By Tony Attwood
Here is the story published by the Telegraph on 3 August 10.30pm UK time. It was written by Jeremy Wilson Deputy Football Correspondent of that august newspaper.
Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey rushed back by Arsene Wenger in bid to make Arsenal’s opener v Liverpool
The story below reads…
“Arsene Wenger is preparing to unexpectedly take Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey on Arsenal’s pre-season trip to Scandinavia this weekend in an attempt to fast-track them back into his squad for the Premier League opener against Liverpool.
“Both players returned to training this weekend following their summer successes with Wales and Chile and, providing there is no late fatigue, they will travel tomorrow to Norway ahead of matches against Viking FK on Friday night and then Manchester City in Gothenburg on Sunday.
“It is a clear sign that Wenger wants both players for the Liverpool match, when Sanchez will also be an option to play as the main central striker in the likely absence of Olivier Giroud.”
Now leaving aside the appalling grammar (“to unexpectedly take” indeed – I learned not to write that when I was 11 years old. Mind you I went to school, so maybe that’s the difference), the tale has so much innuendo in it that it feels like it has been spread with a shovel.
The fear factor
At the heart of this story is the notion that the players are “rushed” back in a sort of panic. It is not a clear policy but a “bid” – a vague attempt to correct past failings.
But the reality is otherwise. Utterly otherwise, indeed, if I may be so bold as to invent a phrase. Ramsey last played on 1 July, and so with a one month break (which is what Mr Wenger likes players to have although Imperial Fifa order only three weeks), was due to return to training on 1 August. Rushed? No.
Alexis last played on 26 June. We know he got injured. On 30 June the Daily Mirror raised the notion that the injury was gruesome.
Within a few days the story had changed and the Mail wrote, “Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez has moved to allay fears over the ankle injury he suffered during extra-time in the Copa America final win over Argentina.
“The 27-year-old was substituted after 104 minutes of the match at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey – which Chile went on to win following a penalty shoot-out – in the wake of a heavy tackle by Gabriel Mercado.”
So again, somewhere around 39 days. Rushed?
Pondering and panic with management on the hoof
The Mail also says today, “Arsene Wenger is pondering starting Alexis Sanchez as a central striker during the opening weeks of the season as Arsenal’s search for a No 9 drags on.”
We can note here “pondering” – a nod to the repeated allegations of Arsenal dithering in the transfer market (“Why are Arsenal dithering in the transfer market yet again?” – Daily Telegraph headline 27 July.)
“Drags on” is important too as with “pondering” it suggests inactivity and hopelessness. An inability to make things happen.
Yes always there is a total, absolute, complete, entire, unmitigated lack of action. This is Arsenal. The team that in the last three seasons has won the FA Cup twice and come fourth, third and second in the league, which perhaps suggests a sort of progress.
Indeed the notion of “pondering” builds on the rumour that all the Arsenal transfer plans (if there were any which the media suggest we should doubt) have failed so in a last minute desperate move Mr Wenger not only rushes players back early (be ready for tales of Arsenal injuries and how it is all Wenger’s fault and how Arsenal get more injuries than anyone else – which we now know to be quite untrue) but also makes it all up as he goes along.
The Telegraph “dithering again” headline was picked up by the bloggettas, who then ran the word after the Telegraph put it on their Twatter feed. It then went everywhere from News Feeds USA to The AFC Muzzle, from Arsenal.footbollio to Theweek.co.uk – which commented that the “knives are out” for Mr Wenger.
The notion of course is that all historical evidence should be pushed to one side. I mean, now matters doesn’t it? (Actually if that is the case we could ignore the fact that the majority of those who voted – not the majority of registered voters – voted to leave the EU. Since the past is irrelevant, let’s forget that one.)
But no, of course history is important. It is what makes us, and our culture, and indeed our club. And so I am forced to bring up the unfortunate fact that on 28 August 2014, Mr Wenger said, speaking of Alexis, “He can play his whole life as centre forward.” ESPN picked up on the story and ran it then, getting on for two years before the Mail suddenly rushed out the headline
“Arsene Wenger: Alexis Sanchez can play as a centre forward forever …” was the headline. I’ve left the link there in case you want to check.
ESPN actually ran the story again in September 2015 (must have been a bit of a slow news day).
So there we are. Panic, dithering, “dragging on”. All there, for an issue that was resolved almost two years ago.
But hey, two years ago. That’s a long time when you’ve been down the pub every night making up stories to print the next day. You can’t blame journalists for not remembering when they are forced into such an existence.
However when you think about it, Alexis at centre forward makes a lot of sense with the huge range of midfield talent that could line up behind him and either side of him: Santi Cazorla, Ozil, Campbell, Walcott, Ramsey, Iwobi, Oxlade-Chamberlain. Indeed, especially the Ox in his current form.