaldo who was away in Zurich for a FIFA Awards Ceremony.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel

Arsenal v WBA from the Emirates airs across the TSN and TEAM Radio Networks this Saturday, with coverage kicking off at 9:30am et/6:30am pt. And TSN Radio 1050 will carry the Manchester Derby Sunday at 8:30am et.

Sunderland v Chelsea live on TSN2 – Saturday 10am et/7am et

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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