Wenger launched into his press conference with a pretty open discussion about his disdain for the issue of cheating in the game. He's not merely talking about tumble merchants like Gareth Bale, oh no, he's going deeper... he's talking drugs and corruption. Wenger believes it is rife in the game and he's perplexed as to why nothing is being done to sooth the issue.
'I can’t accept it and I always was a believer that there’s a lot of cheating going on in our game and that we are not strong enough with what happens, nor with the doping, nor with the corruption of the referees, nor with the match fixing. It’s time that we tackle this problem in a very serious way and that people who cheat are punished in a very severe way.'
Now, them comments either be the ramblings of a mad man, or they're the genuine concern of someone who feels underhand things are going on. Wenger makes some points that open your eyes to the latter...
“Honestly, I don’t think we do enough. It is very difficult for me to believe that you have 740 players in the World Cup and you come out with zero problems. Look at psychological tests that have been done on people who are at the top in all sports.'
You can't knock a statement like that. The chances that no one is ever cheating in the game are low... and if Lance Armstrong's doctor is involved with a national football team, you do have to wonder what the motivations were for his skuldudderous employment were. Surely it can't only be cycling where drugs cheating goes on? I mean, we've already seen high profile players accidentally totally on purpose missing drugs tests and we know how dim footballers can be. I liked this following anecdote...
'When they ask them if they would take a product that would guarantee them a gold medal or a world championship, but mean that they died in the next five years, 50 per cent say ‘yes’. If you go to amateur level and do that test, only two per cent say they would take it.'
Someone offered me the same drug before the blogging world cup, as you can read, I didn't take it, but that's because I'm a man of honour. After making all the above noise, Wenger did give some slack to the English game.
'It’s not a perfect world but I don’t think cheating or match-fixing is a problem,”
“I personally feel English football is clean of cheating 100%. I don’t think referees are corrupt”
Well, that's a nice end to a story. I guess the main worry of English fans would be finding out the game was littered with drugs cheats. I'm not sure, at the highest level, whether clubs would risk their players health with illegal drugs. Clubs are so hot with what they put into players, you just couldn't see them putting their global reputation on the line. I remember Tony Adams refusing creating back in the day, so there might be clubs experimenting with new pills and potions, but I'd like to think British disdain for cheats would push player and clubs away from shaming themselves. I've no doubt that older player may dabble with extenders... but suspicion is one thing, coming down hard and proving it is another.
It'd also be quite difficult to keep it under wraps, I mean, players move all the time and they talk to the press a lot. Cycling struggled to keep the noise under wraps and that's a far more individual sport. I think systemic team sport cheating would be hard to manage.
Today's game against Sunderland should be interesting. Not from a footballing perspective, I hate playing the Mackems, it will be interesting at the back. Wenger's reluctance to go out and sign a 4th centre back leaves him in a bit of trouble for this game. Who to go for? Miquel... or Squillaci? One is mega inexperienced and the other mega useless. We don't even have options elsewhere on the pitch. Diaby is the only other tall player in the team, I'd rather put Wenger in at the back than him. There's always the option of pulling Sagna into the middle with Jenks covering for him.
The most likely thing... we'll play Miquel with the out of sorts giant German. I'd imagine Sunderland will be rubbing their hands together that prospect. Lucky for us, they've been terrible this year. Martin O'Neill, another old school manager who doesn't have a clue since times moved on is really struggling to get to grips up North. Hopefully this won't turn into a bore draw. I'd be really disappointed if that happened. We have some in form players, this should be a relatively straight forward three points.
It sounds like Theo escaped the crock list. He's been electric this season, so I'd assume he'll start in the front trio Giroud and Lukas. Midfield will be Arteta, Jack and Cazorla with the back open to debate.
We need to have an imposing game. We're getting scarily close to the end of the season. The run we've been banging on about all year has to happen now. We need to start taking maximum points. If not, this summer could be pretty damn bleak. I mean, it's not like Wenger needs an excuse not to spend... but if he had one, I'm sure he'd dine off it with relish all summer.
One final bit of good news, Santos is on Gremio's wanted list. I'm not to sure why Arsenal are making negotiations 'complicated'. Ivan, Dick, stop being childish and hand over the keys... get him off the books immediately and for gods sake, don't tell them what he earns.
Good luck to the players and good luck to anyone who travelled up to the North today.
I'm off for a day in the office... don't hate my life because it's better than yours.