By Tony Attwood
When Arsène Wenger arrived on his first day at work at Highbury, he found, somewhat to his surprise, that there was a large gathering of journalists on the steps of the Marble Halls. Enquiring within why they were there, he was told that no, this was not how press conferences were held in England, but rather than they were after a story.
That story was a set of evil accusations without a scrap of evidence anywhere – accusations which later Man U saw fit to allow to be sold as part of a Man U collection of supporters’ songs.
Both events – the gathering of the journalists, and the selling of a CD of songs and chants with such appalling slanders on them – marked a low point in football from which it has never recovered.
On the day the board at Arsenal begged Mr Wenger not to go outside and confront the journalists but he did, and got the better of them. In fact he ran rings round them. “What do you think about the rumours Arsène?” they shouted, and he simply said, “What rumours?”
A brilliantly simple ploy. If any of them had repeated the rumours Mr Wenger could have sued for slander. Only if he said anything could the journalists be free to print with impunity.
Ever since the press has hated Wenger and vowed retribution. In the face of their endless taunts, falsehoods and downright lies the media with their allies in the aaa have continued the assault.
Mr Wenger, before he started dealing with the press
Today we are in a situation in which, if you take the last two years, there have been six domestic trophies available (2 x FA Cup, League Cup and League). Chelsea have won two, Man C have won two, Arsenal have won two.
But still, despite achieving that without the billions poured into Chelsea and Man C, and while building a totally new style of stadium, widely considered the best stadium in the country, the derision and insults continue. His victory over the journalists in 1997 never forgotten, the grudge eternally there.
Throughout Mr Wenger has continued to be polite and calm, gently inviting the pathetic mob to grow up and enter the adult world.
It has been an impressive performance, and I must admit many is the time I have wished he would just tell the journalists to grow up and behave like adults. But he hasn’t and he is the one who has to face the pack of the semi-skimmed each week, so I am sure he knows best.
Or at least, he hasn’t until today. Today he gave the horde a little taste of what he thought. He was mild, gentle even, and to the point. He spoke courteously and calmly, and what do the little children do?
Here’s the Telegraph headline
Wenger threatens to walk out of press conference
Arsenal manager loses his cool
No guys, what he did was he told you what you should know, that you were being boring.
And even the Guardian, which usually makes some sort of semblance of being within the educated part of humanity lets rip with
Arsène Wenger has launched a furious attack
No, he called the journalists “boring” and the pundits “depressing”, and who can disagree with him. That is exactly what they are. That is not a furious attack. My A level English teacher would have eaten the press pack for breakfast, (although he did once write in my report “what this boy does to the English language should be a criminal offence” so maybe I’m not much better).
But worse, what these extraordinarily silly people do is attempt to create a footballing agenda which by-passes many of the key indicators of what is going on, instead feeding us with lines about how what happened in the last game is all there is to know. One minute of one game.
David Ospina scored an own goal. He is not the first goalkeeper to do so, nor will he be the last. But suddenly this goal is a
calamitous own goal
Mr Wenger has spoken about how Cech had a medical alert at Leicester, and how he wanted to rest him. Also we know that Ospina was magnificent last season after he replace Fabianski. Indeed Walter will have more to say on this in the next article.
So, a bit of gentle chiding is more than a reasonable response, and the press turn this into
he reacted furiously
And then, at last, we heard what we have been waiting to hear all these years. In calm and measured terms Mr Wenger said,
“I think you lack a bit creativity in the press, you all follow a bandwagon that is very, very, very, very boring. I don’t go along with that. If you have any interesting question about Sunday’s game I will answer, but you cannot keep coming back to the same story. Come to the game on Sunday and you will see who’s in the goal.
“I think you have not watched well the game on Tuesday night. To come always with the same story. I have two world-class goalkeepers. It’s the easiest choice I have to make, to pick one of those two. A goalkeeper can make a mistake and you have to accept that. If you watched really the game and you come to the conclusion we lost because of Ospina I question your knowledge in football.”
But of course the press won’t take that lying down (apart from having a brief sojourn on the way home from the pub). The Guardian hilariously calls this “a spiky moment” and speaks of “an awkward press briefing”.
No, for the first time it was Mr Wenger telling the journalists that through all these years he has been the grown up and they have been the little children. But like a kindly adult he was patiently answered their stupid questions and lazy assertions, until today he decided he didn’t want to.
At which point the Guardian decides that
Wenger threatened to storm out
What he actually said was, “Stop that story or we stop the press conference,” which apparently in Guardian-ese means “I will storm out”.
He really was on form, adding, “One pundit says something on television and all behind that repeat the same thing. It’s quite boring because nobody came with numbers [to show] why the game was won or lost. It’s quite depressing to see that. They all come to the same conclusion – we lost because we didn’t play well. Yes, the goalkeeper made a mistake but we could still have won the game despite that.”
Well, yes. 100%. Complete, done, a clear answer.
Except of course the press – even the Guardian – won’t leave it at that. Arsenal have Theo Walcott, the man who has scored 12 goals in 13 starts – an incredible record and one that Henry would have been proud of. And what does the Guardian come out with today?
Walcott is 26. He cannot be a great hope forever, living in a limbo of possibility, forever on the verge of breaking through without ever quite doing it.
It is getting to the point where gibberish isn’t actually a strong enough word to describe what is going on.
And this is after two seasons in which he started a total of 13 league games something the Guardian mentions in its article and then in true journalistic fashion, fails to link to the key point. Which is that despite a total wrecking of his career for two years, he is now scoring in game after game after game.
So when the article says 0f Theo, “Little wonder his career feels as though it has never quite got going”, we might actually read that as “Little wonder journalists are held in lower regard in the UK than bankers! In fact just on 10% less than bankers.
I wonder, do they ever ask themselves why? Why are we less popular than the evil bastards who destroyed the economy, and threw hundreds of thousands of honest straightforward hardworking people out of work and onto the scrap heap? Maybe the way they behave in situations like this one might be an insight.
But back to Theo. “He still gets caught offside too often.”
The Guardian clearly never actually saw Henry play. Game after game he did the same thing – standing on and just below the defensive line, getting caught off side. Until the right ball comes through, and hey, he is on-side and runs through. It is a clever ploy – not that secret – although secret from the press rooms it seems.
The choice for the media is always there. Come and join the grown up.
If you dare.