But today they have changed.
“There have been many charges levelled against Arsene [note – no accent] Wenger over the past few years – most of them by Piers Morgan – but yesterday’s 3-0 win against Olympiakos vindicated many of the Frenchman’s decisions,” they pronounce.
“He may be on the extreme end but Morgan is far from the only one who has laid into Wenger. Over the course of the year, he has been described in national newspapers as ‘naive’, ‘incompetent’ and ‘out of touch’.”
And of course by “national newspapers” they mean to include themselves, not least for setting up a complete array of the wild, semi-skimmed, half-baked deranged rantings without any long term evidence of what in the ancien régime we used to call Fleet Street’s Finest. Oh yes and they have done “Wenger’s most humiliating defeats” always set up on the basis that Sir Alex Fword never had any humiliating defeats, forgetting perhaps that the Telegraph ran Manchester United’s top 10 most humiliating Premier … well you get the gist.
In short, they are utterly totally obsessed by failure. They love it, they glory in it, they thrive on it, they worship it. What they utterly, totally, completely can’t stand is success.
And thus today they don’t say, “The Telegraph would like to apologise” – that would of course be took much, but Charlie has been forced to write…
“So, today, on behalf of your critics, we’d like to offer an apology Mr Wenger,” and this is followed by
Charlie can’t be 100% positive, that would cause brain damage among too many readers, so Charlie still has to tell us, “There are still problems at Arsenal, there are still flaws to be addressed, but breaking down the main criticisms of Wenger, the manager is looking less and less guilty.”
Next they draw up a charge sheet…
Charge 1: He is tactically inflexible
The charge aimed at Wenger was that he was incapable of setting his team out to do anything other than dominate the ball and attack, which made the team easy pickings for anyone with a bit of counter-attacking nous.
The start of 2015, though, saw a tactical shift. In January Arsenal went to Manchester City, and with Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla sitting in front of the defence, Arsenal won 2-0 despite having just 35% of the ball.
(You might recall Untold mentioning something of the kind in the build up to the game in Greece). (And after the game itself).
Against Manchester United in October, Arsenal adopted another strategy and hounded the United players high up the pitch with a high-intensity press that stunned their opponents in a 3-0 victory at the Emirates.
And as for this week…
Last night against Olympiakos, Arsenal delivered a perfect away performance. They did not go bombing forward too soon – in fact it was Olympiakos who made the initial running – and instead soaked up the pressure and took their chances on the counter.
If it had been Jose Mourinho or Jurgen Klopp in the Arsenal dug-out, the pundits would have been positively purring.
Well yes that last bit is true. So their conclusion, “Verdict: Not guilty” is rather unnecessary.
Charge 2: His squad is too thin
And then it all falls apart saying, The failure to sign a holding midfielder in the summer is still indefensible, but overall the accusation that Arsenal’s squad is too thin is dated and inaccurate.
This is ludicrous. Coquelin at the time of his injury was rated about the 3rd best DM in Europe. What top DM would sign for Arsenal knowing that he was going to be behind Coquelin in the order of things and only get a game if Francis got injured? Hindsight shows us Francis did get that injury, but it was not guaranteed.
There aren’t many teams with a seventh-choice right winger at the standard of Joel Campbell. There aren’t many teams who could absorb injuries to seven first-team players and win 3-0 away against a team who had won six of its previous seven Champions League home matches.
Of course that is insulting to Joel in the extreme, but it’s what you would expect. This article is shaping up rather like a naughty school boy being ordered to say sorry by the headteacher. He is going to have to do it, but you know it means nothing and he will take revenge later.
There certainly aren’t many Premier League teams with a second-choice back four better than Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers, Gabriel and Kieran Gibbs.
Their “Verdict” is Overall not guilty, but lack of defensive midfield cover gaping hole which would only be true if we didn’t have a DM playing in the last couple of games. Besides the proposition ignores the fact that only 25% of high profile high value signings actually come good in their first season. (There’s an Untold article proving this). And the fact that the amount you spend on transfers doesn’t relate to league position (see our regular appendage to the league table).
There is no telling that a £30m DM would actually have got us. Imagine we had signed Schweinsteiger as a DM and he had played this season as he plays for Man U. Would we be better off than having Flamini? What derision would have been handed to Mr Wenger?
Charge 3: He must sign better striker than Giroud
On top of yesterday’s hat-trick, Giroud has scored this year against Bayern Munich (in two matches), Manchester City and Liverpool.
That said, Giroud has still never scored more than 22 goals in a season for Arsenal, and if someone of Karim Benzema’s standard were available, there’s no reason why Wenger couldn’t make it work with both players in the squad.
Verdict: Jury still out
Now this is raging nonsense, because Arsenal has in the line up Alexis and Theo as well, with all three of them able to take the exquisite passes of Ozil. It is the old failing of focussing on just one player, not the team. You need a player who will allow the others to play to their strengths while he plays to his. Very, very few of them around.
Charge 4: He contributes to Arsenal’s injuries
Though Wenger can’t be blamed entirely for Arsenal’s injury problems, he can be criticised for his handling of certain players.
Alexis Sanchez [ooops no accent] has been played into the ground, and the decision not to take him off against Dinamo Zagreb was baffling. Arsenal were 3-0 up after 69 minutes and yet the exhausted Sanchez was still not taken off.
More short sightedness sadly and the apology is looking rather thin at this point. The issue relating to modern football is that you take note of the psychology of the player as much as his physique. But since the Telegraph considers psychology to be mumbo-jumbo not suitable for English people, but only for lilly-livered foreign types, it doesn’t come into their footballing vocab.
Verdict: Guilty (or put another way, bullshit).
Charge 5: He can’t beat the big teams
Arsenal have beaten Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs in 2015, while the FA Cup final demolition of Aston Villa was in marked contrast to the angst-ridden success against Hull the previous season.
Last month’s 5-1 thrashing at Bayern and the 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in September show Arsenal are not immune from big-game humblings, but then again neither is any team.
Verdict: Not guilty
So there we are. An apology, of sorts. More arrant nonsense than apology, but bits of apology. But still, football is a complicated art form, and it would be a bit much to expect the ex-colonels to get it, so best to keep it simplistic.
Untold’s verdict on the article: suitable for wrapping up your fish and chips.
Anniversaries – the full list of anniversaries can be found here
- 11 December 1960: John Lukic born. He played first for Leeds as a schoolboy and then started with the first team in 1979 before transferring to Arsenal in £75,000 as a replacement for Pat Jennings.
- 11 December 1963: Nigel Winterburn born. He was with Birmingham City and Oxford Utd until joining Wimbledon in 1983, from whom he was signed by George Graham for Arsenal as part of the most famous defensive unit in Football League history.
Latest from the History Soc
- Arsenal in the 70s part 9: July to Dec 1972. The time of indiscipline and invasions.