Two great clubs, two wonderful managers and a future that looked bleak and bland as the London weather – that was before the start of the encounter between Liverpool and Arsenal on Saturday evening at Anfield.
After 90 minutes, the Reds continued their season’s trend of doing very well against the top six and messing with the bottom six, by gunning down the Gunners 3-1.
But the story of the match despite the loss was Arsene Wenger dropping his star forward, Alexis Sanchez to the bench in favour of Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck with the excuse that he wanted to play more direct though we saw how many ‘direct’ balls were played in the first half.
Wenger’s choice seemed based on emotions over hard facts as the snide rejection of the Chilean backfired as the Gunners finished the day in fifth position. Sanchez has refused to sign a new contract and has showed some negative emotion in past matches.
Afterwards the French manager postulated, “I’ve worked in football since 33 years of age. Now at 67 I have to convince people I know how to manage a football club.”
Many of Wenger’s supporters would be hard pressed to support that decision to bench Sanchez and otherwise would have been thinking of the popular English idiom, “Do not cut off the nose to spite the face;” because that seemed to be Wenger’s case on Saturday.
When Wenger considered his ‘foolishness’ at the beginning of the second half and sent on Sanchez, Arsenal played better and could at the end have won a point. Sanchez came on in the 46th minute and provided the assist for Welbeck 11 minutes later.
In perspective, Arsenal have won just once against a top six rival this season – five points from 21 with the season now threatening to sputter and end in the customary disappointment.
At the post-match press conference, Wenger was asked about the possibility of the Gunners missing out on the Champions League to which he answered, “There is the possibility of making it” – though many Arsenal fans would not share his optimism
Wenger is definitely now grasping at straws with his action on Saturday and the gloom and doom that has pervaded north London has just one timetable to lift – May 21, when Wenger leaves or stays at the Emirates.
The scenario and timing of this clash ensured there was lots of tension and anxiety as the outcome could readily define the futures of both Klopp and Wenger. Wenger seems to be running on borrowed time while questions of inconsistency would be thrown at Klopp with 11 matches left in the 2016/17 EPL season.