Arsenal boss cast as public Villain number one in Premier League farce
If Arsene Wenger can’t decide which players to sign maybe he should consider a dignified exit
Arsene Wenger of Arsenal looks on as a fan behind makes his feelings known during the Barclays Premier League defeat to Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Last August the Community Shield was exiled to Villa Park because Wembley had been taken over by the Olympics, which for two weeks had bathed us in a golden glow of sportsmanship and solidarity.
However, most of the Chelsea and Manchester City players had spent the time during the Olympics on money-making tours of Asia and the USA. They were oblivious to the feel-good spirit across the land.
The match was a festival of mean-spirited ugliness. Eight players were booked, Branislav Ivanovic was sent off, City supporters taunted John Terry over his racism trial and the Chelsea fans serenaded the referee off the pitch with a sustained chant of “W**ker! W**ker! W**ker!”
Condemnation followed. Yet there was also something magnificent about football’s snarling defiance of Olympic values. The game seemed to be saying: yes, the Olympics were lovely, a shining affirmation of the best of what humanity can be. Now welcome back to the real world.
Aston Villa’s 3-1 win at Arsenal was likewise an exhibition of what fans love about the Premier League, and what its detractors despise. Central to this drama was the stiffly elegant figure of Arsene Wenger. And behind him a jowly bald man with a sign which stated: “Spend Spend Spend”.
An aficionado of the purer disciplines of athletics or the ascetic virtues of the Airtricity League could see here an exemplar of what is repulsive about the Premier League. The dumb entitlement and brazen disrespect of this supporter, the money-focused crassness of his protest: a perfect standard-bearer for a sport that has forgotten it is a sport.
Yet here too was the human drama that means those who moan about the mass appeal of the Premier League might as well be complaining that good-looking guys get all the girls.
In the 85th minute Antonio Luna raced into Arsenal’s empty half. A great wail of horror went up from the crowd as Luna looked around, clocked the position of the goalkeeper, and passed the ball into the net.
As a feat of athleticism, a goal like Luna’s cannot compare to Mo Farah’s 5,000m in Moscow, but as a dramatic spectacle there is nothing better in sport. To see such a goal is to ascend to a privileged plane of heightened emotion, be it horror, outrage, ecstasy, or hilarity.
The dominant emotion in the stadium was of course outrage, as the crowd furiously chanted “Spend some f**king money!”
Wenger struggles to control his emotions during matches so you hesitate to imagine his feelings at such moments. Frustration, embarrassment, deflation for sure – but also, perhaps, a powerful urge to turn to the crowd and scream: “Idiots! Don’t you realise I built this club with my own hands? Half of you wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for me!”