Arsène Wenger has three hands – don’t let the media fool you.


Arsène Wenger has three Hands!!!

By Paul Blythe

The Phrygian sage Epictetus said: ‘Everything has two handles, one by which it can be carried and a second by which it cannot’.

There may even be a third handle, often not in clear view and the major problem being you need a third hand to reach it, and such people are rare.

The quicker amongst you reason that two people in concert could manage it easily, but Epictetus was talking about individuals.

The modern way of life is a predominantly two sided, after all we as human beings are bilaterally symmetrical.  In the realm of sports you may have any number of examples of games consisting of two players, of two teams but seldom if ever three.

I guess we like it that way. Two sides to an argument, definitely if it’s a big issue like war or the awarding of a penalty.

You are either right or wrong. You are either in or you’re out.

You either win or you lose, everyone hates a draw.

The Media love this simplicity; bless them, makes for story writing fit for us, the ignorant masses. All they need is a subject and away they go. Expert quotes for an issue, expert quotes against the same issue, in fact that is what the media have convinced us is news. I suspect that the media are responsible for this over simplification of events creating a bowl of instant,  Media flavoured Angel Delight of whipped up frothy feeling, both irresistible and slightly sickly at the same time. Don’t you just love being spoon fed?

Oh and don’t we all fall for it, from massive hits on misinformation blogs, (Arsenal to spend £50 Million) to instant hysteria at the aspersions hurled at our favourites. (Wenger is a whinger!) Rather than just being satisfied to ‘set the agenda’ and give us sanitised ‘expert’ opinions (Alan Hansen anyone?) on both sides of the argument.

I wonder if you remember the slightly nauseating nervousness of the yearly transfer sagas? I do, and yes, I am sad to say I read them too. The purpose of all of this is simply to be to polarise public (baa) opinion.

Remember, two sides are good!

Occasionally the media go one step further and declare without fear of contradiction, what we should be thinking. Saves the expense of the two experts for a start and allows the verbally dexterous Headline writers to indulge in a little ‘campaigning’ redtop journalism.

Remember, one side best if it’s our side but two sides are still good!

When it comes to obviously non contentious subjects like “the environment,” it hasn’t been so easy to polarise the community.

Where do you send a reporter to get a quote in favour of  global warming?

Obviously EVERYBODY is frightened of rising sea levels and increased temperatures! (Other than those people that live on a bloody cold mountain.)

Even on subjects such as this the issue had to be recast into one that doesn’t put everyone on the same side—and so it was.

After a lot of pushing and pulling, a lot of tweaking, a way was found to represent the interests of the environment as being opposed to the public good. You can’t get rid of global warming without banning planes and cheap petrol and cows farting. If all else fails, just say it doesn’t exist.

This is kind of mind-boggling but that’s how it’s manipulated. You can’t be for the public good and for the environment—you’ve got to “choose sides.”

Remember, one side best if it’s our side, two sides are good as long as they’re both ours too!

This is an interesting example of taking a thing that originally presented only one handle and rotating it so as to expose two handles—thereby putting the third handle completely out of sight.

But just occasionally chance throws up a three-handed person or two, and on rare occasions many, many of them. Take the Iraq war for example or better still the cold war. Two nuclear nations gearing up with more and more weapons, enough I seem to remember to destroy the entire world 200 times over. The race could never be won and the only outcome seemed to be assured complete mutual destruction and disaster.

All across America students and young people of a three-handed nature protested and were shot down by their own police and army for their trouble. This civilian unrest continued and the establishment’s fear of three-handedness grew, the entire media machine cried Communist, which in America is considered more heinous than just about anything else.(yes even that!) This continued until someone unexpectedly reached for the third handle and Gorbachev (of all people!) said, ‘I am not playing anymore’.

Remember, one side best if it’s our side, two sides are good as long as they’re both ours too, three or more bad!

Everyone in the world knew the arms race was dangerous—globally dangerous, mortally dangerous—to the entire human race and to the planet itself, yet for a generation or more the game continued.

Football is engaged in such a race and any sane person can see that it is mortally and morally dangerous, not to the planet but to the game we all love. You don’t have to be an accountant (though read the excellent Swiss Rambler’s Blog and many by Tony Atwood closer to home) to understand that we are standing on the very brink of the precipice.

Clubs do not exist in a vacuum, they may claim autonomy and encourage the tribal differences that keep the tills ringing, but they are all more interconnected than they would care to publicly admit. They have their leagues, their campaigns for championships, for promotion, to avoid relegation. They need the rivalry, the competition and as fans we need the satisfaction and bragging rights that come with victory and defeat.

They are buying their nuclear-ly expensive talent on credit and the associated costs are growing exponentially and unsustainably. How could clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United go from profitable concerns to debt ridden shadows of their former selves in a matter of a few years? The answer, buy, buy, buy and buy some more. They are by no means on their own, check the number of clubs that spend over 70% of their entire turnover just on players wages! The Sky money will not last forever; the bubble is reaching its elastic limit. Something somewhere has got to give and Portsmouth will become the norm rather than the exception.

It has the feeling of a house of Panini cards, precariously built and the howling gales of the financial winds are starting to blow.

I don’t believe for a moment that Platini is imposing the new fiscal regulations without at least the tacit approval of the boards and owners of the larger clubs. No one is stepping out of line to complain and I imagine the great and good of the footballing owners cabal have the telephone number of a journalist or two. I imagine many of the owners are quite pleased to stop throwing millions of pounds of good money after bad, just as long as everyone else does too. It smacks of a private agreement, dressed up as an imposition. Just don’t tell the fans, might slow down a till or two. Not a whimper will you hear, unless one or other club cannot make the necessary changes in time, or someone gets caught massaging the numbers and then banned form a cup or two, they will start bitching like a stuck pig.

Arsene Wenger on the one hand, saw this coming and with his board formulated a strategy of sustainable football governance. He wasn’t playing anymore.

Or on the other hand fortunately fell into this position of growing strength and stability by dumb luck.

Or thirdly, saw this coming and gave old Platini a shove in the right direction to save the game. Either or any which way it is decidedly a third-handed solution.

And what has been his reward at the hands of the media and the footballing establishment? At best the recipient of criticism, vitriol and misquoted misinformation. So my friends the next time you read the media crucifixion of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, don’t simply settle for the campaign bigotry, be cautiously aware of the two sides you are being spoon fed, but most importantly seek the third-hand way.

As Epictetus also said

In the first place, do not allow yourself to be carried away by [the] intensity [of your first impression]: but say, ‘Impression, wait for me a little.

Let me see what you are, and what you represent. Let me test you.’

Then, afterwards, do not allow it to draw you on by picturing what may come next, for if you do, it will lead you wherever it pleases. But rather, you should introduce some fair and noble impression to replace it, and banish this base and sordid one.

The answer to the question posed by the every spiralling problem of Football’s Cold War of gratuitous greed and avarice?

‘développer votre propre jeunesse, mon fils, faite-le vous-même’.

Grow your own son, grow your own.

Paul Blythe

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7 Replies to “Arsène Wenger has three hands – don’t let the media fool you.”

  1. Great article. Thank you.

    You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Unfortunatly with the insatiable need for news and the instant judgement of the mighty bloggoshere the people that can’t be fooled all of the time seem to be becoming a smaller and smaller minority.

    Arsene certainly has three hands as far as I am concerned.

  2. Great article Paul. I love how this site publishes such well thought-out and well written pieces. It’s really interesting how the actions of the clubs links to simple game theory and how the new financial regs have become “collude” option.

    Clubs don’t want to spend all this money on wages and transfer fees but the fear of not doing so and their opponents choosing to spend makes them do something that is the worst case scenario for all parties involved.

  3. Excellent piece. I still believe that that we are being sold a dummy re: “25 rule” in the Premiership being for the development of youth.

    I am of the opinion that the teams got together, and said “how can we stop the runaway train of player wages and transfer fees”. The answer that they came up with, was to amend the balance of supply and demand. Now, once a player reaches or is over 21, and has not been “home grown”, his value drops dramatically due to an artificially created lack of demand. This will balance the market in favour of the teams. After all, if a player is likely to be out of a contract, with not a lot of chance of getting a new one, he will have to reduce his wage demands, or go abroad (although, I think that once the rest of Europe/the world see the impact, they will introduce the same type of rule).

    This, obviously makes younger/home grown players more desirable, but has (to a degree) a safety valve built in, insofar as the clubs can argue that a young player does not have the experience, when under 21, to demand the 120k p/w salaries etc.

    I do think that this will put us in an incredibly strong financial position, as we have, by far, the most “stock” of players that will be desirabel (i.e. under 21/ home grown)

    I think that Wenger realised that something like this was going to happen (it is, after all, only logical that the bubble could not grow indefinitely), and this is one of the reasons we have such a focus in scouting for younger players (along with being a desirable destination for young players).

    We also have a significant advantage in terms of developing our academy over all of the other Prem clubs, which should allow us to reap the rewards for the next decade or so at least.

  4. I’ve used the expression ‘mutually assured destruction’ to describe the path that football is (was?) on before on this site but it’s great to see it expanded upon so eloquently.
    I’ve also put forward my pet conspiracy theory as to the origins of the Platini ‘Financial Fair Play’ rules – namely the Arsenal Boardroom. The ’25’ regulations are a bit more difficult to trace back to our beloved leader but, given that Arsenal’s strategy has not been harmed by one jot by them it might well be the case that, whatever he says in public, AW very much approves.
    And it’s this difference between what is said in public (for whatever effect it’s supposed to have) and what is really thought is the key to Paul’s erudite piece. Wenger (for instance) cannot target his comments only to the few people he wishes to hear them and therefore thinking about why they have been said, their timing and context is vital. As for the ‘pundits’ – their reasons are simple. They have to fill space and or time, preferably with words that generate a response which fills more space/time and which may, through advertsing (including product placement) be monetisable.
    O what a tangled web we weave…

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