It was a bit of a surprise to hear the Arsenal boss sticking up for his opposite number over at Old Trafford this week. I don´t think it would have been the same from Arsene Wenger if it was still his old enemy Sir Alex Ferguson still in charge, but the Frenchman has so far managed not to fall out with the new man Louis van Gaal.
Even so, I did not expect him to publicly stick up for the Dutchman after his Manchester United team were criticised and questioned after the West Ham boss Sam Allardyce had pointed out their long ball tactics last weekend. Wenger did though, as a report by ESPN explains, claiming that van Gaal had nothing to explain and that it was normal for a team to play to the strengths of it´s players, in this case the giant Belgian Marouane Fellaini.
Wenger said, “”There was no reason for Van Gaal to defend himself. Players have an intelligence. A team plays naturally to its strong point and an intelligent team knows how to exploit the strong points.
“I don’t think Van Gaal said to them go longer. When they see [Marouane] Fellaini on the pitch, the guy at the back says, ‘Ah, I can kick it to Fellaini.’ Then [Robin] Van Persie or [Wayne] Rooney can score the goal. This is normal.
“When we have [Olivier] Giroud in the team, the players understand quickly when they can play a bit longer, cross the ball more. If we win the ball in the air, you can go for the second ball.
“I play the game that is most suited to our players. A big club has a reason to try and win with style, but first they have to try and win. If you are chasing the game in the last five minutes you do not always want the short ball. Man United went a bit longer at West Ham to try and get an equaliser. It was completely logical.”
Aahh, I think I may know what the Prof was playing at here, by bringing our own big striker into the conversation I think the boss may be getting his own defence in early. We will soon see of course but I have a feeling that Arsenal may be playing a few long balls ourselves against Middlesborough today.