We begin with an exchange from the Aston Villa press conference.
“I don’t understand why you’d want to create any kind of rift with the Arsenal fans.” – Unnamed journalist to Arsene Wenger.
“Why should I create any rift?” – Arsene Wenger.
“Because it’s not showing them any respect” – Unnamed journalist.
Now, I have my issues with Arsene Wenger, like many people do. I’m concerned about the lack of depth in the squad, as I outlined yesterday. He can be stubborn, intransigent and frustrating. Clearly he hasn’t been as successful as he would like to be, or fans would like him to be, and some of his decisions are difficult to understand on and off the pitch.
This all sparked, of course, from the substitution late on during Saturday’s game with Villa. Wenger took off Olivier Giroud, put on Francis Coquelin, and there were some chants from some of the travelling fans about the manager not knowing what he was doing. Obviously those chants were seized upon by the journalists after the game and put to Wenger in an increasingly confrontational way. At first he tried to laugh them off, in the end he got quite annoyed. You can see the video on this page here (2nd video down – and it’s well worth watching to get the context).
So here’s another frustration – Wenger could have easily downplayed the whole thing by saying, “Giroud was tired, I moved Gervinho – who has got 5 goals this season – up front, and I was also aware that we’d had just one shot on target and I didn’t want to lose the game.”
Ok, it might have been hard to take but some days you have to accept that it’s not going to happen for you from an attacking point of view and although we have what we hold isn’t ideal, one point is better than none. Villa had crashed a shot off the bar and a Carl Jenkinson clearance with his heel prevented another break. Given our tendency to concede silly goals maybe it was sensible.
Arsene Wenger is intelligent and articulate enough to be able to deal with questions like that without getting the hump the way he did. He could easily have answered those questions in a way which would have played down the whole thing. Not using Wilshere? Concern over his ankle, as John Cross reveals today, but perhaps he didn’t want to let slip every bit of information. Odd substitution? See above.
I think, in hindsight, he’ll look back on it and think he could have done better and really shouldn’t have risen to the bait – because bait is exactly what it was. A few weeks back, in and around the time of the AGM and the poor results against Norwich and Schalke (and leading up to the Man Utd game), journalists and columnists were tripping over themselves to write articles about how Arsenal fans ‘deserved better’.
It was as if they’d taken a quick tour of Twitter, jotted down all the complaints, listed them off, wrapped them in some patronising prose and toddled off with themselves, pleased with their day’s work. Now, this isn’t to question the validity of complaints in any way, many of them will be found here (although perhaps not expressed as vociferously as elsewhere and certainly not the Piersian depths of Twitter), but to ask – who the fuck are these journalists to speak on behalf of Arsenal fans?
How is it that a journalist can sit in a press conference and talk about Arsene Wenger not showing any respect while not showing any respect himself? Since when did they give one single shit about what Arsenal fans ‘deserve’? The truth is they don’t, bar one or two whose leanings are red and white, but then those journalists don’t ask those kind of cretinous questions or write columns like that.
They are perfectly entitled to ask questions of Arsene Wenger, on behalf of their own paper or TV station or whoever it is they provide copy for, but never, ever on behalf of Arsenal fans. If you, Johnny Journalist, have an issue you want to bring up with Wenger have the balls to do it in your own name, not ours. Otherwise you’re just a shit-stirring coward who doesn’t have the chops to confront a football manager about football decisions.
It’s Jellyfish Journalism at its fucking worst. There were legitimate questions to be asked of Arsene Wenger on Saturday evening. The substitution, the team’s performance, the lack of attacking options on the bench and so on, but to cloak them as if you were concerned about us poor old Arsenal fans, well, it’s pretty craven. And in the end nobody got any kind of decent answer.
Arsene Wenger, who looked like a frustrated man but one also feeling the pressure, reacted to the stupidity of the questioning. I wish he’d done better, I wish he’d turned tables and asked that hack who he was to talk about respect and Arsenal fans. You can be quite sure the next time there’s a chance to stick the knife in about Arsenal supporters he’ll do it without thinking twice. Same with all the others who were so concerned and so worried about what we deserved.
In the end nobody comes out of it smelling of roses and while we all have our frustrations with Wenger, which I accept go right across the scale, it’s a bit rich for any journalist to accuse him of a lack of respect to Arsenal fans while doing exactly the same.