Less than eight weeks ago, after his team's 3-0 home defeat to Chelsea, the howls of frustration against
Since Arsenal last won a major trophy -- the 2005 FA Cup -- Wenger has become increasingly accustomed to growing criticism from the press and the Arsenal faithful, particularly because recent transfer windows have seen him pay for little more than a new lawnmower for the Emirates pitch or a new lick of paint for the dressing room walls. Or, worse still,
The Chelsea defeat left Arsenal 11 points behind the league leaders, with the Gunners' distant title challenge in tatters. In nine matches since then, Arsenal has won seven and drawn two, and the antagonism towards Wenger has turned to utmost respect as, following Wednesday's 4-2 win over Bolton, his side sits atop the English Premier League.
Arsenal's form, combined with a torrent of news concerning the dire financial straits at other clubs, has seen Wenger's stock rise. The man once routinely beguiled for being tighter than a gnat's chuff is suddenly being championed as a bastion of prudence.
Yes, there was the odd big purchase. But the $15 million to $30 million in fees paid for
Wenger also has been famously ham-fisted when comes to player wages, relatively speaking anyway. His top earners --
Over at Stamford Bridge, contract talks between
Thanks to consistent Champions League qualification, the highest match day income of any EPL club and, of course Wenger's thriftiness, the loans taken out to finance Arsenal's move to the Emirates are quickly growing smaller. Arsenal looks like it has a bright future, and it's not the only team in high spirits this week. Aston Villa overcame Blackburn Rovers 6-4 in a pulsating Carling Cup semifinal second leg, in which the Villans, backstopped by U.S. keeper
They'll face the winners of Manchester City vs. Manchester United in the final, a series City leads 2-1 after its home leg this past Tuesday. At evening games, the City of Manchester Stadium is darkened for the pregame
United was cruising, dominating from midfield, its away support fervent. The second-leg looked to be a formality. Yet a simple switch from
Man. United manager
And if relations weren't going to be frosty enough on a cold winter's night, firebrand United captain
But it wasn't until significantly after then, when Tévez headed in the go-ahead goal in the 65th minute, that the United backlash arrived. In the dying minutes,
And while Neville reflects on Tévez terming him a "sock-sucking" (sycophantic) moron on Argentine radio this week, darker clouds hang over Old Trafford. As Arsenal's balance sheet gets healthier, Manchester United's is firmly headed in the opposite direction.
United's parent company, Red Football Joint Ventures, revealed in its accounting from last year that the holding company of
The documents revealed the Glazers had, since '06, received $37 million from the club in loans and management fees and have made provisions to move ownership of United's Carrington training complex to their holding company and then to lease it back to the club.
United fans are furious at the Glazers for several reasons: the level of debt they took on to buy the club initially, that those debts are increasing and that, except for the $131 million sale of
Such are United's problems that Liverpool co-owner
"Our debt is very manageable (see Man U) and we never use player sales for debt service" "Our interest on [$324 million] is about [$25.8 million]. The new stadium will be the game-changer. January is a poor-quality market. The summer window will be big. We are working hard on the new stadium. We have an excellent management team and manager. We know we need more depth on the squad and will address it this summer. We hope to have a stronger second half of the season."
So, bullishness at Liverpool, but what of the other debt-ridden EPL clubs? West Ham looks to be on a much surer footing following canny former Birmingham City owners
Interestingly, many Everton fans are hoping Liverpool does qualify. Their thinking is that Benítez will then keep his job and the current owners will have enough revenue to maintain control of the club. They see this scenario leading to long-term mediocrity at their rivals, while a failure to qualify could see Liverpool sold to owners who would invest in better players and a new, potentially more successful, manager.
Assuming Germany tops Group D, we'd expect England to beat any of the rest and make the quarterfinals, where it would play the winners of Group A or the runners-up of Group B -- we'd guess France, assuming Argentina wins Group B. We'd expect another England win there, seeing us through to a semis against, most likely, Brazil, and therefore probably a flight home. As runners-up, the U.S. would, we think, play Germany in the second round. We reckon you'll need a Boeing booked after that encounter.