The Crying Game

Arsene Wenger’s whingeing over Alex Ferguson’s outspoken comments on Arsenal is merely the latest manifestation of a career-long behavioural pattern, which in France has earned him the nickname, The Cry Baby.

The common wisdom is that Alex Ferguson has somehow provoked Arsene Wenger into losing his cool, but what a lot of people don’t realise is that one of his nicknames while managing in France was La Pleureuse, or The Cry Baby.

It was given to him by the then Marseilles chairman, Bernard Tapie, who got fed up with all the excuses Wenger used to proffer for Monaco only winning Le Championat once in eight seasons.

They were the nearly team to Marseilles, which resulted in regular complaints about the physical intimidation of his players, referees being bullied into making decisions and the other conspiracy theory stuff he’s been coming up with at Arsenal. Tapie’s standard reply was: “Oh, The Cry Baby’s speaking again!”

Yes, there were dodgy financial dealings, which eventually lead to Monsieur Tapie parting company with Marseilles, but what Wenger neglected to mention was the huge advantage Monaco had in respect of their players not having to pay French income-tax. Imagine if Marseilles had been the ones operating under a totally different set of rules to the rest of the league – he’d have gone on morning, noon and night about the injustice of it.

Should it come to a fistfight, I think Wenger will be Sugar Ray Leonard compared to Fergie’s Marvin Haggler –?he’ll dance around with his clever little jabs while Alex tries to land a haymaker. It’s definitely a bout I’d fork out twenty-five quid to see on Sky Box-Office!

More seriously, Marseilles’ way of dealing with Monaco is the same as Man U’s in relation to Arsenal. They bullied Monaco off the ball at every opportunity so that they couldn’t get their passing game going, or dominate as they usually did in midfield.

With Rooney, Smith and Heinze, United have three in-form players who can match anything Arsenal throw at them physically –?sometimes with added interest.

Prediction-wise, I think it’ll be more glory for Chelsea as they cancel each other out with a 1-1 draw.

Talking of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho was spot-on at the weekend with his comments about David Beckham and not needing “a Hollywood star”. I hate to dent poor David’s ego, but if Real unload him it’ll more likely be to a team like Spurs or Newcastle than Chelsea or Arsenal who, again, don’t have any shortcomings that Beckham would alleviate.

With Steve McLaren in charge Middlesbrough’s another possibility, but I don’t think he’s the guarantee of European football next season that they’re looking for. If he’s let go for £8 or £9 million and is prepared to take a massive cut in wages, yes, he’s worth a punt but otherwise I’d have severe reservations about him giving value for money.

What nobody apart from David knows is how much the Rebecca Loos business has affected him. Some lads let it get to them while others – like me! – use football as a means of escapism and actually up their game. I played the best football of my career during my marriage break-up – partly because of the escapism aspect and partly because the pounds dropped off as a result of all that stress.

Somebody else who played well under the gun was Lee Bowyer when he was up for assault at Leeds United. You could see the tension drain from him when he took to the pitch, whereas Jonathan Woodgate went in the opposite direction. It’s down to how the individual reacts, which in Becks’ case, I suspect, is not too well.

Finally, a word about Liverpool and their three losses in one week. The saddest of the lot was the Southampton game when even their Mr. Dependable, Steven Gerrard, couldn’t pass to a teammate. They had Morientes looking unfit, Nunez lacking in confidence and Garcia performing all his circus tricks without any end product. Add in Traore, Dudek, Pongo and Peregrino’s eccentricities and I don’t think it’s the last humiliation they’ll suffer this season. The light at the end of Liverpool’s tunnel is that they’ve a lot of big name players like Djibril Cisse on their way back from injury. It mightn’t guarantee them Champions League football this campaign, but come next August I expect them to be up there challenging Chelsea, Man U and Arsenal for the big honours.

 

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