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Aug 29, 2011

Wenger plumbs new depths of despair

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Wenger's Waterloo

And so it has come to this. Let's start with the good news: Arsenal scored two goals for the first time at Old Trafford in the Premier League era. The torrent of spectacularly bad news can be summed up by the fact that the club haven't conceded as many goals for over 100 years - about the same length of time it will take Carl Jenkinson and Francis Coquelin to get over this pants-down mauling.

Someone needs to tell Arsene Wenger that the Premier League has started because he's been fielding his Carling Cup line up since the season began. Prior to kick off one bookmaker offered to refund all losing bets on the game if Arsenal won, and on the Gunners' bench was a lad so obscure he doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page - the ultimate indignity in this internet-savvy world. What followed was a massacre.

For Wenger this could only have been more humiliating if he had been forced to watch on from the bench completely naked. Manchester United not only played the sort of silky football he insists on, they did it with a team younger than his. No-one would have blamed him had he parked the bus - instead it looked like he'd parked his tactical nous in the Trafford Centre. I feel ashamed of that pang of sympathy last week, because this mauling was directly due to Wenger's stubbornness in the transfer market and his refusal to compromise his principles.

Arsenal are already nine points and 18 goals worse off than Fergie's mob, who were on a different plane on Sunday. If Wenger doesn't now splash the cash like a lottery winner with three days to live Arsenal could be in a different league next season.

Dzeko-oh-oh-oh its magic

The only tiny little thing that is preventing a mass walk out at Arsenal is the fact that their north London neighbours are deep in the mire too. In fact, things are so grim that if you added Tottenham and Arsenal's goal difference together you get -15 and they've only played five games between them so far. Heck, Arsenal have more red cards than they do goals.

How Samir Nasri must have chuckled as he watched his former colleagues toil at Old Trafford, and those who sang nasty songs about him weep gently in the away section, soon after he had laid on three goals during his debut for a club who are the shining example of how rampant consumerism can transform a team. Weight loss can also help, as the new, improved slender version of Edin Dzeko proved.

'Arry Redknapp also seems hell bent on aping Arsene's flawed approach to transfers by dragging the Luka Modric saga out until 10.59pm on Wednesday night, despite having declared it over nearly a week ago. In another accomplished display of contradiction, he revealed in one breath that Modric had asked not to play against City - a snippet bound to antagonise the player - before claiming he'd be delighted if the Croatian stayed. No wonder the boy is confused.

'Arry spent his first two years at Spurs warbling on about how they were bottom of the table when he took over - now he has managed to lead them back to where he started. You've got to admit, there's a lovely symmetry to it.

Steve Kean's chicken dhansak

Perhaps this is what happens to you when you tickle the testicles of fate by executing a brutal coup de tat on a footballing monolith like Big Sam. Steve Kean's Blackburn are hurtling towards the Championship quicker than a vindaloo flies through the digestive system of a punter with irritable bowel syndrome.

How can Kean be Rovers' driving force when he can't even drive himself to the ground? How can he mastermind a competent performance from his side when he can't even tell how much he's had to drink? And how on earth can he pick up credible targets in the transfer market when the star defence witness at his recent drink-driving trial was a television journalist whose job it is to pose inane questions at Premier League managers, who didn't even turn up to court?

Twice Rovers won penalties at Ewood Park and twice they failed to stick it in the onion bhaji bag. Mikel Arteta showed them how to do it after Chris Samba had tried to climb Marouane Fellaini like a tree house in the penalty area late on to make it three defeats from three for Rovers and Kean. There is a microwavable parcel from Venky's heading Steve's way - and contained within is the chicken dhan-sack.

Woy of the Woe-vers

One can only imagine teary-eyed Scousers beaming with pride as they briefly topped the Premier League after their bullish victory over Bolton on Saturday. Brief though their stay may have been, the red half of Merseyside won't let reason or perspective get in the way of their romantic notion that Kenny can finally deliver the club a Premier League title come May. By the time the international break is over their parade route through the city will no doubt be sorted for late May.

How different things were this time last year, as poor old Roy Hodgson laboured at Anfield. Last summer of course, Roy didn't have the option of delivering his own stimulus package to the British economy with a menagerie of over-inflated signings like King Kenny has, and after just three games with his new club West Brom he is already stumbling towards victory in the early season sack race.

After creditable defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea, the Baggies' season was poised to get off and running when a tired and emotional Stoke visited the Hawthorns, yet once again they were beaten by a late goal. Word has it these late collapses are due to the fact that Roy's 'Meals on Wheels' service, provided by the local council, arrives at the training ground just as he is about to deliver the final piece of their pre-match tactical jigsaw. By the time he has finished his Shepherd's Pie, he's forgotten all about it.

All hail the closing window

By the time you read this Arsene Wenger will be slowly upping his bid for Gary Cahill one pound at a time until he finally comes up with a figure acceptable to Bolton. All over the land managers will have four different mobile phones prized to their ears and a succession of suited presenters will be repeating wild gossip from obscure African websites as if it is gospel.

'Arry Redknapp will probably take a few minutes out from his day-long precession of interviews on television and radio to instruct his chairman to make bids for players who have no intention of joining the club, while Alan Pardew will be gagged and bound in Mike Ashley's office in Hertfordshire and forced to watch Being John Malkovich on repeat in order to better understand his role at St James' Park.

The only thing Wednesday will be a triumph for is fax machines, as a host of clubs communicate news of their season-long loan captures to the Premier League in increasingly frantic fashion. And seconds after the window shuts, and a certain channel have wowed us yet again with their 'totaliser' - telling us how much money has been misspent this window - one of their over-excitable goons will no doubt inform us there are only "121 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes" until the next window opens. Oh goody.

Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Leon Knight at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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