The anti-Wenger mob should be careful what they wish for
00:46 GMT, 16 December 2012
So, farewell Arsene Wenger. Not yet perhaps but soon, very soon, if the pack has its way.
Defeat at Bradford City, in what some of us still call the League Cup, was apparently the last straw.
It seems that the Arsenal manager must fall on his sword. Failing that, he must be shown the door.
Troubled times: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under fire
Either way, he has to go. Don't take my word for it; listen to the people.
One red-top tabloid, which knows a bandwagon when one comes clattering by, organised a highly scientific opinion poll.
This 'damning' exercise revealed that around 60 per cent of respondents believed that Wenger's time was up.
Considering it was taken in the hours
after Bradford, and plainly included a hefty cargo of drunks, comedians
and Tottenham supporters, some might think the manager came out rather
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Yet the weight of informed opinion
was against him.
Somebody called Tim, who is apparently a spokesman for
the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, announced: 'His inability to delegate or
seek help from others has resulted in a stale environment where best
practice is no longer to the fore.'
We must wonder how 'Tim' can speak so confidently of such private matters.
But in the current climate, even impertinent middle-management clichs find an audience.
Which takes us, quite seamlessly, to Stewart Robson, who played for Arsenal more than a quarter of a century ago.
Robson declared himself 'embarrassed' by Wenger. 'In my view,' said Robson, 'it was time up for him three or four years ago … Tactically Arsenal are all over the place, they are under-prepared defensively and he doesn't understand the game well enough.'
Now, most will acknowledge that losing to Bradford was mildly disgraceful, that a good many of Arsenal's displays this season have been sub-standard, that the performances of players such as Gervinho, Chamakh and Santos are incomprehensible and that the manager's recent transfer dealings are heavily at odds with his glittering track record in this department.
And Wenger must know that he has made enemies.
He is not 'clubbable', he has never sought membership of that managerial cabal which likes to gather after matches to swap cosy anecdotes, curse grasping players, endorse amenable agents and slurp expensive red wine.
A frosty winner and a graceless loser, the Arsenal manager has offended most of his contemporaries down the years with his distaste for conspiratorial small talk.
He will expect no mercy in these mean and trying times.
Yet Robson's portrayal of Wenger is clearly an absurd caricature.
The man who 'doesn't understand the game' has won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.
That same inadequate innocent has secured Arsenal a place in the Champions League for 15 consecutive seasons.
Think about it: not since Tony Blair's first administration was in its opening year have Arsenal failed to qualify for Europe's major competition and even then they played in the old UEFA Cup.
The consistency is staggering, the achievement extraordinary, especially when we reflect that he has also effectively built a glorious stadium and encouraged his sides to produce some of the most enthralling football the modern British game has seen.
Staggering consistency: Wenger with the FA Cup and Premier League trophies in 2002
In recent memory, the teams of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, back to Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira have set standards of excellence which speak of inspired coaching and sensitive development.
Yet this is the man whose head is currently being demanded by an avenging posse.
Loud of voice and short of memory, they seek a manager who will take them to 'another level'.
Well, in a spirit of helpfulness, I have compiled a random list of men who may be open to offers of employment.
Assuming that Pep Guardiola is unavailable, it includes the likes of Avram Grant, Roy Keane, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Shearer, Iain Dowie and Mark Hughes.
These may not be the kind of candidates who would slide snugly into the shoes of Arsene Wenger.
Clearly, I have no stake in this particular argument.
But we are considering the future of an authentic visionary, one of our most brilliantly accomplished football managers.
And so I say to the avenging mob: be very careful what you wish for.
The Dazzling Dozen in a truly great year
When you want to know what kind of sporting year it has been, you look at the BBC Sports Personality contenders.
Great year: Bradley Wiggins
In lean times, when achievements are modest, the odd, frivolous option sneaks on to the list; a darts player here, a snooker champion there. Not this year.
Eleven golden Olympians and Rory McIlroy: never has there been such an extravagant outpouring of talent.
So many candidates, several with gold at their necks, were reluctantly passed over.
There was no place for the extraordinary Alastair Cook, nor for a single representative of the national game, despite the winning of the Champions League.
That's the kind of year we've just lived through.
And if, when the votes are counted, Bradley Wiggins climbs to the top of the rostrum, just ahead of Mo Farah and Andy Murray, then I suggest that the matchless glories of 2012 will have been accurately assessed.
Football must see beyond money if it wants to tackle its problems
English football has a few problems. Nothing important. Minor issues involving racism, thuggery and a failure to understand the grotesque figure it is currently cutting.
The coin that sliced open Rio Ferdinand's eyebrow was symbolic of the problems which beset the game.
Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd
Football is perhaps the last area of recession Britain in which a coin is seen not as an asset but a weapon.
Those whose task it is to portray the 'product' in its most sympathetic light – Sky TV and the Premier League – are at pains to point out that we have travelled far from those grim days of the Seventies and Eighties.
Yet still the echoes linger. Just listen to the young gentlemen at West Ham taunt the Liverpool fans with: 'Sign on, sign on with hope in your hearts. And you'll never get a job.'
It carries the authentic stench of Thatcher's Britain. The simplest reform becomes a matter for debate.
Gordon Taylor, of the PFA, makes the unarguable suggestion that nets should be erected by the corner flags, so that his members might be protected from coin-hurling idiots.
He is instantly shouted down by Steve Kelly of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.
Unarguable suggestion: Gordan Taylor
'I don't think nets would bring safety,' says Kelly.
'The next thing would be wire mesh, then fencing, and we all know what that meant.'
It is drivel; trite, illogical drivel. Yet we sense that football will succumb to such foolishness rather than do the right thing.
And so a fine man like Lord Herman Ouseley walks away from a game which has been swamped by the self-interest of the major clubs.
And David Bernstein, at the FA, sees his reforming instincts cynically sabotaged by those whose sights rarely rise above the bottom line.
Yes, football has problems. Such a pity that it shows so few signs of recognising them.
When they told Geoffrey Boycott that Yorkshire would stage the 'Grand Depart' of the 2014 Tour de France, he thought they were having him on.
Assured by his Test Match Special colleagues that this was indeed the case, he started to warm to the prospect: 'Riding up and down the Dales, it teks some doing, does that.'
He racked his brain for a famous cyclist.
Then he cackled, wickedly: 'Will that Lance Armstrong be coming'
Very Yorkshire; flattered by being chosen yet not overly impressed. I'm not sure the Great Race knows what it's in for.