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September 2020
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The fact Arteta needs to be reminded of – Football is an emotional game! 

By Tai Emeka Obasi.
A very significant thing one must have noticed since Mikel Arteta arrived at Arsenal is that the English press have not been as ruthlessly against Arsenal as it used to be, particularly during the Arsene Wenger era.
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Give it to the Spaniard – he has been spotless in his conduct both on and off the playing arena that it would amount to glaring bias for any pressman worth his onion to attempt any form of antagonism against the very urbane Arsenal coach. When Matteo Guendouzi attempted to step out of line Arteta quickly and firmly dropped the hammer and the ever critical English sporting press took note.
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There’s hardly any sport that draws emotions as the beautiful game does. In the endless debate of the better player between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, 100% of Argentine fans would be expected to vote for Messi while 100% of Portuguese would likewise vote for their country man. That is as extreme as the emotions go.
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On arrival in England, Le Prof’s first game in charge was against Blackburn away on October, 1996. And the tall French lined up his team thus – David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Merson, Patrick Vieira,  David Platt, John Hartson, Ian Wright
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Nine English players, one Welshman and one Frenchman.  Yes, before he arrived, he had recommended the signing of Vieira and Remi Garde, both French.
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Fast-forward to the Invincibles of 2003/04, the starting line-up had just Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole as English starters with five Frenchmen in Vieira, Parlour, Lambourde, Pires and Henry.
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With Arsene’s biggest rival in Alex Ferguson and Manchester United lining up Paul Schools, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Nikky Butt, and other reserves, feelings were turned against the Arsenal manager. Whether consciously or otherwise, the referees and the press started turning against the man for seemingly proving that the English are not good footballers. When Gael Clichy and William Gallas replaced Cole and Campbell respectively,  Arsenal started playing without any English in the starting XI.
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Believe me, Wenger was innocently doing what was best for his dear club but his sixth sense should have warned him our world has never been a perfect place.
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At a time, it was as if the command was carved in diamond that Arsene must be frustrated out of England.
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When Martin Taylor broke Eduardo’s leg at Birmingham City in 2008, and the way the press and the FA united in protecting Taylor, “he’s not that kind of player,” I got the message.  And even more so two years later when Aaron Ramsey got same treatment from Ryan Showcross at Stoke City.
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These could have been and truly accidents and not really premeditated but the players weren’t adequately punished for their violent play.
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Extremely bizarre was the press attack on Eduardo for ‘diving’ without considering the psychological effect on a striker that was just coming back from such horrendous injury that sidelined him for over nine months. They succeed in frustrating the Brazilian Croat out of the game.
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Believe me again, Wenger had piano wire for nerves or he would have quit England far earlier. But he withstood all glaring antics to break him.
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By the time the French gaffer seemingly wanted to make amends by bringing Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere through and signing Calum Chambers,  Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck, there seemed there was a resolve not to let go by PGMOL and the press.
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Unai Emery didn’t sign any English players. And I’m sure the press were watching, especially when Welbeck, Walcott and Wilshere all left. But Emery seemed to have been very aware of the commentaries being made by promoting Bukoya Saka, Joe Willock, Reis Nelson, Eddie Nketiah to the senior team. They may not all be super regulars but it was a hopeful move.
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Now,  when rumours of Arteta transfer-listing Holding, Chambers, Ainsley Maithland-Niles kept coming, I feared the ugly days of bias against Arsenal would definitely come back.
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Please, somebody should whisper to Arteta that any team working toward an XI of starters without recognisable English players in the mix will definitely draw the ire of the English football management fraternity.
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Already, none of Arteta’s reported targets is English. He could be forgiven because he has a very tight budget and must use the little he has to get what he needs. But he must also want, and endeavour to keep, the English players he met at the club.
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If you ignore this  then you obviously haven’t asked yourself why the Home-Grown rule was introduced into the EPL. And take this from me , I have nothing against the English FA for ensuring that the English national sides do not drop in quality despite running the acclaimed best league in the world.

 

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