By Tony Attwood
The media, self-evidently needs something to report, so if there is not much to report, it has to make up an issue. One of the recent issues that they have devised of late, to occupy the time when there is nothing else to write about is the cult of the manager.
Most managers are self-evidently failures, since they don’t win anything for their club. And some who reach the highest levels, win stuff that is hard to reconcile with their profile.
Take Sam Allerdyce, who has not worked since being at Everton. His trophy list consists of winning the League of Ireland First Division with Limerick in 1992 and the Football League Third Division with Notts County in 1998. And that’s about it.
Now of course that is much more than I could achieve, but then I did not become manager of England only to be dismissed shortly thereafter for doing dubious things.
Yet managers are lionised by the media and made the spokesperson for clubs, which is a bit silly really. Silly because they are not going to tell the truth tactically (for fear of giving away too much to the opposition), not going to speak in depth about what really goes on (for fear that the journalists won’t understand what is being said) and not going to say what changes they are going to make to the line up (since these are issues that need to be managed carefully with players).
But for the media, the manager is the front man attending the press conferences at which the manager will say one thing and then be a) reported as saying something else and b) criticised for not getting his team to the top of the league.
Meanwhile the media is telling us (and thus the manager) who the club is about to buy, and when the club fails to buy that player it is the manager who is criticised for dithering. It is, in short, all part of the myth, made up by the media to compensate for the fact that they don’t know what is going on.
Within the media’s childish story the manager says who he wants, the director in charge of football transfers goes and gets him, and that’s that. The player is thus made into a cross between a robot and a plate of meat, the manager is the great powerful overlord.
Now that did keep Arsenal at the top of the agenda when it came to news, but of course it also meant that the media hacks, utterly humiliated by Mr Wenger’s victory in that early confrontation, were always out to get him, and indeed to knock Arsenal. Hacks don’t like to be made fools of.
Such was the long term memory of the media that when Mr Emery’s team had its 22 match unbeaten run early on the media refused to be impressed, and continued to make fun of his ability to speak English. As they would, for they had now got a manager whose English was not as good as their own, and like playground bullies they could make fun of that.
In his opening interview with the media Mikel Arteta spoke about being “back home”, which was a nice turn of phrase given that Arsenal was only his second longest stay as a player. But it reminds us that his career table is interesting, showing as it does that despite 42 games for Barcelona’s B team he never played for the big boys at the club, instead starting out with PSG on loan where he played 31 games.
After that it was Rangers (50 games and 12 goals), real Sociedad for just 15 games before being loaned to Everton, for whom he then signed, playing 174 games all told. Then finally Arsenal, where he got 110 games including winning the 2014 and 2015 FA Cup finals.
For the media the buzz phrase is that Arsenal has lost its way. Quite what that means in detail or practical terms is anyone’s guess, but it is mixed with dark talk of player discontent. But there’s hope that Arteta will find his way, his method and his approach, and that his motivational skills will meld the club into a force to take it up the table.
My personal hope is also that Freddie stays to work under him, because all the indications are Freddie is a talented coach in his own right with a detailed knowledge of the younger players coming through. And let’s not forget, there are quite a few of these youngsters around who will be looking to see if they are getting games under the new boss.
I for one hope they survive the upheaval that sacking a manager always brings.
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