By Tai Emeka Obasi
Arsene Wenger is a name that draws all manner of emotions. While some love him because of his as-a-rule dedication to the beautiful game, others hate him for virtually same reason. But love or hate him this astute French football manager is a unique character for Oscar flicks, a bestselling book too.
Alex Ferguson must have won most of the trophies but Wenger truly changed the face of the English game. His insistence on playing the beautiful game the beautiful way completely changed the approach in the English League, which was hitherto all kick-and-follow. But such drastic and visible change usually has its prize – ENVY from rivals. More so when this tip-tap tactic wasn’t only appealing to the eyes… it fetched appreciable haul of trophies too.
Opponents, particularly Manchester United then, marched onto the pitch with just one tactic in mind – kick the hell out of them Gunners! But the Roy Keane-led bunch always met a perfect match in Patrick Vieira and his Spartans. But when the French christened Le Prof went a whole season unbeaten, it became something that drew that four-letter word to a scary level. It was no longer the terrible tackling opponents that the Gunners were worrying about. Officiating became a different matter entirely. Opponents got away with murder against Wenger’s team while the Gunners got punished for little or even nothing.
Watching from screens in my own country over 3000 miles away I started wondering whether the fact that Le Prof had a team mostly of French origin was the cause of the glaring gang-up, especially where the English press bizarrely started twisting stories of Arsenal to abject negativity. Was it just because Wenger saw players of English origin as lacking in enough technical qualities to suit his strict philosophy? One still wondered.
But when Roman Abramovich landed in England to take over Chelsea, pumped in billions and been pumping in billions, Wenger’s taunting and victimization took to new heights. The loquacious and foul-talking manager Jose Mourinho seem moulded and pointed the way of London for just one purpose – destroying Wenger and Arsenal. The battle ground shifted from far West Manchester to London. The FA, the officials and the press immediately joined in a brazen gang-up against this Frenchman and his beautiful-playing team.
An Arsenal player will be kicked to death in the box first to attract a penalty…sometimes the Arsenal player will be on a stretcher to the mortuary and still wouldn’t get a penalty. But the reverse is forever the case in their box. Any simple dive inside or sometimes even outside their box attracts a penalty against them. Poor Gunners got kicked like kidnappers all over without such vicious opponents attracting simple cautions. Not even ordinary free kicks. But any little tackle from poor Wenger boys got instant red cards.
At a point the phrase became, ‘’they don’t like it up them.’’ Poor boys…they started withstanding all manner of kicks by struggling to stay on their feet and carry on, knowing the referees wouldn’t award any foul in their favour. And the boys paid dearly for it. Eduardo da Silva got his legs shattered into fragments by Martin Taylor at Birmingham on 23 February 2008. The referee still manufactured a dying minute penalty against Arsenal to start the end of their title dreams. Two years later it was Aaron Ramsey’s turn at Stoke. This time another captain, Ryan Shawcross broke the Welshman’s leg!
The likes of Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky, Alexander Hleb were just lucky and only just. Most players, particularly Fabregas, left Arsenal in order not to end up their careers prematurely. Rosicky wasn’t as lucky, nor has been Jack Wilshere. All the EPL referees needed do was to protect these great artists…rather the officials gang up to perpetually send these innocent boys to the treatment table.
It became so glaring that Arsenal have a different officiating rule book. Once Arsenal purchases a new player…he’s either kicked mercilessly to lose his techniques ( Alexis Sanchez, Carlos Vela, Antonio Reyes, Santi Carzola, Mattieu Debuchy, etc) or carded consistently harshly to intimidate and reduce his toughness (Alex Song, Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud, Gabriel Paulista, Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sanchez, etc).
The press quickly followed with ‘’trophyless years and counting’’…even when Wenger ended up winning three FA cup titles in four years for the SECOND time (2002-2005 and 2014-2017) the English press is suddenly making the oldest title in world football look worthless!
But having carefully studied this gang up that stretches as far as the Home Office, where any young player Arsenal purchased outside Europe or EU hardly gets work permit…forcing Arsenal to send such players on loan and most times they lose their promising potentials when they eventually manage to get the work permit. I came to just one conclusion – Wenger has refused to allow one money bag take over Arsenal and spend recklessly like Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd and presently Everton.
So, it must be all about money. Players pay 45% taxes to Inland Revenue and Customs and Wenger is unrepentantly shrewd in both transfer fees and weekly wages. In a nutshell, the authorities want Wenger out. They need another Abramovich and Wenger is standing in the way. It’s always about money!
But the most annoying thing about it all is the role of some Arsenal fans. The English FA, EPL Officials and the Press have succeeded in turning them against the only man who practises the game of football by the book. Arsenal never cheats, never taps players up, never go against the rules…never investigated, never anything against the written rules under Wenger. Is there any manager in world football that could stand to Wenger in doing things perfectly the right way? But many Arsenal fans started booing their own team, calling Le Prof names. For 20 years Arsene consistently kept the team in the Champions League but they didn’t see it as consistency.
Even at the height of biased officiating, these AAAs turned at Wenger instead of the officials. For instance…against Mourinho and Chelsea, Diego Costa brutally fought everything in blue but continued playing. Instead Gabriel got the marching orders for doing absolutely nothing. Then Chelsea could find the net against ten men and later nine men at their home. 72 hours later the FA reversed decisions, nullified Gabriel’s red, banned Costa for three matches but said nothing about the most important factor – the three points.
Some Arsenal fans went as far as hiring a plane to display and pass around Wenger Out banners. When in fact they should be demonstrating against the FA and Officials! The way the centre referee officiated the last League match against Everton, it was clear that Arsenal wouldn’t have been ‘allowed’ to beat Everton if Liverpool wasn’t leading comfortably against Middlesborough from around the 60-miute mark.
But the AAAs have been effectively manipulated that they go against their team in name of wanting Wenger out. Contact Untold Arsenal and beg them to present well-researched table on points Arsenal lost to officiating and you understand dear Wenger would have won the title at least four times out of the 13 being shouted about.
Wenger and Arsenal were eventually kicked out of Champions League mainly by same unbelievable officiating…and suddenly Wenger signed up a player with 52 million pounds without blinking. And if reports are anything to go by, he has priced an 18-year old for a whopping 100 million pounds. Worryingly, this very prudent manager seems to have decided to pay these ingrate set of fans in the coins they deserve by spending Arsenal’s money so freely. Perhaps…and no one would truly blame him…for those he’s been saving their club’s money and being very cautious about the rainy days take him for a fool.
Take it or leave it…with the crazy money being paid for and to footballers, this beautiful game we all enjoy will soon crash. Has Arsene finally joined that crazy world of reckless spending very close to this Armageddon?
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