By Tony Attwood, with thanks to Nick the Gooner
Maybe it is to hide the embarrassment of their total cock-up in failing to cover John Henry’s revelations about how he lied concerning the Suarez transfer, or maybe they think there is good readership to be had by knocking Arsenal day upon day, but whatever the Telegraph continue to dig themselves into the deepest of holes with the drive to make themselves the house paper of the anti-Arsenal movement.
This latest scattergun approach started by denouncing Wilshere’s leading of the chant that anyone who attends an Arsenal match will hear. Their headline about Arsenal’s FA Cup victory being overshadowed by the affair was only exceeded by the subsequent, “Jack Wilshere’s foul-mouthed rant spoil north London celebrations after Arsenal retain the FA Cup.”
Now we have, “Two goals for midfielder shows Hodgson, not Wenger, has discovered the ideal place to play the Arsenal man” as if every match is the same, as if the England squad is equal to Arsenal’s.
In a more recent post Mr Liew considered teams who have played in at least three of the last five Premier League seasons, including the current season and compared their number of fouls, yellow cards, red cards and penalties. From this he concluded Arsenal don’t commit too many fouls, but when they do, it’s generally a pretty big deal, “which fits the impression of Arsenal as the sort of team who defend with one hand covering their eyes”.
As I noted at the time this of course only works if referees treat each team the same. But there is no supporting evidence to show this is the case, but a lot of evidence to suggest this is not the case. By refusing to recognise the assumption he has made without evidence (and of course the writer won’t admit it because to do so would invalidate this entire thesis), he tries to pretend that the growing number of people challenging the situation among PGMO refs are just wild ravers without any stats, while he is the man in the know. It is of course, the reverse.
Now, he’s been back – Jonathan Liew that is – with this
Diaby is the player who best sums up the last nine years at Arsenal, which is a strange thing to say because he was there for so little of it.
The Diaby years have also been the Bendtner years and the Almunia years and the Andre Santos years, but no player has quite expressed the beauty and the curse of late-Wenger Arsenal like he did: a man trapped in the bubble of his own unfulfilled talent, a hostage of his own misfortune, and yet the very embodiment of a heartbreaking and fundamentally human optimism.
Just as Wenger would always meet the camera with an inscrutable smile and insist that next year would be Arsenal’s year, next year would always be Diaby’s year. Next year. Just you wait….
Wenger’s love for Diaby was unconditional: based on little more than a hunch and a fading memory and a fervent belief that this guy would eventually come good, against all evidence to the contrary. Wenger believed in Diaby because he believed in Diaby. And that was that.
Call it blind faith or stubbornness if you want, but I find it pretty endearing. Even now, after his release, Arsenal have allowed Diaby to continue training there while he searches for a new club. There is even hazy talk of a new deal in the pipeline.
[Just a word in here from me – the “hazy talk” is the talk of journalists like this Liew character – the club and the player have said nothing.]
If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us would quite like our club to treat people the way Arsenal have treated Diaby. In an age of advanced player analytics and forensic scouting networks, there was an essential humanity to Wenger’s relationship with Diaby that is increasingly rare these days.
So if Arsenal really have decided to finally cut the cord, it says a good deal more about where they might be heading than signing Mesut Özil or Alexis Sanchez or finally playing a counter-attacking style against Manchester City or anything else. It symbolises a realisation that a club cannot be run on faith alone; not even a faith as unshakeable as Wenger’s. It marks an embrace of cold reality.
It’s a strange piece, because it acknowledges the horrific injury that started this saga, but forgets to acknowledge the way the player’s manager defended, defended and defended the perpetrator and what that (far more than anything Mr Wenger has said or done) says about the state of English football and the way it is reported.
Kevin Ball then manager of Sunderland said, as I reported the other day, “Smith is not a malicious, dirty player and I think it’s unfair to make that call on him and say he deliberately went to do it.” To Sunderland’s eternal discredit Ball is now senior professional development coach at Sunderland.
The phrase “not that kind of player” then entered the language to represent all that was wrong with the management of certain English clubs.
Dan Smith only played three games for Sunderland. It was a mark of his ability and reliability that his longest spell with any club at all was 11 games with Gateshead. It seems that each club discovered that just like Shawcross he was indeed exactly that kind of player.
As Nick the Gooner pointed out to me, “Our club’s treatment of Diaby is to be rewarded not put down as an Emblem of under achievement. Our loyalty to our players is what creates the bond that is now turning us back to winning ways.”
The Liew report, typical of all the man writes, omits key facts. For example it fails to say that in 2008/9 Diaby did play 36 times for Arsenal. The following season it was 40 times. And even 2010/11 when the injuries returned he managed 20 games.
And then what? Were we supposed to break his contract and say “sorry mate you can’t work any more?” That is the world Mr Liew seems to want. A world spoken of by Lloyd George in his election addresses in 1910, when he spoke to going with miners, now crippled with the diseases they picked up from inhaling coal dust, and asking the mine owners for a penny so the man could buy a loaf for their family.
“And you know what they did, as we stood there?” asked Lloyd George as he recounted his experiences as he campaigned in the general election.
“They set the dogs on us”.
The Telegraph’s world vision has always been a trifle to the right of Attila the Hun, but this seems to be getting ridiculous. But then this is the newspaper that recently sacked its own chief political commentator for writing about the evil lurking with HSBC.
The paper’s dislike of Arsenal is odd, as it seems to incorporate a desire to pander to the anti-Arsenal movement as if it were a majority. They also have developed an ability to ignore the repeated nature of what is going on with Arsenal. As Nick put it…
“If it was not for a string of assaults on our players we would have had more success
- Particularly the year Eduardo was brutally hacked down with what turned out to be a career ending tackle (lets face it he never reached the height he was capable of, he could of become a Suarez/Sanchez)
- And the similar assaults on Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott, Ramsey – all at least nurtured back to full health
“We treated Rosicky in the same way – taking time to pull him back from an unexplained hip problem – his contribution to the team over the last two season justifying our approach entirely.”
But the story reminds me of something else for this is not the first time the anti-Arsenal mob has been active and has gained the support of the media.
I’ve now posted an article covering how the anti-Arsenal mob worked in the 1950s. Different technology, same methodology.
Anniversary of the day
15 June 1925: Arsenal announced that the club had bought the Highbury stadium, and some additional land around it, and that the lease of the site had ended. Sir Henry Norris’ huge gamble in taking the ground on a full-repairing lease had paid off.