Who takes the blame?

Emmanuel Adebayor of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Everton.-AP

How far could Arsenal’s pitiful display against Liverpool at Anfield in a recent English Premiership game be attributed to Wenger, asks Brian Glanville.

“A bad workman blames his tools,” goes the old saying. Though, sometimes, as in football, the tools themselves, which is to say the players, may be culpable. A recent weekend’s soccer rightly or wrongly spread blame in both directions. Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger said after his team had been thrashed and humiliated 5-1 at Liverpool, “The whole team failed to turn up with the right performance… I include myself in that performance.”

No such self-criticism from the Manchester United manager David Moyes after Fulham, at Old Trafford, had, against all odds and expectations, forced a 2-2 draw at the very end of injury time, though they still stayed marooned at the bottom of the Premier League. Moyes declared it was a matter of mental softness that we didn’t see the game out and get the job done. I would agree with that. Was it lack of concentration? Yes, maybe!

He emphasised the fact that United had dominated the game territorially, enjoying 75% possession of the ball. “How we didn’t win I have no idea.” When United went ahead at 2-1, he all too significantly ran on to the pitch in joyful celebration. Hard to imagine his formidable predecessor Alex Ferguson, watching shocked from the stand, ever finding consolation, let alone celebration in such circumstances. True, United put in no fewer than a record 81 crosses, but only 18 of them reached a United player in the box.

For Moyes and United, the bleak fact is that whereas under Alex Ferguson, United were constantly scoring very late decisive goals in what came to be known as “Fergie Time,” this was the fifth time under Moyes that United have conceded an expensive goal almost at the end. In fact Fulham’s equaliser arrived in the 95th minute. For a team which, only days earlier, had managed to lose 1-0 in an FA Cup replay at home to Sheffield United, struggling in the Championship. Though it is true that in Manchester, Fulham were able to deploy new players brought in during the January transfer window.

But what of Wenger? How far could Arsenal’s pitiful display at Anfield be attributed to him? Arsenal’s performance was a pitiful sight. With Liverpool playing well up the field and closing the Gunners’ spaces, they constantly found space of their own against a team which, bar a 6-3 thrashing at Manchester City, had looked so solid in defence. Not this time. And Liverpool scored those five without a single goal from the prolific Luiz Suarez, though he was in ebullient form and once struck the crossbar with a superbly executed long shot. So much for the soccer writer in London’s evening paper, who, on the eve of the game, had eulogised the central defensive pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, comparing it to the halcyon defensive days of Tony Adams and Martin Keown.

The former Arsenal and England centre forward did not exculpate Wenger; Alan Smith wrote, “It is on days like this when Arsene Wenger’s training methods come into sharp focus. His longstanding reluctance to work on negating the opposition often comes back to haunt him when Arsenal face good sides. That approach only works all the time when you are the best team around. Liverpool proved Arsenal are not.” But what could Wenger do about the vertiginous drop in form of the hugely expensive Mesut Ozil? But the absence of the injured Aaron Ramsey, in dynamic form this season, and of the suspended French International Mathieu Flamini hardly helped.

Reverting to Moyes and United, Rooney apart, and he was used far too deep, this was a flaccid performance by United, who gave away two ineptly defended goals and were hugely lucky not to go 2-0 down when Fulham’s Richardson, in a breakaway, missed from six yards.

Then there’s Tottenham and Emmanuel Adebayor, the giant Togo centre forward who, that same weekend, beat a largely superior Everton at White Hart Lane with a superbly taken late goal, juggling the ball under pressure before driving it home. Afterwards, he criticised the recently sacked Spurs manager Andre Villas Boas for ignoring him; even making him humiliatingly train with the juniors. He had a point when he said that Villas Boas’ tactics were too cautious and wrong. True, Adebayor, for whom huge transfer fees have been paid, has been wildly unpredictable at Arsenal, Manchester City and even Spurs. But newly appointed manager Tim Sherwood has gambled on him with real success.

Across the channel, you wonder why Paris Saint Germain, with the Qatari billions behind them should have spent £55 million on Uruguay’s striker Edinson Cavani; only to banish him to the right wing, since Sweden’s towering Zlatan Ibrahimovic is prince of the middle. Not, one imagines, the fault of manager Laurent Blanc, but Cavani is restless out on the wing and predictably wants to leave. Who decided to buy him?