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Arsène Wenger has not left the building

There’s a story that has cropped up a few times recently, and it goes like this…

Arsène Wenger is on holiday or in the Far East or both, when he should be concluding deals in Europe. If he can’t take the club seriously he should be sacked.

As has already been said here by others, Arsène Wenger has club duties in the Far East because of the club’s partnership with clubs in Vietnam and elsewhere. He is working for the club.

But there is a further misunderstanding. The notion that he should be home buying players is just not right: as Mr Wenger has often said, he watches matches all the time on his satellites, and he invented World Wide Scouting, and as a result has scouts watching players in each and every country. They send him the videos. He just goes to watch the players who have come through every hoop first. In one interview one scout (Grimandi I think) said it takes 3 years for a player to come through the Arsenal world-wide scouting system.

The notion that somehow the Lord Wenger has to be at his desk identifying players now is just wrong. For some power-crazed managers (who for the sake of argument we’ll call Appy “out on bail” Arry) that is how it is, but Arsenal watch players for years and years before deciding on a move – a move based on how they have developed, the perceived needs of the club, the young players we have coming through, the availability and price of the players in question, and the sort of money they might ask for in salary.

Behind this is a secondary notion: that just because a newspaper says something it is true.

So the Daily Turnip says Sagna is off, and some supporters (the footballing equivalent of Opus Dei) beat themselves up over it. Well, each to his own, I say, but don’t spread your misery over me, sunshine.

If you are worried that Robin VP is about to go to Manchester, then should also read all the stuff the same journos write about other clubs and who they are losing. The journalists do the rounds of the bigger clubs and simply slide the lists of players and clubs up and down. I know I always quote it, but it is worth it just to remind ourselves of what the papers are like. Last summer’s Mirror headline: Ade to Milan, Crouch to Arsenal.

What seems to happen is that some people latch on to each story of an Arsenal player going and believe it. It is rather as if you tune into BBC 7 at 6am and hear the story of a talking steam engine who is in danger of crashing because the red engine has switched the points, and take this to be a truthful depiction of life at Euston.

What you can do instead is watch the journos work through the squad – Almunia is off to Spain, Arshavin to tax exile, Theo to Chelsea because he is so annoyed that Wenger tried to stop him playing for the U21 (I just made that up), Berbatov to Arsenal for £50m (ditto)…

The fact is that yes, sometimes players go, but if they do Wenger rarely gets it wrong. The Opus Dei gang won’t admit it, but those who knocked Wenger over the loss of Flamini ignore the fact that he reverted back to his 2006-7 style upon arrival at Milan, and only got into the team regularly when others were injured. Hleb has had an even worse time playing about 4 games as far as I recall.

Worse, as we have seen, the papers will now either repeat old stories a few weeks later as if they are new (Arshavin’s tax story emerged twice in the Mail, just a few weeks apart) or they re-write stories, or they write out stories that they have run, and now don’t want to be seen (see my earlier comments on the Times).

Because the paper says Sagna is off, it does not mean that Lord Wenger has to come scurrying back from Thailand to calm him down. First because the paper is making it up, second because Sagna is on holiday in Barbados, and third because a manager who did that would fall into the trap laid by the journalists and the agents.

“Wenger rushes back from Far East to deal with full-back crisis.”

(The Sun)

“Arsenal in chaos as manager flies back to front”
(The Mirror)

Wenger his private jet to quell in-fighting (The Excess)

Sagna’s wife in love nest triple by-pass blitz rumpus bed orgy drinks event big brother extravaganza revelation shock romp (The Star)

Rule 2: When in hole stop digging. Rule 1: Don’t get in the hole.

This is not said because I am the great wizzard who knows it all – a number of people in the know contribute to the discussions, some have written articles for us, and some contribute privately to articles. In this regard, for example, the article on Real Madrid a couple of days ago was enormously helped by the selfless work of Ronny Lamb, an Arsenal supporter living in Spain. People are kind, they send in information.

So it is not that I am in every newspaper watering hole listening to gossip, but I can say, having had some journalistic experience, that’s how it goes.

Of course occasionally a snip of commentary may be based on truth, but who knows? In yesterday’s Guardian there is the story that Ashley Young of Aston Hold Your Head Villa is “concerned at the club’s direction in the wake of Martin Laursen’s retirement and Gareth Barry’s decision to join Manchester City, and unless ­Martin O’Neill can recruit two high-profile replacements Villa face a battle to keep hold of the player the manager described as a “genius” last year.”

Did Yong say that? Or did his agent, trying to get a better contract? Or was it made up in a bar? Either way for Villa fans it is worrying. Ever since that crazy decision to pull out of the UEFA cup by sending the reserves to Russia to allow the first team to “focus on coming fourth in the league”, there have been problems at Villa.

But still, maybe a Birmingham City supporter made it up. Maybe all our transfer “news” is made up by Tiny Totts. Maybe they are Tiny Tott members of Opus Dei (no that doesn’t work, forget that).

In the end you look at your manager, weigh up the pros and cons and put them in alphabetical order. Running with the made up story is like playing into the opposition’s hands while your gloves are wet.

I think it was Galileo who started the movement towards rationality and away from the vision that we could never understand the universe but just had to pray to the Almighty for mercy. If that’s a fair analysis of the history of Western thought, then we’ve had quite a few years of rationality, so surely it is time some of it slipped over into football.

But, in case you are still anxious to get out the tawse and start the blood flowing here’s some stuff to get into…

Almunia – I would like to play in my own country some time
Sagna – it is a great honour to be linked with Real Mad
Clichy – I am not going anywhere (translate as polite speak for I am looking at going to Barca)
Toure – it would be good to play alongside my brother
Nasri – I need to play in my best position more and so of course when a club comes along and offers me that I look at it
Gallas
– you always know when it is time to move, and this is it for me.
Van Persie – I love this club, but it is time to win some medals
Walcott – although I have just signed a new contract, I must admit that this offer is tempting
Ramsey – clearly I am not getting games and I need games to develop
Cesc – everyone dreams of Spain
Adebayor – What country is Milan in?
Arshavin – I would love to play for Guernsey FC as their tax regieme is more conducive. I don’t understand why I am stuck out on the left wing. I want to design clothes.
Bendtner – my trousers have gone to Germany and I am going to follow them

“What club would you like to play for Brian?” says journo.

“You mean if I were not at Arsenal?”

“Yes Brian that sort of thing. If you were not at Arsenal where would you like to be…”

“In a brothel.”

“Apart from that Brian. If you were not at Arsenal what football club would you like to play for?”

“If I was not at Arsenal you mean?”

“Yes Brian”

“Well I suppose everyone dreams of playing for Real Madrid one day…”

So it goes.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009.

19 comments to Arsène Wenger has not left the building

  • Marc

    Just one thing to add about the morons slagging off Wenger for not being at home Tony. Doesn’t he actually deserve a holiday at some point during the year?

  • WC

    After this particular season I think Wenger should take a time out. However, I don’t see that happening – he man just loves his football too much. It’s all academic to him and he’s The Professor so watching hours of DVDs of a game from some far reaches of the footballing abyss in order to identify some unknown is just too much his cup of tea.

    I hope to hear some announcements following a couple more players and I think we can take the title.

  • haho

    Love the story, but can someone enlighten me, who or what published the complaining story about Wenger buggering of to the Far East? What idiot did that?

  • Haho (what a great name!)

    One of the anti-Wenger bloggers wrote to our site with that comment, and someone else picked up on it, and then the Sagna story came in. What made me remember it was my taxi driver in London mentioned it at the end of last week – so I guessed it was a story doing the rounds.

    Just one of those phrases that starts me thinking….

    Tony

  • haho

    Thanks… the name just sort of… happened.

    I love this site (always have) because A) you support Lord Wenger in everything he does, you are critical but in an appreciating way (note the spelling of appreciating, I am Dutch so it will be wrong), B) you love showing the ignorant bastards who do not know what Wenger has meant to us how wrong they are (Myles Palmer comes to mind) and C) you factual information is so detailled, that recently, Dutch site voetbalzone (www.voetbalzone.nl), of whom I am a star poster, used this site’s article on Liverpool’s funds in their analysis of the crisis facing them, on my advise. This is a neutral site, so I must admit as an Arsenal fan and a lover of this particular blog it made much sense. Being Dutch I can also tell you all I rate Vermaelen, so do all intelligent Ajax fans, who loath losing their captain and only dependable, hard working and passionate defender. He will go far.

    Keep up the good work, and undoubtedly you will here more from me.

  • TheSKAGooner

    Sage advice, Tony. And another sublime article. Well done.

    On a side note, haho is a class poster. I’ve seen some of his stuff on other blogs, and it’s always good.

  • walter

    Have you ever wrote an article wich wasn’t intresting Tony ? 😉
    Love your site more and more everyday.
    In Belgium, the general football fans, are all excited (note the spelling of excited, I speek Dutch so it will be wrong 😉 ) about Vermaelen coming to Arsenal. Most fans feel this is the biggest transfer for many years from a Belgian player. Felaini, Kompany moved to the PL but to “smaller” team, but Arsenal is considered as one of the best teams in the world.
    We’re alle happy (except some MU and Spurs fans ) and hope he delivers the goods.

  • haho

    Thanks for taking the piss, Walter, seriously… I actually lived in England (Woking, Surrey, so it was posh) for a few years but the spelling of a few words, such as appreciated, will be wrong… Note you yourself spelled speak as speek, so either you are hilarious or hypocritical.

    SKAGooner, thanks. You’re reactions on Setanta’s Transfer Blog keep me coming back despite the lack of news…

  • shotta-gunna

    Tony – Along the lines of hacks who make up stuff is the Sky-owned website Football365.com whose editorial policy it seems is to publish stories that generate clicks. Earlier this week I came across one of the most hilarious headlines titled: “RVP Link Shows Arsenal At Crossroads.” above a blog by one of its regular contributors. RVP was supposedly ManU bound, a story which even the ManU press department had to refute later in the week. Yet a bunch of familiar on-line gooners can be seen posting away on this website, usually giving credibility to stories designed to undermine and destabilize their own club. Unbelievable but true.

  • don't believe the hype

    Great post as usual Tony. I think Arsene was actually in the far east in relation to his role as an ambassador with the Castrol index. I’m sure Arsene has already identified his targets for the team and it’s Gazidis’ job to land them. Also, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Arsene can still make the personal touches like ‘phoning Vermaelen on his mobile or flying Ramsay and his family out to Switzerland. There is really no need for him to be tied to his desk at Emirates at all times.

  • Geezer1287

    I always come to this site in the knowledge that the words are of a true arsenal fan, keep it up, i always seem to be arguing and contesting on other so called arsenal sites, that digest whatever mainstream tabloid media has to offer, which purely has interest in selling papers, nothing to do with insight into actual transfers, or club dealings, just speculation, controversy, and dickheads like harry/jamie redknapp with columns and air time! Top Top Top source of information as Redknapp Jr would say!

  • steww

    Great stuff Tony. Particularly enjoyed the Rev. W. V. Awdry reference. One thing that occurred as I was reading (well, one of many, but you know what I mean) concerning the bizarre behaviour of some managers. We of course are spoiled having the real deal but people like MON at Villa are desperate to be seen as great managers. You mention the UEFA cup fiasco. I wonder how much he was desperately trying to ‘do a Cloughie’ – he also took the Villa players to the seaside during the run in, a Clough tactic.
    The difference is Clough was, like Wenger, an original thinker and a great manager. Tango-man at Hull tried it with his half time embarrassment of his players. You don’t become a great manager by doing things others don’t understand. You need to know why you do them and have the courage to follow your convictions, it has to part of the plan.
    All those who squealed about AA missing the Chelsea game forget us knocking ManU out of the FA cup with Thierry on the bench. It wasn’t a one off random act – the man has a plan.

  • Pete the First

    I think we have to take note of some of the ‘smoke’ out there. Of course very little of it will ever come to anything, but there are truths that will filter through. I fully expect Adebayor to be wearing Milan’s colours next season, and I guess that a deal was struck last summer like the Ronaldo to Madrid deal. I can see some smoke!

  • steww

    PtF – Maybe if Ade had only signed a for a year last time around but I doubt it given the long contract (of course none of us know and I see you only state it as an expectation not a fact).
    I hope to God we don’t lose a proven Prem and Champs League goal scorer who has now served his apprenticeship and understands how we work. Let’s not forget his goal ratio is no worse than say Torres and many would like him in their team. He terrifies defences and knows where the goal is, any perceived ‘attitude’ problems are just received wisdom and based on what people read into his body language – a thoroughly inexact science.

  • Pete the First

    Hey Steww. Beg to differ on Ade. In my opinion his mind’s been elsewhere for a while.

    I agree with you that he is a talent, but his efforts have been lacking for me. He should have been building on his 30 goals from the season before, but went backwards. All most fans expect is for someone to give their all for the cause, and I don’t think he has this past season.

    With statistics you can make any conclusion. I know that when I watched him at The Grove this past season he wasn’t in the class of a Torres, or even Drogba who regularly destroys our paper defence.

    If you think back to when we got him, he had form for being a pain in the rear. I think he went on strike with Monaco. Must be time to cash in our chips. Another Wenger profit (£15M) to spend on a forward, maybe Huntelaar?

  • Just warning people who dislike Ade. He’s very likely to still be an Arsenal player next season.

  • steww

    @PtF
    As you say we will agree to disagree. Statistical facts are cold hard and impossible to refute. He didn’t go backwards, he simple didn’t play as many games thanks to injury. The stats simply cannot be used to hide or manipulate anything – unlike opinions which are based on how we perceive things and therefore entirely subjective.
    For instance I love Denilson. Really rate him. Therefore I will notice and cheer every brilliant interception, pass, piece of ball retention, assist and shot whilst simultaneously overlooking and forgiving or just outright ignoring every error. Another person will do the opposite. We watch the same player in the same match and utterly disagree on his performance. How then to separate us? The stats don’t lie.

  • jbh

    I agree the stats don’t lie. For Denilson and other DM’s its straight forward (successful tackles, interceptions, contests won, composure on the ball (pass %), fouls won) this is the basic job description and all are measured in black and white. That a 20 yr old (recently turned 21) can lead the league in these categories against other top 4 teams and against all CL opponents is very impressive.

    For forwards I believe the stats don’t lie as well. Ade scored with 18% of his attempts on goal this year which is down from the 23% he achieved last year, but better than the 14% he did in 06/07. Last year Torres and Ronaldo led with 25% conversion of chances. Anything over 20% is excellent. Rvp 13% (08/09), 15% and 21% for the last 3 years. Not great but shows that both RvP and Ade are not that dissimilar in results (shooting accuracy – converting chances).
    Their totals for the last 3 yrs in the PL.
    Ade Goals 42, chances 217 = 19%
    RvP Goals 29, chances 185 = 16%
    Bendtner Goals 14, chances 81 = 17% (not too bad for his first 2 yrs)
    Eduardo Goals 4, chances 17 = 23.5% (great, but only half a season)

    Too many only see the missed chances, missed passes, etc. Its better to look over the long term to decide who is really contributing.

  • shotta-gunna

    Well, well, well. Liverpool’s day of reckoning has been postponed, it seems. According to the Guardian, 6/21/09, “George Gillett, Liverpool’s co-owner, has moved to consolidate his position at Anfield and remove some of the financial uncertainty surrounding the club after he agreed to sell his majority share in the NHL team Montreal Canadiens back to the Molson brewing family as part of a deal worth an estimated £330m.” And Hicks is about to sell his interests in the baseball’s Texas Rangers and the NHL’s Dallas Stars, both American sports franchises. Remember though he owes the Bank’s a lot of money there, having missed a a $10 Million interest payment recently.
    With major moves like this, it is evident that RBS/Wachovia have them by the cojones and want them to contribute some serious money to guarantee any refinancing deal on the table. But Liverpool problems go much deeper than merely refinancing the loan to reduce their debt payments; without a bigger stadium, they are generating insufficient revenues to fund their interest expenses. Poor old Benitez will have to forget his usual extravagant outlays on ordinary players during this transfer season. So much so the usual tabloid football sites are beginning to spread rumors about the loss of Torres and Mascherano. Doubt it though as they cannot afford to drop out of the champions league.
    As things stand Hicks and Gillet have only kicked the can down the road; their only hope is to sell-up. But those with money know the price will only get lower so long as as they are willing to wait. Interesting days ahead.