Arsene must be very concerned. All of a sudden, he is Mr Popular amongst his peers. Ridiculing ‘6+5’ is always a good start, despite the bizarre backing of the plan by Darth Fergie. However, his call for sterner bans for malicious tackles got the Dark Lord agreeing with him, much to the dismay of the gathered hacks at the United press conference yesterday. Life is certainly strange. Events took an even more bizarre twist when Ferguson admitted that he knew what Arsene meant when he called Ronaldo The Thin ‘arrogant’. So do we but we also hoped that there was a rather more sinister twist to the straightforward-ish praise of his skills, a personal attack more than anything. Yes, I know Arsene has more class than that but you can live in hope, eh?
Meanwhile Gael Clichy has been held up as the perfect antidote to Ashley Cole, something that we have known all along. Intellectually, the Frenchman is light years ahead of his English counterpart:
We know we can still do great things this year. The FA Cup and the Champions League are two targets that we can do if we’re performing well, without players injured. The last trophy we won [the 2005 FA Cup] was a few years back. If we could win the Cup this year it would be fantastic. Losing in the Champions League final [to Barcelona in 2006] is a bad memory and a bad feeling. We are in a good position against Roma [leading 1-0] so if we can go all the way it would be fantastic. After the World Cup it’s the best competition in football…you don’t remember the good performance. You remember the winning team, and Arsenal weren’t
For a start, his words actually made sense and you could understand his English, something not always possible with Cole. More importantly, Clichy is aware of the shortcomings that have put the club out of contention in the Premier League:
We miss consistency. If we can do it against the big teams we have to be up for it against the smaller teams. We can just blame ourselves and be happy for Man U because they deserve it. I can’t be jealous of Man U. They are a great side with great players. They play with great attitude with a great manager, but so do we. That’s the hardest part, to feel someone is better than you. We have to start showing people we can win trophies.
The desire to win is important and it shows in the last sentences. We know the squad has the talent to win; they have the desire to do so as well and had they shown the form that is now happening, earlier in the season, they would not be out of the title race. Disrupted by injuries to key personnel, the squad struggled in games they should not have. In fact, they had some games where the personnel were available and they still struggled. The lessons of the last two seasons are there to be learnt; their predecessors in 1986/87 and 1987/77 had a learning curve of two years before fulfilling their potential. I think once a trophy comes their way, this squad will fulfill theirs. It is that first pot that is a psychological barrier to be broken. Once done, the floodgates will open.