x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Wenger's just tilting at windmills

Arsene Wenger's reality is one where Arsenal lose only when they are cheated and enemies are everywhere.

Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal,   saw a different match than what the Gunners played on Tuesday against Barcelona. Pierre-Phillippe Marcou / AFP
Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal, saw a different match than what the Gunners played on Tuesday against Barcelona. Pierre-Phillippe Marcou / AFP

The issue of so-called "simulation" in football broke new ground this week, when a referee showed an imaginary yellow card.

Peter Walton was about to book the Birmingham City player Jordon Mutch for a foul on Everton's Louis Saha when he realised he had forgotten to pocket his cards.

To resolve this embarrassing situation he resorted to mime, raising his left hand as if holding a yellow card.

It was obviously a yellow because neither his chest nor buttocks were sufficiently thrust out, peacock-like, for it to have been a red.

We have grown conditioned to players simulating injury or foul play, and even waving their own invisible cards to encourage the booking of opponents, but this must be the first time a referee has joined the fun.

For such a ground-breaking act, Walton would normally be a shoo-in for my coveted Simulator of the Week prize.

This week, however, he faced stiff competition from Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, who has managed to simulate — inside his own head, at least — an entire parallel universe.

While the rest of the world watched Arsenal being outplayed by a mesmeric Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, Wenger saw an evenly matched battle that hinged on a single poor refereeing decision.

Never mind that Arsenal had mustered a grand total of zero shots on goal in the 55 minutes before Robin van Persie was sent off, admittedly harshly.

Never mind that the Barcelona players could have turned the heat up further, if required.

Inside wibbly-wobbly Wenger World, the injured Van Persie would surely have spent the final 35 minutes of the game mercilessly torturing the Barcelona defence had he not been dismissed for two minor offences.

(Simulation fans will have noted, I am sure, that the Swiss referee, Massimo Busacca, used real cards, rather than mime, for both cautions and the resultant red card. They are a very conservative people, the Swiss.)

Who knows, maybe Wenger is so deranged that he thought Nicklas Bendtner might score.

He did put three past the mighty Leyton Orient, so why not humble Barcelona?

Continuing his foray into fantasy land, Wenger then accused Uefa of being "a dictatorship". Presumably, that would make him a renegade freedom fighter for standing up to them - like a member of the French Resistance in occupied Paris, perhaps - rather than what he looks like to the rest of us, which is a sore loser.

To my untrained eye, Wenger appears to be suffering a latter-season managerial meltdown of Kevin Keegan-esque proportions.

It is hard to believe that, just two weeks ago, people were talking seriously about an Arsenal quadruple of League Cup, FA Cup and Premier and Champions Leagues.

Now the Gunners have just two pieces of silverware left in play: the FA Cup and Premier League.

To land either, they must beat Manchester United, starting today in the FA Cup and then over the remaining 10 Premier league games.

While their manager continues to inhabit a parallel universe in which reality is rejected for conspiracy theories and sob stories, I predict they will do neither.

Who knows what Wenger will see at Old Trafford today, but the rest of us will surely see Arsenal outfought by a team with a firmer grip on reality.

Never mind, Arsene.

You can always ask Peter Walton to show you how to lift an imaginary trophy.

Tyson can’t hear Peta’s objections and protests over the cooing of his pigeons

I do not know Mike Tyson’s views on vegetarianism but am happy to guess that a boxer who snacks on one opponent’s ear and threatens to eat the children of another would take a dim view of herbivores.

That did not stop a bunch of them descending on his Las Vegas home this week to protest over Iron Mike’s love of pigeons.

Not eating it, you understand, as pigeons’ ears are far too small for even a light snack, but racing them. The protesters, from

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), were furious that Tyson had made a TV show about his love of pigeon fancying, which they believe to be cruel. They demanded that the show be taken off the air.

The show will not be pulled, of course, and Tyson will not give up the hobby he has enjoyed since he was a child in Brooklyn, when he tended other people’s pigeons and allegedly got into his first fight while protecting a bird.

Instead, the Peta protest has simply given the show a publicity boost, and ironically, this may be a good thing for animals in general.

Tyson remains a role model for tough kids from tough neighbourhoods. To see their hero showering living creatures with great love and tenderness will send a powerful message about respecting animals. As for Tyson himself, he is a man with many self-destructive traits. If the soothing coo of a pigeon takes him to his happy place, let’s not stand in his way.

Such quiet logic will not sway the single-minded animal rights mob, high on its own self-righteousness.

Still, at least Tyson has the perfect response when they inevitably scream: “Do you have any idea what it is like to be kept in a cage and only released with a tag on your ankle?”

To which he can reasonably answer: “Well, yes, actually.”