Reuters Soccer Blog
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from Left field:
The clock said 68 minutes, and no one at the Emirates Stadium in north London was looking at the action on the pitch as the fourth official held aloft his lit-up board to signal the re-introduction of Thierry Henry to English football.
Ten minutes later and he'd scored the game's eventual winner. Comebacks don't get this good this often.
14 to replace 15 shone the bright numbers before the goal, but alas Henry's former number has since been taken by young English talent Theo Walcott, who idolises the French great.
Now, for six weeks and six weeks only after which he will return to the United States with the New York Red Bulls, Henry can be seen wearing an Arsenal shirt with the number 12, the same as his France days during which he won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship.
It is a bit early to single out Manchester rivals United and City as the only title contenders this season, but it appears highly likely that Arsenal will not be among the chasing pack now headed by the new-look Liverpool and Chelsea.
What is more, the 8-2 hammering the Gunners suffered at Old Trafford suggests that Arsene Wenger’s side might even struggle to finish in the top six, unless the Frenchman can swiftly turn around their fortunes.
By Simon Hart
For a brief moment, it seemed Sir Alex Ferguson really might be mellowing with age.
Twenty-four hours after ending his seven-year feud with the BBC, the Manchester United manager spent part of his weekly news conference on Friday defending the record of his erstwhile chief adversary Arsene Wenger, who comes to Old Trafford with Arsenal on Sunday.
With Cesc Fabregas gone and Samir Nasri possibly on the move too, there is a lot of gloom around Arsenal at the moment and Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat by Liverpool did nothing to help the mood.
Arsenal fans are for the first time questioning the stewardship of Arsene Wenger and have demanded some top signings to prevent yet another trophyless season.
On Tuesday the bank-rolled Manchester City outfit reached the Champions League qualifiers for next season and could even secure an automatic berth if they pip Arsenal to third place in the Premier League. That would be a real kick in the guts to Arsene Wenger, who has barely spent anything in comparison to City since he took over the North Londoners in 1996.
Now the international period is over we can focus on domestic issues again, or can we?
Tuesday’s matches provided plenty of drama, from the battles Spain and the Netherlands had to fight to get through tricky Euro 2012 qualifiers, to Ghana’s lighting up of London, to Australia’s World Cup revenge against Germany in a friendly.
The Arsenal manager thought he was building, slowly but surely, an Arsenal team that could go one better than the 2006 side that lost the Champions League final to Barcelona.
The north London side, imperiously dimissed from the Champions League by Barcelona, lost their last slender hope of winning the Premier League and a first trophy since 2005
with defeat at Wigan.
And now? Disgruntled Arsenal fans complain that their cerebral French manager Arsene Wenger is obstinately refusing to make essential changes to his team while he gazes over the horizon in search of an illusive future perfection.
Anybody who saw the pictures of Aaron Ramsey’s shattered shin will have winced in disgust but the hysterical reaction to Ryan Shawcross’s tackle that caused it has been based on emotion rather than cold analysis.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger muttered dark thoughts about how it was “no coincidence” that Ramsey, Eduardo and Abou Diaby had all suffered terrible injuries as teams tried to kick Arsenal off the pitch.
Arsene Wenger is known as the The Professor but the halftime ear-bashing he inflicted on his Arsenal team at Anfield on Sunday had more in keeping with the “hairdryer” technique often used by his great rival Alex Ferguson.
It was out of character for the Frenchman but it certainly had the desired effect as his team overturned a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 with a much-improved second half performance.
But why was he so animated?
Perhaps the reason was because he realised that Arsenal may never have a better opportunity to break the Manchester United/Chelsea domination of the Premier League.
Both of the top two appear vulnerable at the moment and Arsenal, despite losing to both of them already this season, are the best-equipped to muscle in on the title race.
Earlier this season Wenger stated that the Premier League could be won with a relatively low points total this season. Judging by recent results he looks like being proved right.
Chelsea are suddenly leaking goals at an alarming rate, United’s defeat at home to Aston Villa illustrated just how much they are missing the departed Cristiano Ronaldo, Liverpool are going backwards and Manchester City are yet to maximise the huge amount of money spent on their team.
With a couple of good signings in January, Wenger and Arsenal may have plenty to shout about in 2010.