Arsene Wenger has hit back at Gary Neville following the former Manchester United full-back’s ruthless criticism of Arsenal’s performance against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final.
Arsenal once again crumbled like a muffin in the rain against a big team as Man City went three goals up after 65 minutes despite hardly even breaking out of first gear.
But the true highlight of the afternoon – the thing that really rammed this unmitigated disaster home – was Neville’s fury at the performance, his sheer disbelief at the sight of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey walking.
And Wenger, when asked about Neville’s comments, argued that players from both sides could be seen walking throughout the game.
“You could find that on both teams,” he said.
“You can always get out pictures from a game where you justify what you are thinking.
“Why? Has he made runs in behind before? Did he not track because he didn’t want to track? We have to live with that criticism and respond together.”
I implore you to watch that piece of Neville commentary if you haven’t already. It is genuinely cathartic. And there is something strangely comical at the camera panning over to that poor kid, crying his eyes out as his dreams of a nice day out of Wembley shatter in front of him, before Neville simply goes: “That is what you cause!”
It was a moment where I personally thought that, for all the laughs brought by a grown man hitting out at another grown man for making a boy cry through being outplayed by another team, perhaps we all just need to calm down as human beings, to just take a step back. All of us.
But he is right, of course. That young boy was just one of many Arsenal fans breaking down in disbelief at yet another one of these performances. And that, really, was what Neville was getting at: the fact that even the players knew this grim tale all too well.
You could see it in the body language everywhere. You could see it in the thousands of Gooners heading for the exits with 25 minutes left. You could see it on social media. You could even see it on Wenger’s sullen face. You could smell that familiar scent of an Arsenal collapse and all that comes with it lingering in the air, like cinnamon at Christmas.
And, thankfully, the show will continue to go on for at least a couple of months.