Sport Comment: Arsenal need a boss who ensures they turn up for biggest matches

John Inverdale
ARSENE Wenger has never had the healthiest of pallors but the colour had almost completely drained from his face by the time Arsenal were three goals and a man down against Chelsea as the clock struck 1pm on Saturday lunchtime.

The occasion of his 1,000th match in charge should have been an opportunity, irrespective of the result, to praise the Arsenal way of doing things: precise passing, instinctive running off the ball, inventive attacking patterns.

Instead, after a 6-0 defeat, and as the kangaroo courts that are radio phone-ins have become, it was an opportunity to begin writing Wenger's obituary as Arsenal boss.

Looking gaunt and speaking even more softly and studiously than usual, he spoke afterwards of accepting full responsibility, being at a loss to explain why his team "didn't turn up".

Across all team sports, teams invariably "don't turn up" because they don't believe, either in themselves or those around them. When faced with the toughest of obstacles - and be in no doubt that Chelsea were excellent at the weekend - they crumble for want of leadership either on or off the field. A glance at Arsenal's record against the best teams this season only serves to highlight that malaise.

The match at Stamford Bridge was significant for three reasons.

Chelsea will never have a better chance to score 10 goals in a Premier League match, and if they lose the title on goal difference, will bitterly regret not going for the Arsenal jugular in the second half.

Referee Andre Marriner's use of the word "disappointed" for his ludicrous error in sending off the wrong player was a new low in sporting euphemism-speak and a further example of why football needs a fourth television official to adjudicate on contentious occasions.

But most important of all, it probably indicated that before too long, one of Arsenal's greatest Gunners will be a goner, moving upstairs to allow a new man with new ideas to make sure the team do turn up on big occasions.

Colour or no colour, you could see it in his face and in his eyes.