Reuters Soccer Blog
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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.
PHOTO: Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger gestures during their English Premier League soccer match against Liverpool in Liverpool, northern England December 13, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis
MONDAY UPDATE: A truly appalling week for the panel. Admittedly, it was hard to predict Manchester United losing 1-0 at home to Aston Villa and Chelsea’s 3-3 home draw with Everton but nevertheless it was dreadful.
Some serious soul searching must go on in the coming weeks whilst eating our mincepies and finding yet another pair of socks when opening our Christmas presents.
MONDAY UPDATE: So how did you do? Here at Reuters we had our usual collection of baffling predictions and near misses along with a surprisingly high amount of lucky stabs in the dark.
It was a good job I made Man City v Chelsea the double pointer as two “experts” correctly plumped for the 2-1 City win. I fear an amount of copying also took place with Arsenal v Stoke as seven panel memebers were right to guess 2-0.
It used to be said that rugby was a sport for all shapes and sizes yet the modern professional game is so dominated by massive, athletic gym monkeys that diminutive wingers such as Shane Williams are as rare as England tries.
Monday update: You would think 14 games into the season we would have learnt who was likely to beat who in the Premier League. Sadly not. I did OK for a change but only Martyn Herman really covered himself in glory with two five pointers for Villa 1-1 Spurs and Manchester City collecting yet another draw against Hull City.
But I wouldn’t celebrate like Jimmy Bullard just yet, Martyn, you’re still third bottom.
Nicolas Anelka’s arrival at Chelsea in January last year hardly had the fans buzzing amid all the big-money signings since Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich transformed the fortunes of the west London club.
The peripatetic France striker seemed like a stop-gap and few expected him to be part of Chelsea’s long-term future.
Thursday update: Nothing to do with this incident, of course, but worth noting that Ferguson has been banished to the stands, receiving a two-match ban and a fine of 20,000 quid for the comments he made about Alan Wiley in October.
So, the FA has decided to get tough with the United boss. Are they right to do it? Read the full story here.
TUESDAY UPDATE: Whatever you think about the penalty which gave Liverpool a 2-2 draw with Birmingham, it certainly made a difference to our prediction league.
Miles Evans got a full five points for correctly predicting that score while he was even more pleased that John Terry ignored some newspaper headlines and secured a 1-0 win for Chelsea over Manchester United.
******The prospect of seeing Sergio “Kun” Aguero pulling on a blue shirt next season instead of the red and white stripes of Atletico Madrid must be a mouthwatering one for any Chelsea fan.******The 21-year-old Argentina striker, nicknamed “Kun” after a Japanese cartoon character with a similar hairstyle, showed why he remains a target for top clubs when he came off the bench and scored two superb goals in the 2-2 draw at the Calderon on Tuesday.******Cash-strapped Atletico turned down offers for him over the close season including, reportedly, one of around 35 million euros from Chelsea. His contract includes a buyout clause worth 60 million.******The London club are waiting to hear the result of their appeal against FIFA’s transfer ban and could make another move for Aguero either in the January transfer window or next summer.******Coach Carlo Ancelotti said this week he could see Aguero playing alongside Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba but added that he thought it would be hard for Chelsea to snare the Argentine.******The contrasting playing styles of the pair were evident on Tuesday.******Aguero, with his low centre of gravity, is hard to shake off the ball and is at his best running at defenders. On his day he is a deadly finisher, as Barcelona found out to their cost last season.******Drogba is all about muscle, which he used to good effect on Tuesday when he outjumped the Atletico defence to score a header and then bulldozed his way through to net a second.******Aguero fathered a son, Benjamin, with Diego Maradona’s daughter Giannina in February and Maradona, who is also Aguero’s boss as Argentina coach, advised him last year to seek a move to Inter Milan.******Atletico, 18th in La Liga after nine matches with just one win, are almost certain to miss out on a Champions League spot for next season, making it much more likely Aguero will move on from the Spanish capital.******PHOTO: Atletico Madrid’s Sergio “Kun” Aguero (L) scores with a free kick against Chelsea, Nov 3, 2009. REUTERS/Juan Medina
So it was an even worse week than usual. Ok, there were some surprise results but generally it was pitiful, some panelists only picked up one point and even most of our outside contributors struggled despite showing us up in recent weeks.
On behalf of all of us, I’d like to point out that the Premier League is more evenly balanced than it has been for a while (see Kevin’s blog) so we have a slight excuse….