UM BACK ON THE CASE: AS THE PLOT SICKENS
What now seems a hundred years ago, just after our (recent) Udinese victory, our own Wojciech Szezsny told the Guardian:
“The only people who questioned the team and the manager were the media. Inside the team, we don’t do that at all.”
After Arsene’s unexpected and unwanted Italian reprieve, this subversive attitude would naturally have to be destroyed. And lo, our Old Trafford fiasco would give the media assassins the opportunity to regroup and move in for the kill. But the reward is in learning up close how they go about their work, and to bear witness to how one member of the pack, the Guardian stenographer David Hytner, has signed on as go-to key-striker in the season’s blood sport ̶ French fox and media hounds.
Hytner began his most recent service to Operation Wenger Out on Sunday 28 August, in an article that simply gushes over Samir Nasri’s maiden voyage at ManCity. He frames his account as if the entire match symbolized Sami’s “escape” from Prison Arsenal and Arsene Warden:
“So, Samir Nasri, do you think you might have done the right thing in joining Manchester City? As debuts went, this was about as perfect as it could have got, right down to the detail of this dramatic statement of intent coming in north London, where the Frenchman is now disliked on both sides of the divide…While Nasri managed to force through his protracted £24m transfer and his football consequently basked in a sense of liberation…”
Hytner quickly returns to the Arsenal beat-down on 29 August, in an article titled “Arsène Wenger is safe, say Arsenal amid fears over manager’s health.” Witness this first stunt of a keyboard assassin at his post, as Hytner plays the “health” card to target Arsene Wenger.
With neither a supporting quote nor a source to cite, Hytner asserts that:
“There continues to be concern at the club for the Frenchman’s health, given the levels of stress that he is under, while he also faces the question about whether he has anything more to give.”
But is there any such actual concern? Who said so? Hytner’s article gives no indication of where he obtained this potentially career-ending information. (Indeed, could any charge be more serious?) Nonetheless, Hytner also makes use of this “health” analogy in the photo caption “Arsène Wenger and his assistant Pat Rice are under increasing pressure to rectify Arsenal’s ills.”
If this were not serious enough, Hytner ups the ante by painting Arsene into the ultimate corner where the club’s transfer activity is concerned, contending that, due to the funds obtained from selling Cesc and Nasri, Arsene now has something of a terminal “Midas touch” (my phrase) which has become suicidal to the club’s transfer prospects:
“Gazidis has made it clear that Wenger had a ‘substantial’ transfer budget and that was before they raised £59m through the sales of Fábregas and Nasri. But the knowledge that Wenger has so many millions at his disposal has brought its own problems, with rival clubs demanding inflated fees.”
In sum, it’s a Catch 22, and there’s no way out. Hytner returns to this “trap” theme in a second article, titled “Arsène Wenger safe from sack but only urgent action can save Arsenal:”
“Consequently, with millions in their pockets, Arsenal now find themselves held to ransom. It is unclear whether the money they made by holding out over Fábregas and Nasri has been worth it.”
In the next sentence, Hytner turns master-psychologist, and targets the Arsene Wenger locker room. Hytner first invokes a supposed football must:
“It is generally accepted in professional football that straight after a six-goal defeat the dressing room becomes a kangaroo court and the inquest can feature flying fists and people pinned against walls.”
In the Wenger dressing room, however, something has gone way “off track”, as Hytner contends:
“Arsenal’s 8-2 humiliation at Manchester United on Sunday was followed by no such ructions. Arsène Wenger, the manager, said nothing and neither did his players.”
First of all, was Hytner in the locker room? Does he have a mole? His article provides no basis for how he obtained this purported information. Nonetheless, finding no evidence of the requisite water-boarding (Arsenal’s missing English spine?), Hytner then concludes that Arsene has lost not only the plot, but something far, far worse — the team itself:
“There were special circumstances to the defeat, [Arsene] believed, chief among them the selection issues that had denied him 10 players. One or two of the squad shared a laugh and a joke.
The picture was of a leader who had been ground into the floor and no longer had the answers and of players – numbed and bewildered by the 90 minutes and, more broadly, the events since the end of last season – who had lost faith or no longer cared.”
While Hytner correctly notes what Arsene stated at the post-match press conference about “special circumstances,” this counted for nothing to Hytner when he weighs it against his allegation that “One or two of the squad shared a laugh and a joke.” These sinners are not named. But once again, this begs the question of whether Hytner was actually present inside the Arsenal locker room to observe the sin of levity? Then again, if someone dared laugh, would that have breached some obligatory post-defeat level of male anger – flying fists and all that? (A code of traditional and proper behavior that Hytner appears to be policing?)
The answers to how Hytner obtained this information are still not forthcoming. Again, does Hytner have a mole inside the Arsenal dressing room? Indeed, with no attributions, we again are meant to take his account on faith in a “fair and balanced” (the Fox News logo) reporter’s say-so. Whatever went on – or didn’t go on – Hytner, in his “picture…of a leader who had been ground into the floor…,” is determined to portray Arsene as something less than an empty shell. Does Hytner have a source for this description, or is he making up “the picture” – THE PICTURE – from whole cloth?
Hytner next goes on to portray Wenger as Arsenal’s dictator:
“It is a curiosity that Wenger does not furnish the chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, with his list of targets and allow him to get on with it. Wenger’s control over all areas at the club is total.”
Once again, how does Hytner know this? Does he provide a source? No. He simply cuts to the chase, moving towards his pre-ordained conclusion; there is no future for AFC:
“Some of the club’s leading players have begun the final two years on their contracts, including Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott. In the current climate there is no chance of them re-signing.”
Is this fact-based reporting, or is it something more akin to prophecy? Or perhaps, a self-fulfilling prophecy that Hytner is bent on achieving?
Before concluding the article, Hytner also takes some extra (“Fergie”) time to target Arsenal’s coaching staff:
“Wenger’s capacity to inspire his players is under scrutiny as never before. He continues to take training but the slimness of his veteran coaching staff, in the shape of Pat Rice and Boro Primorac, begs the question about where the innovation can come from.”
Once more, the above statement is not supported by any interviews or analysis, but merely followed by Hytner’s final shovel full of dirt:
“Gloom and a certain helplessness have stalked Arsenal in recent months. It feels terminal.”
And since even “terminal” is not enough, Hytner concludes by throwing down the final gauntlet: “Wenger’s challenge,” he insists, “is to prove that his powers are not spent and he can conjure fresh direction.”
I have a reply for David Hytner. I’d originally posted it online at the Guardian in response to a piece by Richard Williams, but I believe that it is equally appropriate to Hytner. Posted on 29 August, 2011 at 5:35, I wrote:
“Richard Williams, you missed your chance to knife Julius Caesar and never got over it. Arsene Wenger has been your designated target and your verbal dexterity only serves to reveal your personal bile and animus toward this man. You are salivating at the prospect of the kill. And from the protection of your keyboard and bully pulpit, you have stuck it in. It’s a remarkable display of viciousness run amok. You couldn’t hold a candle to this man. If he makes it through your media takedown campaign, I will personally lobby that you be forever excluded from any interview with any Arsenal player and condemned, for eternity, to sniff your hero Fergie’s breath. Words fail to express the revulsion your words engender in any fair-minded fan of the EPL. Your work is that of a vulture, and if you succeed at destroying this man, you will have sown the seeds for what your own career shall reap. A shameless display worthy of Mulcaire and Co. How Guardian can be so spot on with real injustice [the phone hacking scandal] and keep you on to perpetrate it in the realm of football is a contradiction [that] I have only [just] begun to fathom.”
Whether you, as a reader of Untold Media, share the opinions that I’ve expressed above is surely a matter for your own discretion. However, the fact remains that something akin to a sea change seems to have happened to David Hytner since his days of fair-to-favorable coverage of Arsenal’s China Trip, long ago at the start of the pre-season. Stay tuned, readers. The plot sickens.