By Tony Attwood
Quite what Mr Wenger meant with his comment about the fact that if he had not been going to Rome on transfer deadline day we wouldn’t have signed Welbeck, is a matter for conjecture. It is certainly something that seems to be causing a bit of debate with different people quoting different bits of Mr Wenger’s statement, each of them seeming to suggest that we need them to help us decide what to think.
What it all seems to come down to, if you look at exactly what he said, is that Arsenal would not have signed Welbeck if Mr Wenger had not been going to Rome, because the going to Rome meant that Mr Wenger got up early, and was able to make a call to an unspecified person or receive a call, in the early hours. A call that made the transfer happen.
But we can also see in the transcript, even without seeing Mr Wenger’s famous smile, that he is having a bit of fun with the journalists lapping it all up. He certainly isn’t saying “had I been here I would have stopped the deal”.
The papers are naturally all over the place with the story, which is pretty much how they increasingly are, when it comes to football. The old certainties it seems, are drifting away.
And it’s getting worse (or better, depending on your perspective).
For example, the press has had a long term love affair with Jose Mourinho, possibly because he speaks better English than Sir Alex Ferguson, possibly because he says stuff other people don’t say. So they’ve ignored the fact that his teams can often be sent out to get a 0-0 draw, with no consideration of the paying public or damage that his approach does to the image of football. If the man can talk, the football don’t matter.
But when Jorge Valdano who was general manager of Real Mad when Mourinho was coach, publishes a book in which he says Mourinho is “perfectly suited to these bombastic, shallow times,” its a bit of a shock for the old scribblers down the pub.
Valdano portrays Mourinho as ego personified – which from the outside looks wholly believable He compares the Chelsea chatterer negatively to Pep Guardiola saying “If Guardiola is Mozart, that makes Mourinho, Salieri. He would have been a great musician if Mozart had never existed. (Salieri was an 18th/19th century operatic composer who half way through his life gave up composition to become a teacher).
“I’ve never heard him say a single thing about football worth remembering, whether in public or in private. He had one of the best squads in the history of Real Madrid. He always remained just outside the door of the Champions League. That was the big challenge which he did not manage to succeed at.”
OK, there is an awareness that international football is out there, other than via its ability to remove our players, mostly through playing them when unnecessary but that’s the sort of awareness that we have of vampires. Never seen one, but there might be one out there.
After all Wales under 18s should have been able to beat Andorra. Watching Barnet beat Dover last night I can say Barnet could have beaten Andorra. And they didn’t need Ramsey.
And yes the jokes are fun (van Gaal put in a bid of £32m for Welbeck after seeing him score for England, becoming momentarily confused as to where Welbeck had come from).
But all the while the media has pretended that international football is actually of interest. This is supported by the fact that TV companies pay little bits of money to show the games. (At least I think they do – maybe the FA pays ITV to show the match to try and drum up interest).
Yet I think we all knew it was really up for England when a union flag was displayed at one match some years ago with the name of a team across the central red section with, as often is seen, the name of a club written therein.
Except it was a club that no one recognised. Barnestoneworth United. It sounded like a non-league team, but was it?
Turns out of course it wasn’t. It was the name of the team invented for the penultimate episode of Ripping Yarns (the TV series by Michael Palin and Terry Jones (of Monty Python). A non-existent club. The worst football team of 1935. Displayed on a banner at an England match.
Somehow it seemed hugely appropriate.
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