(The Original)

Amateur Scribe

"Obsessed" Wenger the Hero in Petulant Spat

There was a drama called “Rome” on the telly yesterday – the latest swords and sandals epic to hit the schedules, and when screen time was not being given to licentious women and unabashed nudity, there was much rivalry and political intrigue. Indeed, if you can look past the togas and the bloody, offal-drenched animal slaughter, the key values of duplicity and smear campaigning are still very much in evidence today, especially in the world of Premiership football management.

Certainly the tabloids would have you believe that Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger are feuding on a gladiatorial scale – the haughty, chiselled centurion whose arrogance and flair has captivated the masses poring scorn on the wizened old Senator with a chip on his shoulder and a gaping void in his midfield ranks – his champion warrior having, ironically enough, buggered off to Italy.

It’s not the first footballing grudge by a long chalk, but one that has, thankfully, smashed the recent Old Trafford monopoly: Witness Roy Keane and his unbridled hatred for Manchester United fans who have the audacity to munch on shellfish-based snacks during the half-time interval; Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole and their ongoing tiff over a misplaced pass that happened sometime in the last century; and Alex Ferguson’s refusal to speak to the Match of the Day team ever again (presumably after persistent over-exposure to Garth Crooks).

But it’s hard not to side with the Arsenal man on this one – After all, everybody loves an underdog, and the Chelsea manager’s comments seem more than a little misguided considering the quotes I have read from Wenger have been nothing but complimentary about the Premiership champions. To cast him as a jealous rubberneck is not only unfair but goes completely against type – Wenger is a proud man who prefers to discuss his own charges rather than those of his opponents.

Still, it’s a spicy contretemps, and one that looks destined to run and run. Mourinho, already, has his caricature indelibly etched on the public imagination: The curled lip, the trench coat, the Latin shrug and implausibly large tie knot. It is easy to cast him as the villain of the piece, with his shady, megalomaniac benefactor and brutal self-assurance.

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