While watching the Arsenal v Fulham match yesterday the camera focused on Arsene Wenger from time to time as he sat on the bench. And the pictures were uncomfortable to watch.
First off Wenger looked seriously fatigued as if stress had decided to etch itself all over his face. I had seldom seen Wenger look this beaten during a match and it was something unmissable to note.
Second he seemed to occupy the same scrunched, hunched and tense sitting position throughout the match. If Sam Allardyce is right about 65% of communication being through body language it would have been best for the young Arsenal midfield and attack to not look over at the Arsenal bench at all during the game.
Perhaps Arsene Wenger was staying braced because he had the physical science stats at hand and knew that his side were spent physically. I definitely felt bad for the likes of Denilson, Diaby, Clichy, van Persie, Arshavin who towards the end of the second half had 'hit the wall' in terms of energy and simply could not physically chase down Fulham players in possession. Some fans couldn't believe it - moaning like these players weren't committed. For me this was not the issue - rather their bodies simply couldn't respond towards the end of the match because they had already put so much energy into the Roma match.
So back to Arsene Wenger. As I saw him looking in such a terrible and negative state on the touchline I thought of a couple of things.
First, I can't remember Alex Ferguson ever looking this stressed DURING a match as he sat on his throne at Old Trafford. Ferguson always sends out a confident and expectant aura- which his players seem to feed off. For me Wenger should have taken a leaf out of that book yesterday even if it would have been a deception of his real angst.
Second, Wenger more than ever looks extremely desperate for his superstar five attacking footballers to return to his team. Walcott, Adebayor, Eduardo, Rosicky and Cesc are massive players that Wenger has been without for a long time now (apart from Adebayor) and his patience for their return looks now to be at breaking point.
I thought it was a telling insight on Arsene's personal perspective on things when he called Eduardo's hamstring strain after a triumphant FA Cup return against Cardiff 'a nightmare'. Some may have thought he was referring to Eduardo's mental state on receiving the injury - but he is sensitive about man-management not to have described it in this way if this was the case. No, it was clear that Wenger was saying it was 'a nightmare' for him.
For me, the use of this strong description was out of character and revealing about his disappointment at having waited so long for Eduardo's return only to find that again the talisman Croatian will not be available for selection. It betrayed the ordeal he has probably been feeling this season as someone who has so much belief in his policies but has seen many things turn against him.
This has been a monumentally tough season for Arsene Wenger. He looks in a terrible state and needs his big injured players back as soon as possible to try to revive his lagging shadow team; and in turn ease his extreme personal pressure which is evidently taking its toll.