This past week I have got a trifle cheesed off with correspondents on this site who have ignored the article written, and instead developed their own pieces declaring that Arsene Wenger should leave the club.
If you’re a regular reader here you’ll know I only cut comments where- plagiarism, racism, antisemitism and anything else that might land me in court is involved. So, the commentaries about Arsene Wenger failing and effectively destroying the club are on the site and have not been edited.
But I have a problem. It seems to me that while many correspondents write with careful detailed analysis (I would refer you to the articles by Walter, and the match previews by Phil by way of example) those who wish Wenger would leave are simply putting out assertion upon assertion, without any resource to facts or analysis at all.
To prove my point I have taken a commentary made yesterday on this site, reprinted here without any editing, and then analysed by myself. I hope you see where I am going with this.
Here’s the original piece from Wednesday…
In all fairness i can see us falling behind to the likes of chavski and spuds. This nutty prof has gone as far as he can with this squad. My question to you all is How much longer must we wait for the promise to become reality? I fear we may never know. The pull of Barca must be getting almost unbearable for Cesc and we all know that it will happen in the next 12 months if not the next three. RVP will also begin to wonder if he could achieve more elsewhere in Europe and a good World Cup for the Dutchman will have Europe’s elite sniffing around. We all know that we need to invest in a new defence and a 30 goal a season striker, but will we be able to hang onto our best assets?
The defeat at Spurs was hard to swallow, but the weekend’s collapse at the DW was so much worse because of the shameful, gutless way we allowed Wigan to expose our frankly shoddy goalkeeper and defence. For most of the season our forward line and Cesc have carried us to wins and results. But at no point have we looked solid at the back. Without Vermaelen, I doubt we would be in the top six. So as it is election time in the UK, I say, “It’s time for change”. Several first team players must make way this summer.
Almunia has never been good enough. Simple as that. A new goalkeeper is essential if we are to challenge for silverware next season. Silvestre has never been good enough. Had his best days at United. Denilson has never been good enough. We need players who can pass forwards on occasion and take a hard tackle without falling over like a wounded deer. Walcott has never been good enough. All pace, no end product. He will never suit our style of play. Man City beckons…
Eduardo is no longer the player he was. This of course is not his fault, but the fact remains he has had a very poor time in the last few months, he looks slow and unwilling to even attempt a 50-50. I don’t really blame him, but how long can we carry a striker who will not put his foot in? Andrey Arshavin clearly is not happy in England. He has openly criticised the squad during the run-in and has gone missing since his annual show at Anfield. Great talent but another lightweight flair player we just don’t need. At least he will be fresh next season, if he is still here of course.
Unfortunately I don’t see much changing again. Wenger still has a firm belief that this current crop IS good enough to win silverware, when everyone else knows that is simply NOT the case. Possibly a new striker, possibly a new centre half, but little else will happen. Just three months of rumour and counter rumour about Cesc. It’s Patrick Vieira all over again.
Oh to be a Gooner can be painful…
And here’s my commentary.
The writer begins with a personal assertion, “In all fairness i can see us falling behind to the likes of chavski and spuds.” There is no justification for this, no evidence to be debated, just a personal assertion.
The next sentence follows in the same way, “This nutty prof has gone as far as he can with this squad. My question to you all is How much longer must we wait for the promise to become reality?”
This is a common trick in propaganda: set up the assertion, take it to be true, and then demand to know how much longer we will let this go on. It is impossible to answer this question without admitting the assertion, and yet the assertion remains an assertion, with no evidence or logic.
Indeed this is the methodology in the piece – an approach which I find repeatedly used in most commentaries against Wenger.
Try this one, which comes next. “The pull of Barca must be getting almost unbearable for Cesc and we all know that it will happen in the next 12 months if not the next three.”
I can quite clearly say “no” to all that sentence. I am not at all sure that the “pull” is getting unbearable. What evidence is there for this? What this simplistic statement does not say is why Barca appear to be courting Cesc, and knowing that would be but the first step to analysing the claims made here. We also need to incorporate the fact that one interview in Spanish was utterly mistranslated to such a level that it bore no relationship to the original (my apologies I cannot quote the exact source tonight, but we did deal with it in detail on this site when it arose). As one piece was utterly invented why not others? Without examining why Barca seem so besotted with Cesc rather than anyone else, the assertions are valueless, the debate unstarted. Only with such an analysis can we then even make a slight guess as to the outcome. (And one can of course say the same about Arshavin leaving – another story that is in the press over and over again).
The writer then says “RVP will also begin to wonder if he could achieve more elsewhere in Europe.” Really? How do you know, and where is the evidence? RVP might equally be thinking, ‘God I have been an idiot playing friendlies for Holland, and that’s wrecked my chance of going anywhere else, I’d better stay put at Arsenal and hope for the best.”
He might also be thinking (and this is a concept that I have never once seen put anywhere in this debate) “I wonder why Dennis Bergkamp stayed at Arsenal, even when he was subjected to a year under Rioch? He became revered at Arsenal and in football, without international games, and for a number of years without any club success. He now has an almost god-like position in the game. I’d like that. I’d better stay at Arsenal.” (And if that sounds odd to you, I would suggest it is no more odd than the assertion in the commentary).
“We all know that we need to invest in a new defence and a 30 goal a season striker, but will we be able to hang onto our best assets?”
Here we are again: “hang on to” as if it is desperate stuff. I could write a piece which stresses how every professional wants to play for Arsenal, an article full of them “beating a path to our door”, and “virtually begging Wenger to let them play for Arsenal”, and concluding “how on earth will we ever choose which ones to take and which to disappoint?”
Such a piece would have as much factual basis as the one on which I am commenting. if there is evidence about players leaving us, then it has to include Vieira and Henry who have had careers since leaving which one can argue have been less than their careers when here.
Next there’s this: “The defeat at Spurs was hard to swallow, but the weekend’s collapse at the DW was so much worse because of the shameful, gutless way we allowed Wigan to expose our frankly shoddy goalkeeper and defence.”
What is interesting here is the lack of all context. I am writing this late on at night, and I am working from memory, but I think we had something like 7 league wins in a row, followed by a draw, and played those games without seven of our normal first team squad. That is not to argue that these are excuses for a lack of focus at the end of the Wigan game, but if you are going to make a serious point about events, then context is important. We might also add that this was the first Tottenham league win in 10 years (historically the best run since we started league games against them exactly 100 years ago). And we can add that Chelsea lost to Wigan, so although we should have won, defeat for a top club is not unique. I think Liverpool did too, although I might be wrong.
“For most of the season our forward line and Cesc have carried us to wins and results. But at no point have we looked solid at the back. Without Vermaelen, I doubt we would be in the top six.”
Now that is odd. Having ignored the context of the Tottenham and Wigan games we get a spurious piece of context – the “without Vermaelen”. What does that mean? We only play with ten? We put in a five year old boy? Clearly we would have had someone else. The manager had decided to buy Vermaelen, and from what I have read elsewhere, the club would have identified two backups in case Vermaelen didn’t come. So what are we to make of “without Vermaelen”? Without Vermaelen, someone else – who might have been better.
But let’s try this defence thing: in our opening game we had the team that Wenger wanted, we were completely secure and we won 6-1 away. So what happened?
Looking at the table today we have let in 39 – a whole seven more than Chelsea. Seven. Yes the worst defence in the top four, but not the worst in the top five since Man City have let in 42.
And more to the point even without our best attacker most of the season, and with Eduardo getting injuries and Bendtner, Arshavin and Cesc all out for long spells we knocked in 78. From my perspective I would sooner see us win 5-4 each week than 1-0. With 5-4 I might have a heart attack and people will say our defence is useless, but still, it really is fun.
“So as it is election time in the UK, I say, “It’s time for change”. Several first team players must make way this summer.”
That is curious again. First, it is an assertion. Second, it is odd because most of the time we have not had most of our first team playing. And third, there is that old point of getting the people we want. To buy a new player the following needs to be true…
a) the club has to be ready to sell and the player ready to move. Remember we are “hanging on” to Cesc who is apparently ready to leave, so if we can hold on to a player who has already moved in his mind, how the hell do we get players to come to us if the club and/or the player is not minded to move? I think this is a major point – if we can keep Cesc this long, how are we supposed to prise away players from elsewhere.
b) the club must be ready to sell at a reasonable fee, rather than one that is insanely high, just to put us off. Chelsea and Man C can pay double the cost for a player, but the rest of the league can’t. (Man U and Liverpool did for a while, but that has added to their financial collapses.)
c) the player must be willing to fit into our wage structure. We have the third highest salary bill in the league, so we are not mean, but if the player says, “I want to be the highest paid,” that could well produce turmoil in the club. Chelsea will do it, because they’ll put up everyone’s money – but they end up with a club for of A Cole and J Terry, and I personally don’t think that’s a very good idea.
d) all the medical bits have to work. Players can develop problems while they are at a club, which make them less attractive on a transfer. They might be playing wonderfully today, but the medical reveals a doubt. There is a risk – so how much risk do you take. Spend £10m on a player who then gets has endless ankle problems after 3 months, and no one thinks you are clever.
e) the player’s family needs to want to move and want to stay, and the player needs to be of a type who is ready to settle. England is not everyone’s cup of tea, and there’s no point in bringing in an utter genius who will then not play well because of psychological issues or worries.
It’s even later now, and I am tired, so I am going to stop without dealing with the final part of the original comment. But I’ve done enough and you can see where I am going. I believe that if we ever are going to have a debate, we need to have some reasoning, not a set of personal assertions. I hope in a small way I have actually illustrated how that debate should work.
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