Perhaps it’s the coiffed, hirsute cloud floating upon his brow, or the disturbing likeness between Deidre Rachid and his former dug out partner Pat Rice, but with each passing season, Arsene Wenger morphs ever closer to becoming football’s answer to Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow.
As “professor” of the Premier League, at times Arsene seems suffocated by an air of impotence like a supposed academic stumbling through a soap opera. With his colourful and proactive co-stars buzzing about the crescendo of the summer transfer window, the beige, boring man refuses to be drawn into such impulsive frivolities.
Barlow and Wenger: they’re the principled pacifists who would rather stand back from the storm and cling to their safe ideals as the action passes them by. Described in a 2007 guide Coronation Street, Barlow was described as “ultimately an intelligent man, frustrated by the cards life has dealt him – although the hair, clothes and strong morals haven’t helped.” Following the shattering departures of Viera, Fabregas, van Persie and the rest, we may well be reading such a commemoration of the Frenchman in future Arsenal annuals.
While the pair struggle to act within or without their ideologies, they’re both equally prone to the odd outburst of hilarious, raging delirium: cracking under pressure, cracking under questioning or cracking up as their immovable positions appear ever more ridiculous. From Wenger’s water bottle tantrum and press room conspiracies to Barlow’s infrequent but feebly impassioned polemics to the toe rags and airheads of Weatherfield.
Prodigal sons are also a feature of these two emasculated patriarchs, whether it’s Peter Barlow or Thierry Henry – their fond cameos reinforcing the oddly stubborn positions of their on-screen, on-field fathers as they trudge on through their high-minded, self-satisfied mediocrity.
A top four place is now a trophy and healthy balance sheets are the new unbeaten seasons. Ken Barlow’s fawned reign at the Emirates continues.
The question is, who can replace him at Arsenal? Just as on “the street”, from the philandering mechanics and inflated booze hounds, no one can do quite what Arsene does, regardless of how deflating and subdued his one-man quasi-intelligentsia may be.