by Tony Attwood
Before Arsene Wenger arrived in England, but when he had been announced as Arsenal’s new manager, Tony Adams made the comment that many were thinking and others had said before him. Speaking of Wenger he said, “He’s French. What does he know about English football?”
Well Adams learned quite quickly. And it turned out Mr Wenger had already done his homework by the time he arrived. For according to the English pundits and journalists, who pontificated day after day in the press, there were four fundamentals…
1: Foreigners knew nothing about football in England.
2: English football was naturally superior to football everywhere else in the world not least because we invented the game, and the only reason we didn’t win the Champions League or the World Cup was because the foreigners cheated.
3: Foreign football was boring and played in front of tiny crowds in crumbling old stadia, with 0-0 the most common score.
4: Foreigners dived.
Indeed being nobody’s fool, Arsène Wenger has always been totally aware of the way that the media is prejudiced, and he has never forgotten how they treated him with such utter contempt when he became Arsenal manager. Nor indeed how he overcame them by responding to their cries of “What do you think of the rumours Mr Wenger?” with “What rumours?” a ploy that invited the journalists to say something that he could then sue them for.
The fact was, while the English journalists knew nothing of foreign football, they truly believed that as a foreigner Mr Wenger would be unused to the ways of the English media, and the English laws of slander, and so could be enticed to repeat the vile rumours that were circulating, and so thus allow the press to mention them, because he had said it first. Without him mentioning them first, however they were stuck.
So he outmanoeuvred them, and not for the last time. Which is why they eternally hold a grudge.
Now talking about the current topic, that there is a cult of diving in the Premier League, he said, “I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it but I must say the English players have learned very quickly and they might even be the masters now.”
Tongue in cheek or what?
Less cautiously Virgil van Dijk has recently accused Harry Kane of diving thus making Mr van Dijk public enemy number one in the eyes of the press. Really, someone at his club might have told him that Mr Kane is Public Hero Number 1 and as such is utterly untouchable. Saying he dived is like saying that Winston Churchill had a penchant for naked ladies. Forget whether it is true or not, you simply can’t say it.
So instead Mr Wenger said, “We have to get diving out of the game. I don’t tell my players to dive. I don’t encourage them to dive at all.
“You want your players to be intelligent. Sometimes they have played a little bit with the rules, they make more of it on the penalty case. Every striker will do that.
“How far can you go? That is down to the referees and I think that sometimes, at normal speed, it is very difficult to determine.
“As much as I can be harsh with the referees, on that front I am quite tolerant because when you watch a game live it is very difficult at 100% pace to distinguish whether it is a dive or not.
“Most of the time, when a player is going to the goalkeeper, they push the ball away from goal. They had a good rule in England when I arrived here. When the striker pushes the ball away from the goal, they didn’t give penalties because the only resource the striker has after is to look for a penalty.
“In many cases now, the guy goes and if the goalkeeper has their hands out, the striker leaves a leg as long as he can to make sure that the goalkeeper touches him. But that’s not really a penalty.”
As for the upcoming game which will of course involve God’s Own Footballer, Mr Wenger said, “It is a big game because we are behind in the table and we have to catch up. It’s more importantly mathematically for us to come back as quickly as possible, rather than it being emotionally charged.”
In this regard the Guardian has done a piece to play down all the emotion, in which it has asked its football writers to nominate the three teams that will qualify for Europe along with Manchester City. I am not quite sure why they bothered to spread it out in the paper since all of the writers came to the same conclusion.
It will be Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hots and Liverpool.
I’ve not been through all the league tables for recent years when there are 12 games to go, but certainly precedent seems to suggest the top four teams with 12 games to go are the top four at the end of the season, although the order might change a little.
But still, precedents are only there to be broken.
- The strange case of the residency of Roman Abramovich
- “Arsène Wenger’s young signings no longer succeed – has he lost his touch?”
- The 13 players Arsenal are about to sign; the new manager; 3 players leaving
- Clubs are showing signs of fighting back at journalists
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.