By Tony Attwood
Arsène Wenger has revealed that the response of Uefa to his criticism of the way they handle doping has been to send 10 anti-doping officers to Arsenal’s training ground last Friday to carry out random checks on his players.
And who would expect otherwise? Target Zagreb? Ask why Olympiacos F.C. are still in Europe with all the allegations of long term corruption surrounding them? No, send in the heavy mob to Arsenal to disrupt training. Of course.
Arijan Ademi tested positive for a banned substance after the last game and he was suspended for four years subject to an appeal. That’s good, but let’s wait for the appeal
Mr Wenger was asked by the FA to clarify comments made to L’Equipe, claiming some teams have flouted doping rules and his demand for regular blood testing and said football is not immune to doping problems.
The approach Mr Wenger is taking is that of punishing the club if a single player tests positive for a banned substance. At present the rules say three players must have committed violations in a limited time period before a team are punished.
“It’s a surprising rule,” Mr Wenger said. “Uefa applies the rule, that is planned, but I personally don’t agree with the rule. You cannot say: ‘OK, they had a doped player and the result stands.’ That means you basically accept doping. But it is the rule and we accept that, we have to look at ourselves and deal with our own performance.
“I don’t know if I would have the support of anybody. I came out on that and as a result we had a doping control from Uefa on Friday. We had 10 people on Friday to control us. I said that before I want better controls. And we got better controls straight away. I don’t remember we have been controlled before, we have nothing against it. I called for more blood checks. That’s a major issue.”
A Uefa spokesman said Uefa worked in line with the World Anti-Doping Agency policies, which more or less tells you all you need to know.
As for tonight, to get through to the Group stages we need to win, and for Bayern Munich to beat Olympiakos. Then we need to win against the perennially accused cheating club by a greater margin than 3-2.
If not there are two issues: Europa league or no Euro football, and if the former, should we use the youngsters to protect the first team squad. Mr Wenger said, “There are plenty of examples in Portugal and Spain where teams have taken it seriously and won the championship. Benfica are the example, Sevilla, have done well.”
Francis Coquelin is expected to be out for two months or more. Mikel Arteta is only out for a short period. Calum Chambers and Mathieu Flamini can play in their places in midfield and I rather expect that this season we will see Calum Chambers emerge as something far more than we have seen before.
Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, should be back for next weekend.
Speaking of tonight’s game Mr Wenger said, “At Zagreb we were caught on the counterattack and played with 10 men, they scored a second. We have a good history in the Champions League and this season against teams where we were favourites we were disappointing.”
Of course the Telegraph is having a field day, talking of how Arsenal are “stumbling” and how it is “only November.” (Goodness, I never noticed.)
The talk is always that Arsenal should have bought players before, but no one has been able to give us details of top players who would have come in and sat and waited for injuries to give them a chance, not knowing of course if the injuries would come but certainly knowing that Arsenal has more players in the top 20 European players list than any other club. Nor how we could overcome those figures that show that only one in four big time purchases actually delivers in his first season.
So now the big deal is that by not going through to the group stages yet again Arsenal won’t be able to attract top players in the summer. Thus, top four is not a trophy, but when we go out before the group stages we lose out on our ability to attract players. Does that make sense? Or is it, “whatever Arsenal do, it’s no good.” We are accused of going too long without a trophy, and then when we win the FA Cup twice running we are told that isn’t a real trophy. Hmmm.
Will Mr Wenger buy anyone in January? He said, “That depends now on what comes out of the scan from Francis. I will do what is needed in January, knowing as well that January is not an ideal market. I believe we have the strength inside the squad to deal with that problem in a quiet way.”
When he was asked by one journalist whether he regretted not signing Schneiderlin now that he must rely on Flamini, there was at least a smile. “What is your name? – I will tell that to Flamini,” he said.
Anyway, we know the back four who have performed so well are still all together. We know Santi will play alongside Flamini. We know that we are just two points behind the leaders and we have players starting to come back. We know we have staggeringly brilliant players in Alexis and Ozil, and that Giroud is scoring and scoring, but no, it is doom, doom, doom.
So what’s the difference between myself, and those who worry all the time about the state of Arsenal? Or indeed those people who write to Untold and say they worry about my state of mind? (Very kind of them to make a diagnosis, but I think I will stick with Dr Billy the Dog McGraw as my adviser on mental health matters).
The answer is, I seem to be quite happy. I’m going to leave for the game soon, and will have a jolly good time with Blacksheep and other friends and get home at midnight, exhausted but knowing I’ve had another good day.
By and large I think I’d sooner have my outlook on life.