Hump Day Dumpster Dive: When should we start blaming Arsene Wenger for European failure?

As regular readers of this column know by now, everything in soccer is awful. This week is no exception. We’ve got a lot to get to today, readers, and we have little time to waste on contrived introductory paragraphs that mostly serve as padding for the word count. Into the dumpster we go.

Arsene Wenger ComplainingShaun Botterill/Getty Images

Arsène Wenger has no one to blame but himself

Yesterday, two of the four best teams on the planet faced off in a thrilling match that possessed enough quality to be worthy of final. And in the other Champions League game, Arsenal hosted Barcelona. Arsenal battled gamely for the first two-thirds of the match, but were ultimately outclassed by Barcelona’s irresistible attack. The Gunners were probably lucky to escape with only two goals conceded. After the match, Arsène Wenger called his team “naive” and blamed a lack of discipline for the defeat. Are Arsenal’s players naive? Without a doubt. But none are as naive as their manager.

Olivier Giroud pointed to a missed header as the turning point in the game, and Per Mertesacker blamed the loss on missed chances. They may be right, but it is Wenger who chose to enter yet another season with Giroud as his lead striker. Giroud is a perfectly capable player, but not one that is going to lead the line for a team with ambitions of conquering Europe.

The team’s collective weakness was further exposed in the second goal, as Mathieu Flamini hacked down Lionel Messi in the box to concede a penalty. But it was Wenger who chose to send Flamini on at a crucial point in the game in the first place. The fact that Arsenal entered the season having to depend on Flamini and Mikel Arteta — two completely and unquestionably finished players — to rotate in defensive midfield, is clear evidence of a manager who is either stubborn, deluded, or both.

Wenger is right to question the mentality of his team after a late capitulation like that, but he should also remember who was responsible for assembling the team.

BRADFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  Footballer Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court to give evidence on February 23, 2016 in Bradford, England. The former Sunderland FC midfielder, 28, from Castle Eden, County Durham, has admitted one charge of sexual activity with a child and one charge of child grooming, but denies two further counts of sexual activity with a child. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Relegate Sunderland all the way down to the bowels of hell

Alleged child rapist and confessed sexual predator Adam Johnson has been in the news all week, as his sex crimes trial continues. Today, we learned that Sunderland knew that he had kissed and groomed an underage girl as far back as last May. The excerpts from Johnson’s text message conversations with the child make for grim reading and leave little doubt about his intentions. The fact that the club not only reinstated him after a brief suspension following his arrest, but also continued to employ him after being shown the text messages and a copy of the police statements, is a damning indictment.

After Johnson pleaded guilty last week, Sunderland did its best pearl-clutching act and quickly released him, feigning surprise at his admission. We should have already been cynical about Sunderland’s sudden moral outrage (and we were), but today’s evidence exposes that pitiful charade for what it is. Sunderland Football Club knowingly employed a sexual predator, and continued to employ him until his guilty plea made that position untenable. It would probably be wrong to assume that the welfare of a child means nothing at the Stadium of Light, but we at least know for sure that it’s worth less than a handful of assists and a couple of goals.

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi waves to supporters flanked by his daughter Barbara, outside the Milanese soccer club's headquarters, in Milan, Italy, Friday, July 3, 2015. Berlusconi has demanded new coach Sinisa Mihajlovic lead the club back into the Champions League. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)Luca Bruno/AP

Mario Balotelli is the target of lazy racism (again)

AC Milan president and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is a man with varied interests and impeccable multi-tasking skills. Somehow, in between his rampant corruption, underage prostitution scandals, frequent sexism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, islamophobia, homophobia, and occasional fascist sympathizing, he still finds time for good old fashioned casual racism.

This week, mega-douche Berlusconi was at it again. Berlusconi was discussing his wish for an all-Italian Milan team, and said of Balotelli that he “is also Italian even if he has taken too much sun.” Yes, the same Mario Balotelli who has suffered more racist abuse than any player in recent memory, sometimes even at the hand of his own fans. That same Balotelli had to listen to his employer describe his nationality as being legitimate despite the color of his skin. Berlusconi was clearly trying to be funny, but — because he is a vile, bigoted waste of flesh — instead just reinforced the same ugly stereotypes that a man in his position should be fighting against.

Salih Dursun: First ballot Banter Hall of Famer

Modern day soccer is all about branding. “The [insert team name here] Way” is a line that is peddled by teams everywhere, and fans eat it up. Most big clubs exploit their own history and traditions for profit. Trabzonspor, the current regional champion of batshit crazy referee interactions, is no different. Clearly threatened by Bayer Leverkusen’s attempt to snatch the crown by having its manager refuse to leave to the dugout (resulting in the match being suspended), Trabzonspor was forced into action.

Enter Salih Dursun. Several Trabzonspor’s players surrounded the referee during last weekend’s match against Galatasaray when Dursun’s teammate Luis Cavanda was sent off (Trabzonspor’s third red card of the game). During the sending-off sequence, the referee dropped his red card, which Dursun immediately picked up and brandished in the official’s face. Dursun was promptly sent off, for obvious reasons.

A player angrily trying to turn the tables on a referee is so hilariously out of place in a top flight match, but make no mistake, Dursun is a hero for making it happen. Trabzonspor was already down to eight men anyway, so one more dismissal wasn’t going to get them back into it. If you’re going to hurt your own team through sheer stupidity, you should always do it in the funniest way possible. Thank you, Salih, for your dedication to the bantz.

Also, it appears that there already may be Dursun tribute shirts making the rounds.

The world happens fast these days.

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