By Walter Broeckx
Oh how easy it is sitting the studio. Comfortable while looking at some big screens. Where you can look back at things. And use all kinds of nice graphic tricks to show what a complete fool or brilliant mind (depending on the situation) a player has been. Or even nicer…to show what a fool a manager has been because he couldn’t stop a player from scoring against his team.
They sit there and put circles around players. Connect those circles with lines. Follow runs with dotted lines. All the tricks in the media books of real and upper class football punditism. Does this word exist? If not, I will claim it now.
In the past we had the “Alan Shearer Project”. Wasn’t there a band the Alan Parsons project once? They sure were more successful than the managerial career of Alan Shearer. The pundit who managed to take Newcasle to the championship in his short spell near the touchline.
A few months ago it was a bit of a bang. Former Manchester United leg kicker and now TV pundit Gary Neville became manager of Valencia. That was on December 2, 2015. Now we would see the real genius of this former player as a manager.
Despite Neville saying a few good things about Wenger he also has been critical calling him naïve. Now I must confess I didn’t know what else he said for the rest as I am one of those happy people who don’t watch all those talk shows about football where people highlight the stupidity of the managers out there.
But let us have a look at how ex-pundit Neville is doing in reality at Valencia.
Valencia played 9 matches so far under Neville in the Spanish league. And the record shows… 0 (that is zero yes) wins. 6 draws and 3 defeats.
Now I still remember his first match against Barcelona. A 1-1 draw. I do remember this because after that draw the media as usual focussing on the latest result only, almost declared Neville as the best thing since sliced bread. Genius Neville getting a point against Barcelona.
Okay, getting a point against Barcelona is not bad of course. But that was in his first match and you sometimes get a short boost in the team with players fighting for their place under the new manager.
But since then….. zilch results. A win percentage of 0% (zero again). Of the 27 total points he could have won in his period as their manager (together with his brother by the way as assistant manager) he won 6 points. Valencia since his appointment is slipping down the league table. Currently sitting in 12th place. Some 5 points above the relegation zone. Will we witness another Alan Shearer show at Valencia?
Now I must admit that he did manage to qualify for the Spanish Copa del Rey as it is called over there. Beating Granada who is one of their fellow strugglers in the lower regions of La Liga with two high scores. And then even beating Las Palmas another struggle in La Liga. But credit has to be given for reaching the next round where they will play Barcelona in the semi-final in the coming weeks.
But his record in the league can be called ridiculously bad. And that for a pundit. Again. Just as Shearer found; leaving the comfort zone of the TV studio, it suddenly isn’t that easy any more.
But when those pundits talk their rubbish a part of the audience believes every word they say. And use it to blame Wenger when things don’t go as planned.
A few dotted lines on the TV screen, a few circles around players is enough to make a fool of the manager sitting on the bench. How on earth did he let that happen? Implying of course that if they would have been the manager it wouldn’t have happened at all. Intelligent people of course know that they are just talking with the benefit of hindsight.
And that benefit is based on the rule that whoever won the match will be praised to high heaven even if they have been rubbish and could only win a match with one shot on goal that took seven deflections before passing the goal line and having been saved 17 times with shots hitting crossbar and goal posts. No, the winner takes it all is the norm in punditry. The loser is there to be ridiculed.
But once such a pundit takes the real field and has to show what he can do as a manager… it seldom leads to success. That is one of the reasons I dread Thierry Henry becoming our manager in the future. It’s all well and fine to be a hindsight manager but that is not what a manager is about at all.
And in the meanwhile Arsène Wenger is just doing his job. And has proven that not one of those pundit experts is even fit to tie his laces. Yet it is Wenger who gets the abuse and unwarranted criticism from the pundits. An abuse that is quickly repeated by those who claim to be Arsenal fans but not supporters.
Being a manager is not an easy job. I wouldn’t even start doing it for the money they give Wenger to be honest. Ok, I might think about it when offered. But seriously to have done what Wenger has done in his career at Arsenal… Having to fight all kinds of enemies. Some in the open on the field and some not so open on the field where you had to look carefully to see the enemies. Fighting against the money teams with no resources.
Wenger really is the greatest of the all. And no pundit has ever proven that they are even worth to say one negative word about Wenger. First do better than Wenger has done in the same circumstances and then come back to tell Wenger what to do. But when you would use that as a criteria the nobody would fill that criteria.
Neville, the next pundit who fails as a manager? It sure looks like that.
- Valencia lose Spanish Cup semi-final first leg 7-0. “One of the worst results in our history,” Suso García Pitarch, Valencia’s Sporting Director.
Two anniversaries (more details on the home page)
4 February 1911: Swindon 1 Arsenal 0; FA Cup 2nd round. Crowd 14,861. Swindon were Southern League champions and had such played Man U in the Charity Shield, and had also played in an early European Cup competition.
The Untold Books
The latest Untold book is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with an introduction by Bob Wilson, available both as a paperback and as a Kindle book from Amazon. Details of this and our other titles can be found Arsenal Books on this site.