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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Try and imagine, if you will, Arsene Wenger throwing a tantrum. It doesn't really fit in with his professorial demeanour, does it? I can imagine him taking me to one side, putting a hand on my shoulder and telling me that he wasn't angry with me, that he was just disappointed. I can imagine that for the rest of the week he'd be a bit short with me and that our regular canteen conversations about economic geopolitics might dry up. But shouting? No, I can't see that.

Perhaps perception was part of the problem. Perhaps this is what has held Arsenal back for so long. Cesc Fabregas has been with Arsenal since 2003 and he says that he's never seen anything like it before, a revelation which begs a number of questions. How then did Wenger respond to the home defeat to Hull last season? With a sit-down discussion over donuts and coffee? With cuddles? How does he respond when Arsenal slip out of another competition? With the foremost weapon in any self-respecting Frenchman's locker; a shrug and a grunt?

And what about Fabregas' wording? He didn't say that Wenger 'shouted'. He said that he 'screamed'. Screaming has completely different connotations. Shouting can be for effect, but screaming indicates a total loss of control, not just of temper, but of pitch and tone. Now the only image in my head is of Wenger marching around the dressing room like Basil Fawlty, howling with rage while his long stork-like legs clatter up and down on the wet tiles. No wonder the Arsenal players were surprised.

Sir Alex Ferguson is a master of the well-timed tantrum, but Wenger has always been his polar opposite. When the dark knight sits down at a press conference, he's ready to fight. He leans back in his chair, chews his gum and dares anyone in the room to come and have a go if they think they're hard enough. Wenger is more like an Oxford Don, happy to debate, but faintly amused that so many weaker minds still deign to challenge him. While Ferguson wades into the melee with a sledgehammer whirling around his head, Wenger prefers to patiently wait for his tormentors to expose themselves before accurately probing his rapier through their ribs.

Brian Clough's players used to say that they could never tell what he was going to do next. His pendulumic moods would keep them on their toes at all times, just in case he was watching. Clough, of course, won the league with Derby County and Nottingham Forest, having taken charge of them when they were, well, pretty much where they are right now. That's not to say that his way is the only way. Managers usually veer to whichever technique feels most comfortable, but a well-timed combination of stick and carrot must always trump over-reliance on one or the other. Perhaps we will now see a more volatile Wenger, a man less cautious with the fragile egos that fill his dressing room. I hope so.

I wasn't at Anfield this weekend, but I'm told that there was a strange glint in Wenger's eyes at the post-match press conference. The dying embers of adrenaline? Perhaps. Or maybe a spark of realisation that there is more to life than science. That sometimes a man has to throw back his head and announce his presence to the Gods with a primal scream that echoes off the walls, that shatters the glass in the shower cubicles and that brings your under-performing Spanish midfielder perilously close to a embarrassing accident. Wenger's back. And this time he's really mad.