Got under Arsene Wenger’s skin? Only time will tell

Whatever the motivation for Patrice Evra taunting Arsenal last week, it seems to have done the trick. As the big game between Manchester United and Arsenal drew nearer, there were no shots being fired. There was an uneasy battle for the centre ground, too much respect being shown for one another. Patrice Evra has annoyed Arsene Wenger. Was that the intention or did Evra truly mean what he said?

The comments that Patrice Evra made were highly provocative and only on Monday night will we know if they have done nothing but spur Arsenal onto victory. Patrice Evra has previous for winding up other players and managers, has Wenger made his first error by rising to them?

The Frenchman told Canal Plus, the TV station: “For me Arsenal is a football training centre. You watch the match, you enjoy it, but are you going to win a title afterwards? That’s what people remember. It has been five years since they won anything and for a big club like Arsenal that is a crisis.

Whether Patrice Evra’s intention was to disrespect Arsenal his comments have clearly hit a nerve. The game at Old Trafford will go a long way to decide where the title will end up this season, and Arsenal have a great opportunity. Failure to win at Old Trafford would dent their confidence no doubt – Evra is merely putting the pressure onto them.
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Arsenal fans and players do not like to be reminded that they haven’t won a title for five seasons. It is not a record that anyone likes, nor wants to be reminded of. However, if this Arsenal team does not win the league this season – will they have missed a glorious opportunity to put this record to bed. Is Partice Evra so wide of the mark when suggesting that if this Arsenal team does not win anything they will not be remembered.

Arsene Wenger has clearly been irritated by the comments and has publicly hit back at Evra.

“I don’t place any importance on what Evra said. He takes responsibility for what he says. I think that when you want to be a big player you have always got to respect your opponent and not say remarks that are below the belt and disrespectful and possibly based more on fear than self-confidence.”

They are harsh words, not only with regard to the team but also towards the club, which I will treat with a little disdain. In sport everyone must respect their opponent.”

Arsene Wenger should have stayed away from the comments, however his reply was dignified. The Arsenal manager will not need to use these comments as motivation – the players already know how important the game is. However, the comments made by Patrice Evra may make Arsenal doubt themselves. The only reason for this could come in the form of pressure. Can Arsenal handle the pressure – we will find out this evening.

Patrice Evra’s comments give the game another edge – the first flashpoint. Did Evra’s comments hit a nerve with Wenger? Personally, I feel they have, but that is not  necessarily a negative. Wenger is passionate about Arsenal and is willing to defend his club against doubters. Wenger is very similar to Sir Alex Ferguson – and it is good to see the new found respect between the two. Arsene Wenger mustn’t take his eye off the prize by trading insults with Patrice Evra – if he has lost focus, Manchester United will win. Tonight’s game at Old Trafford should be a classic. The gloves are off.

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