This comment was published on Untold this morning. I reprint it here in full…
I feel compelled to post on untold.
Why is that it’s never Wenger’s fault.
You blame the referee, goal line technology, the pitch, windy conditions etc but you never ascribe any blame to Wenger.
Starting the season with 6 defenders.
Not buying a quality defending e midfielder and relying on the likes of Flamini.
Loading up average players on a £185,000,000 wage bill, third in the league.
Buying a £43,000,000 world class player and playing him continuously out of position.
Yes! It’s never Wenger’s fault.
Notice I tried really hard not to name-call.
Untold is living up to its reputation
The comment, like most comments which are not abusive or unrelated to the matters we discuss, was published.
But I thought I might answer at some length – just to get this subject dealt with once and for all, so we can then move back to talking about football.
So here are ten reasons. They are not in any sort of order, and they are not of equal merit.
1. The clue is in the name
I called this blog Untold when I started it, because I felt there were stories relating to Arsenal and football that no one else published, and campaigns that needed to be heard. I never knew Untold would grow to the size it has, nor that it would last this long, but as its name tells you, it is here to put forward a point of view that is not heard elsewhere.
One of these approaches is a pro-Wenger approach – and indeed this is why I always find the arguments of those whose comments we don’t print rather odd. Let me give a parallel. In England we have a raft of rabid anti-EU newspapers – papers like the Daily Express and Daily Mail. That is the stand they take. We have the Guardian, which is more liberal and open minded, but likes to knock Arsenal. Everyone has a view.
The notion that there are any blogs or newspapers that are truly independent of any ideology or view of the world is just silly. I can only suggest anyone who feels that there are such publications takes a long course in media studies, psychology and sociology.
So my starting point is, “What would be the point of this blog if it were the same as the rest?” My answer is there would be no point.
The difference between the way I see the Daily Express and Daily Mail, and the way people who don’t like Untold see Untold, is that I just accept that the Express and Mail, fanatical right wing papers that they are, are not going to be changed by me moaning about them. For some bizarre reason a lot of people think they are going to change my view.
2. It’s a psychological thing
The attacks on the management and indeed on players only ever have a negative effect, so quite simply the negativity that I have called the AAA only makes things worse. Indeed many people have written in claiming that Mr Wenger is an idiot because he does something that fails and does it again. They then falsely ascribe to Einstein the quote that doing something that doesn’t work over and over again is a sign of madness.
I would not say that the AAA are mad, just misguided, in failing to realise that their activities make things worse. They have criticised Mr Wenger for years, but had no effect. Why carry on doing something that doesn’t work?
But Arsenal has suffered from negativity from its earliest days, indeed the club we know was founded from a split within Royal Arsenal FC which led it to divide into two factions – Woolwich Arsenal FC and Royal Ordnance Factories FC. The latter failed after four years.
There were newspaper comments about the way the fans were turning on the players in the late 19th and early 20th century, there was another total split in the club again between 1910 and 1913, (only resolved through the selfless work of Jack Humble, one of the founders). Herbert Chapman railed ceaselessly against what by then were called the boo-boys. And so it went on. This is sadly how Arsenal is, and what always holds Arsenal back.
Indeed there is an article “How the Arsenal fans almost destroyed a wonderful player” It is about Jack Lambert who played in the 1920s and 1930s.
Read your Arsenal history and you will find that after being knocked out of the cup by Walsall, Arsenal, clearly the greatest club in the land, was jeered and booed by its own supporters endlessly.
My point is the AAA and its forefathers have been criticising Arsenal, the players and the management since the foundation of the club – but it has never done any good. I mean there were even complaints about Wenger in 1996. And between 1998 and 2000 with the three consecutive second places to Man U. If he’d responded to the criticism and gone then there would have been no 49 and no Unbeaten Season.
So, criticism of Arsenal management and players is as old as the club, and there is no sign of it ever working for the good.
Because I studied psychology, and with that did some science (neurophysiology mostly) I value evidence. What I see from the AAA for the most part is a lack of evidence, and a lack of taking in all the issues. Take the issue of the six defenders. I agree a further defensive signing would have been good if we could have got a decent player, who wanted to come to Arsenal, while knowing that he would quite possibly spend most of the season on the bench.
As it happens he would have been getting games this coming week – but at the time no one knew that, and most top players want games. So the chances are the only players who could have come in were either more youngsters like Chambers or younger players.
But we have younger players already. We have at least three young defenders who are decent and getting better week by week.
So to me the issue is one of examining such evidence as we have. We don’t have enough defenders – true – but before the season started I doubt that any real quality defenders above the age of 19 would have signed for us given who we had lined up in defence.
So why let Vermaelen go when we could have held on to him? Because these things are noticed. If we had kept him he might not have played (because had our injuries been all in midfield he would never have played.) And players look at this. Clubs get a reputation for being difficult about transfers or being reasonable about them – as with everything else. They would have looked at Vermaelen, refused a transfer, never getting a game, and said, “I’m not going to Arsenal”.
Sadly, Arsenal’s reputation among players is for having supporters who will turn on the club even when the club is undefeated in the league. Players notice, and decide where they want to go. To my mind, the AAA is at best not helping our cause in trying to bring in good players in their early 20s. Letting Vermaelen go when he wanted to, ensured our reputation among players for doing the decent thing.
4. Who is available?
Just because a blog says a player is available does not mean he is, nor does it mean he wants to come to Arsenal. Many of the transfers talked up are never going to happen because the player doesn’t want to leave his club, and/or the club doesn’t want him to go. Maybe there was a player better than Flamini and Arteta who was available, and willing to come to Arsenal. I am not sure there was.
5. It’s the team
Not every player can play in every team. Teams are not individual players, they are a combination of styles, abilities and interactions, and clubs buy players to blend into that system. However 99% of the commentaries I read are about individual players, rather than the way they actually fit together as a team. So, going back to defenders, the simplicity of the AAA approach of “starting the season with only 6 defenders” is a false argument in many ways because not only does it not take into account that many players won’t want to come to Arsenal there are others who won’t be that good for us, because of the way the team has been built.
That’s not just an Wengerian thing – all teams are built to work in certain ways, and you can’t just undo that in a trice.
I don’t run a football team, but I do run a company, and I don’t go out and offer a job to someone just because they are a brilliant sales person, or a brilliant accountant, or God’s gift to administration. I look at them also to see how they will fit into the team I have. I look at their particular skills, and their personality, and their drive and desire, and how much salary they want, how open to new ideas they are, and so on.
I rarely if ever see AAA arguments that get into this level of complexity.
6. Some stories are false.
In fact a lot of the stories that circulate about Mr Wenger and the team are utterly false. I’m not an insider at the club, but I do watch stories rise and fall, and it is clear that a lot of the stories that relate to knocking Mr Wenger are stories that turn out to be completely untrue. Which really takes us back to evidence – a central theme here. I like to deal in evidence, not simplistic observation.
7. Where is the knowledge?
I know I would be useless as a manager. I know when I look at the Arsenal team – or indeed any team – I can’t see why Mr Wenger has done x or y. I watched Pires in his first season, and said to my pal Roger, who I had been watching the Arsenal with for 15 years – “I don’t get it”. I said much the same about Henry for the first season! Roger couldn’t grasp why we ever gave Lee Dixon a game.
But maybe these people in the AAA who have this clarity of vision about what we should do should be managers. After all there are tens of thousands of clubs out there – so why not go and manage one and show everyone that you can do it?
Then you will be able to rise up the rankings and demonstrate that yes you do know best. But until then, you will forgive me for thinking that a man who has the third highest percentage win rate of any manager in Arsenal’s history knows more about success than you do or I do. How could it be otherwise?
This is a fundamental point. I don’t think I know more about football tactics and management than Mr Wenger, so I lay off him. But I possibly know more about media manipulation, and through Walter’s work I know a lot about referees and the way they operate. I know a lot about time-wasting, and I was the person who spotted rotational fouling as being run by certain teams. So I write about what I know about, and don’t pretend that I know more about football management than a man who has won more honours for Arsenal than anyone else.
And indeed Mr Wenger’s percentage win rate goes up year by year. And to be clear he in only third in the win percent table because above him are Pat Rice who managed four games, and Joe Shaw who managed 23. Mr Wenger’s figure of 57.23% is over 1010 games. All done without massive foreign investment (in the style of Chelsea and Man C) and without bankrupting the club (in the style of Portsmouth). And last year was the highest of all.
8. Mr Wenger therefore can be said to have proven himself.
Some people only see success in terms of trophies won.
In this regard Herbert Chapman was a failure (3 trophies in 8.5 years) and so was George Graham (six trophies in 8.5 years including two league cups, but also including that awful period with the lowest number of goals scored and the lowest number of goals conceded, and seriously declining crowds and league position). Graham’s win rate was 48.91% (All these figures are to be found on the Arsenal History Society site).
Whichever way you look at it Mr Wenger is our most successful manager, in terms of trophies, unprecedented achievements, and win rate over time. Yes we went a long spell without winning, but Arsenal have done this many times before. The difference this time was that we continued near the top, rather than flirting with relegation as we did under managers like Bertie Mee, Terry Neil, Herbert Chapman etc etc.
I’d love to go back to the earlier part of Mr Wenger’s reign and have us at the top each season, but what we have had has been success unprecedented in the history of post-war Arsenal.
9. Who would manage us instead?
Chelsea and Man City, with all the wealth at their disposal up to FFP were not able to guarantee victory all the time, and Man U, the richest club in England prior to the oil money influx, spent decades trying to find someone who could generate success. They found Ferguson – but nearly succumbed to the pressure of their own version of AAA to sack him, before he got a lucky break, and then moved forwards.
Not every manager is available, not every manager who ought to be successful turns out to be successful, and not every manager manages the club in an exciting way. I can only believe that many of those people who want Wenger out forget or were not there, during much of Graham’s career. Everyone remembers Micky Thomas’ goal, but there was much more to the Graham years than that and some of it was truly awful.
10. The evidence.
And so we come to evidence. That’s what Untold Arsenal has brought to the show. The evidence. Evidence about referees, about injury levels, about media manipulation, about the corruption of the transfer market, about financial doping…
I started by writing about why I set up this site. It has more than fulfilled my wish, in that this site brings you facts and detailed analysis and focusses on issues that elsewhere are “untold”.
I don’t know why so many people can’t see that there is a difference between Walter’s detailed analysis of referees, and then his comparison in refereeing decisions across clubs, and the simplistic statement “Starting the season with 6 defenders,” without any sort of serious analysis behind it. But there is a difference. One involves a lot of detailed consideration of various facts, and the other involves a statement that says, “if you can’t see the world as I see it, you are wrong”.
So in summary I would say, statements like “Starting the season with 6 defenders” is one that requires a huge amount of analysis and reasoning before one can see if it is a valid report of an error. I would say that the issues we raise about referees, the media, financial issues and so on, are done in terms of analysis and deeper consideration – and they reveal something rather rotten in the state of football – and that something is not Mr Wenger.
That’s about it. Rather a long piece, but that is my answer. There are many other issues that could be raised but I think I’ve taken up enough of your time.
If you have been, thank you for reading.
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