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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Alan Hansen's column

By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (left) argues with Tottenham coach Martin Jol
I feel Wenger should apologise to Jol for labelling him a liar
The battle for places in the Champions League and the FA Cup Final - coupled with the increasingly puzzling search for England's new manager - provided the perfect backdrop to a weekend of high-drama.

It started with a very public spat between Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Spurs counterpart Martin Jol, had the filling of Liverpool and West Ham reaching Cardiff, and was rounded off by the emergence of Luiz Felipe Scolari as favourite to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Let's start at Highbury and the controversy over Robbie Keane's goal in the 1-1 draw at Arsenal that saw Spurs edge closer to sealing fourth place.

Arsenal clearly felt Spurs should have put the ball out with two of Wenger's players down injured.

I have to beg to differ, and I feel Wenger should apologise to Jol for labelling him a liar over his insistence he never saw the incident.

The pictures are conclusive. Jol did not see it. He was looking at Edgar Davids all the time and Wenger has got it wrong.

I now feel an apology is in order from Wenger. People will understand the stakes were high, and things are said in the heat of the moment that are sometimes over the top.

I speak from experience. When my Liverpool team-mate Jim Beglin broke his leg in a challenge with Gary Stevens in a League Cup tie at Everton, I was asked what I thought of the tackle.

My response was: "Apart from being a mile high and an hour late it was fine."

I was speaking right after a game when I'd seen a mate badly injured by what I thought was a bad tackle. It was heat of the moment stuff on my part and it was later sorted out.

The issue of putting the ball out of play when someone is down injured is a thorny one - I believe Spurs were completely within their rights to play on at Highbury.

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard (right) celebrates beating Chelsea while John Terry looks dejected
For around two years Steven Gerrard carried Liverpool - it was as close as I have seen to a one-man team

The injuries were not bad, referee Steve Bennett had checked, and was happy for play to continue.

I must stress I am not talking about Saturday's situation, which was a genuine collision between two players, but there is a growing fear that this recent piece of sportsmanship is open to abuse.

If there is a clash of heads or a very obvious injury, play should not go on, but there may be cases where if a player goes down and the opposition are attacking, they are not going to get up in a hurry and may hope play is stopped.

You can bracket it with diving. They are seeking to gain an unfair advantage.

Arsenal were not doing this on Saturday - but Jol still deserves an apology from Wenger.

Next up was the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Chelsea.

And while I am not the one to argue with a manager who has won the Champions League and will soon win back-to-back titles with Chelsea, Jose Mourinho got his tactics badly wrong in their 2-1 defeat.

I was astounded by the team he played and their formation. And this is not said with hindsight, I said it before the game.

Once Liverpool saw a team-sheet devoid of Joe Cole, Damien Duff and Arjen Robben, they would have been given a lift.

And the sight of Michael Essien at the point of a diamond, where he clearly is not suited to playing, would have cheered them further.

Essien didn't seem to have a clue where he was going, while Duff, Cole and Robben - who have all troubled Liverpool in the past - were left kicking their heels until it was too late.

The pairing of Geremi and Paolo Ferreira on the right-hand side of the diamond was also a disaster and Chelsea paid for it.

Liverpool survived a late siege, but won deservedly. Rafael Benitez got his tactics spot-on and they will now be favourites for the final against West Ham.

Benitez has closed the gap on Chelsea this season, which will have been his aim, but he will also be aware that Liverpool will not be back where they want to be until a title is secured.

Liverpool received the added boost of captain Steven Gerrard being named PFA player of the year, and deservedly so.

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari
Where did Luiz Felipe Scolari come from?

Some may make a case for Thierry Henry, but Gerrard has been unbelievable for Liverpool this season.

It is also a reward for consistency, because for around two years he carried Liverpool. It was as close as I have seen to a one-man team.

Liverpool will face West Ham in the final, and the Hammers may feel destiny is on their side.

What a story this is for Alan Pardew. The West Ham fans gave him some fierce criticism early in his reign and he handled himself with great dignity.

Said to be one game away from the sack last season. Said to be facing the sack if he didn't get in the play-offs. Said to be facing the sack if he didn't win the play-offs.

He's come through it all and has now taken them to Cardiff - I wonder will his critics say he should be sacked if West Ham don't beat Liverpool?

Pardew has done a great job and is a credit to his club.

The last piece of drama is the suggestion that Brazil World Cup winner Scolari will be England's next coach.

Where did he come from in all of this?

I must question the method of appointing Eriksson's successor.

FA chief executive Brian Barwick should have been given the brief, with perhaps Sir Trevor Brooking as an advisor.

It should have been their job, and their job alone, to sort this out.

Instead we have people reporting back to committees - you cannot appoint a man for a job like this by committee.

It has never worked and never will do.

You end up with compromise candidates, which is what Steve McClaren was portrayed as in the media and what Scolari is now.

I believe Barwick - with the help of someone like Brooking - should have been allowed to go out and get out who he thought was the best man.

For my money, that was always Martin O'Neill, but who knows if there will yet be a final twist in this tale.


SEE ALSO
Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham
22 Apr 06 |  Premiership
Jol hits back at furious Wenger
22 Apr 06 |  Premiership
Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
22 Apr 06 |  FA Cup
Gerrard named player of the year
23 Apr 06 |  Football
Middlesbrough 0-1 West Ham
23 Apr 06 |  FA Cup
Who will get Sven's job?
24 Apr 06 |  Internationals
Pearce questions move for Scolari
24 Apr 06 |  Internationals


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