Zlatan Lashes Out; The End of the Wenger Era?

Zlatan Wenger Sunderland

We’ll keep this brief: Kevin Friend didn’t have the best day on the job during Saturday’s clash between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth.

Tyrone Mings pulled the old ‘I wasn’t looking so it clearly wasn’t intentional’ stomp on Zlatan Ibrahimović’s head to start matters. Except that, if you watch the replay, he definitely knows Zlatan is lying there before he makes his move.

And Zlatan not only retaliates with an elbow that should have seen him off immediately, but attempts the most creative form of victim blaming I’ve possibly ever seen, saying “You have the TV, you can see the images. I jump up and jump high and he jumps into my elbow.” Ah yes, the age-old, tried and true ‘I want to give myself a concussion’ trick. A proven winner; absolutely worth it.

Neither Mings nor Zlatan was punished on the field, however, meaning they faced the possibility of the FA retroactively charging them. Thankfully, that’s exactly what’s happened. Even so, Mings could potentially miss more time through suspension than Zlatan would, which, doesn’t seem all that fair. Both incidents were reprehensible, and it’s important to punish the person that “starts” it (which rarely happens). But violent retaliation is no better.

As for Kevin Friend, there are surely better days ahead. Just maybe ask for help next time.

Zlatan Wenger Sunderland

Is Year 21 Wenger’s Final Act?

We ask this every season: Is the writing on the wall for Arsène Wenger? Because every season, the same film replays. Expectations are sky high and the Gunners start strong. Then they dip, but only long enough to fall out of title contention. Then they inevitably push back and suddenly, they’re finishing top-four.

But once more, patience is wearing thin.

Arsenal last won a league title in 2004. Moreover, they haven’t gotten past the UCL Round of 16 since 2009. It’s consistency at arguably its best and worst. This is year 21 of Wenger’s tenure, an almost unheard of accomplishment in the modern era of football. But the lack of silverware in the past decade-plus is beginning to take its toll. An FA Cup here and there is nice, but it’s no league title. And it’s certainly no UCL triumph.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who began with Manchester United back in 1986, was in charge for nearly three decades. A crucial difference, however: United won a staggering 13 English Premier League titles in that span, not to mention five FA Cups and two UCL titles. Arsenal supporters would surely take a fraction of these accomplishments. Alas…

It’s all but guaranteed Wenger will get to leave on his own terms. Surely he knows this; surely the club understands this. But more importantly, Wenger seems like the type of person who understands when the time has come. Supporters could (and already have) argued that the time has passed, but understand one thing: this type of consistency is rare. It’s not something to take for granted.

As a fan, I fully understand wanting more. Just be comfortable with the possibility that there will be a couple of hiccups along the way. Then again, it doesn’t get much lower than benching Alexis Sánchez—media reports be damned—for the first half of a must-win contest against Liverpool, does it? That depends on three things:

  • How much they allow the Sánchez transfer rumors to distract them.
  • Their response in the second leg against Bayern (trailing 5-1).
  • If their inevitable top-four push actually comes up short this time.

As it stands, the era of Arsène Wenger is heading towards its conclusion.

Zlatan Wenger Sunderland

Sunderland Continue to Sink

Leicester City, since Claudio Ranieri’s sacking, have won two matches in a row—thus gaining precious ground on other relegation-threatened sides. Crystal Palace, under the guidance of Sam Allardyce, may have finally turned their fortunes around with their second consecutive victory this past weekend. And Swansea City, now under Paul Clement, look more and more solid by the week.

But make no mistake about it: this is the year Sunderland finally goes down. And when it happens, they better allow David Moyes to go down with the ship. Assuming he wants to, of course. Sunderland worked their asses off against Manchester City on Sunday, even hitting the post early on, but Pep Guardiola’s men finally got their goal (42 minutes in) and the Black Cats never got back into the match.

Losers of three consecutive contests, Sunderland’s next three are against Burnley (12th), Watford (13th) and Leicester (15th). Of those, they only play host once (Burnley). They remain dead last in the league and six points from safety. The picture is quite grim. And, it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that Sunderland need at least seven points from those to have a chance.

Not even Jermaine Defoe can save them this time, although he’ll damn sure try.

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