Arsene Wenger: From Dumbledore to dunce

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Until around 22.30 on Tuesday night, Arsene Wenger had a well-earned reputation in Spain for being a bit of an avuncular, Dumbledore type figure: unthreatening, cultured and a proper gent famous for relishing in the finer side of football. So much so, in fact, that Florentino Pérez – seeing the Frenchman’s name in a sticker album one afternoon – even tried to bring the Arsenal boss to the Bernabeu on his return to the Real Madrid presidency in 2009.

But after the events in the Camp Nou, Wenger’s reputation as a sophisticated sommelier of the beautiful game went so far south that penguins were waddling on top of it. Arsenal's 3-1 defeat has been greeted in Barcelona as a victory for truth, justice and the Catalan way. Then again, pretty much all wins for Pep’s Dream Boys are viewed thusly, such are the side’s insufferably smug ways.

The Barcelona press have taken particular umbrage to Arsenal coming to the Camp Nou to defend their first leg lead and maybe grab a cheeky goal on the break in the process – a strategy that was a Javier Mascherano toe-nail away from succeeding.

LLL would note that the local papers should instead be very grateful indeed that Wenger went for this particular approach, as the quality of the final pass and finish from Barça for much of the game was such that even 2% more attacking intent from the visitors might have seen the Catalan club’s Champions League ambitions dunked in the teacup of failure.

“Creation destroyed destruction,i” purred Sport, reflecting on a win for their beloved Barcelona. “This Arsenal is a losing team, they lack grandeur, ambition and talent,” jibed Josep María Casanovas, who scoffed that “there’s only one Barça and are no imitations are accepted.”

Mundo Deportivo were just as scathing as Tuesday’s opponents, with Sani Nolla kicking the Arsenal coach when he’s down by claiming that “if Wenger had an image as a prestigious coach, this knockout by Barcelona has put him in his true place.”

The general feeling in both the Barcelona and Madrid press is that the Robin van Persie’s sending off was harsh but wouldn't have changed the outcome of a game which now has the famous statistic of Arsenal failing to have a single shot on target.

“Arsenal’s complaints are legitimate but it doesn’t serve as an excuse,” was the reflection on the result from Marca. “It’s hard to knock out Barcelona without having a shot.”

“Barça in the quarters, Arsenal in the street,” blasted AS, reporting that the English(ish) side got a “thorough thrashing” – well, the paper literally said Arsenal got a “bath”, but that has very different connotations indeed.

And so to Wednesday night as Valencia, the second of Spain’s three teams in Champions League action in the last 16, face “Raúl’s Schalke” as they are now known in Spain. A 1-1 draw from the first leg sees the Mestalla men facing a tough ask in Germany, but Valencia fans have been boosted by the tip that Roberto Soldado will probably starting the game from the bench. And yes, LLL knows how many goals the former Getafe man has scored in the competition, but the blog blindly insists that they are all either flukes or scuffs. 

“We have to play with cold heads, but hot bodies,” said Unai Emery, revealing his game plan of dressing his players in figure-hugging body-snoods. “This is our moment, our chance to enjoy ourselves where all the big teams are.”

AS notes with some sadness that should Valencia prevail on Wednesday night – and LLL expects a 1-1 draw and penalties – then it could well be Raúl’s final Champions League tie, as Schalke are unlikely to qualify for next season’s competition and the chances of the old fella moving to another big team are slim.

But then again, at least one club in London could do with a player who has both decent hearing and knows how to put the ball in the back of the net when it really counts. And as Raúl said to David Albelda after the first leg clash, “old rockers never die.”