Arsene objects to Manchester City’s public pursuit of Samir Nasri
This article titled “Arsène Wenger: Manchester City’s Roberto Mancini is ‘out of order'” was written by David Hytner at the Meihu Sports Centre, Yiwu, for The Observer on Saturday 16th July 2011 16.39 UTC
There was a storm before Arsenal brought the curtain down on their Asia tour, featuring thunder, lightning and torrential rain, yet it was nothing like the one afterwards, when Arsène Wenger raged at a familiar slight.
The manager has digressed regularly from the real business here, which has been to promote the club’s brand to the captive audience in Malaysia and China, to insist that the captain Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri are staying put in north London. Fàbregas, who has not been in Asia because of injury, is dancing once more with Barcelona, while both of the Manchester clubs want Nasri, who is into the final 12 months of his contract.
Wenger began the tour by declaring his determination to keep Nasri this summer was so absolute that he would be prepared to lose him on a Bosman free transfer next year, and he ended it with a stinging rebuke to his Manchester City counterpart Roberto Mancini, who has said that he still hopes to sign the midfielder by the end of the month.
“This comment is out of order,” Wenger said, before addressing the issue of its disrespect. “I cannot say otherwise. These comments are not allowed. They are against the basic rules of football and he should be informed [of that].
“I don’t know what should be done. I don’t spend my time worrying about what other people say because we are focused on our game. But what we want is respect and we don’t make these comments about players who are under contract at other clubs. It’s time football in England came back to these basic rules.”
Nasri was the focal point at the outset even if, in between the explosive weather and post-match quotations, the match was something of a damp squib. He was again handed an advanced midfield role in the middle of Wenger’s 4-1-4-1 formation, strengthening the impression that, if Fàbregas were to leave, Nasri might be asked to step into his boots.
The story of the first half was the pace and incision of Hangzhou Greentown, the Chinese Super League team, together with some dreadfully sloppy Arsenal defending. Thank goodness it is only pre-season. Sébastien Squillaci got another dishonourable mention.
Greentown had the first chance with just 90 seconds on the clock, Wang Song breaking clear only to be denied by Vito Mannone’s legs, and Paulo Pezzolano hit the post shortly before the opening goal after being given too much time to line up a curling shot. A minute later they scored through Sebastián Vázquez’s close-range finish, and there were soon sightings of Wenger’s outstretched arms on the bench. Carlos Vela’s bundled equaliser on 45 minutes, after Andrey Arshavin and Robin Van Persie had combined, had scarcely been signposted.
It felt strange to see Arsenal turn out in a neat-and-tidy athletics stadium, given the clamour from the fans in China to see them. The capacity was 45,000 and it was significantly under half full, although virtually everybody was supporting Wenger’s team. For Arsenal, though, the live broadcast rights to the game across China were everything. Rather more watched from their armchairs.
Arsenal’s marketing department has been excited at how the tour has helped to make the club more visible in China and increase their reach. One of many remarkable statistics was the one million users who logged in to a web chat with Vela and Aaron Ramsey, whose nickname in these parts is Mr Handsome.
There is no doubt that Arsenal have felt the love from the locals. They have choreographed their tour to perfection, making capital from even the little touches. The players’ names on the back of their shirts here were in Mandarin.
Wenger made 11 half-time changes, the arrivals including Ramsey and Theo Walcott, and his new-look line-up dominated the second period. Yet they spurned a stream of chances to win, with Walcott the chief culprit.
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