Arsene Wenger is a man of balances that keep him in a state of constant state of fluctuation between joy and despair. He hasn't won the Champions League, but he has been in the competition 17 years in a row. He develops a great player and then they leave or repeatedly get hurt. He's had an undefeated season and then he's had nine years without winning a trophy. If he eats a delicious meal, he can be certain that dessert will make him sick. And over the first four days of November, that's pretty much what happened.
Wenger arrives at the Emirates, site of Arsenal's next two matches — a Premier League game against newly promoted Burnley and a Champions League game against Anderlecht. Coming off wins at Anderlecht and Sunderland in their previous two matches, he was feeling good when he spotted a familiar face on the wall.
Those pleasant vibes evaporated as Arsenal struggled to score against the winless, bottom of the table club, though. Embarrassment and a fresh wave of criticism seemed ready to pounce, but in the 70th minute Alexis Sanchez scored the first of his two goals and Arsenal won it 3-0 to move from fifth to fourth — a.k.a. The Wenger Position — in the table.
After the match, Wenger was quick to praise his side's defending.
Boss: "We could not find that defensive stability but we've found it now and that's important in the Premier League" #AFCvAND
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 3, 2014
But a man like Arsene Wenger cannot praise his team without it turning into a challenge to the unseen forces of football. And with him, they are always sure to respond in a timely fashion.
Wenger rests. I like to think he spent at least part of this day speaking to Andrei Arshavin on the phone, making each other giggle with jokes about Nicklas Bendtner because that would've been the best possible use of this time.
Puma releases a video to promote their new Arsenal coat that pokes fun at Wenger's past difficulties with zippers. It stars Wenger himself. Though his willingness to poke fun at himself is admirable, it reasserts his position as the butt of a joke. Once known as The Professor, his club's own sponsors are now positioning him as The Bumbler. Someone who requires a special add-on to his zippers that reads "PULL ME" just so he can operate them properly.
Back at the Emirates, it's time for the pendulum to swing back the other way. This time, Arsenal score three goals in the first hour while holding Anderlecht to none. Esteem and a fresh wave of praise seemed inevitable, but then the Belgian side scored three goals of their own in the final 30 minutes to snatch a 3-3 draw that felt more like a loss for Arsenal. As the rain came down, Wenger sat with his head in his hands, cut down yet again.
This result left Arsenal second in Champions League group D, which is The Wenger Position of this competition.
After the match, Wenger was quick to criticize his team's defending.
“We gave a poor defensive performance from the first to the last," he said. "We never felt comfortable. There was a bit of bad luck because the first [Anderlecht] goal was offside but our defensive performance was not good enough. Across the pitch defensively, we were very, very poor.”
Leaving the stadium, as former Arsenal player Paul Merson was labeling him "tactically clueless" on Sky Sports, Wenger probably looked at the version of himself slapped on the wall a bit differently.
But at least he got his zipper to work.
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