Ch-ch-changes + AW’s own goal

Arsene’s press conference took place yesterday and the first of many things to come out of it was the summer and what changes might be made.

With five games of the season left the idea that Arsene would come out and say ‘Yeah, some of them are a bit crap, aren’t they? You can be quite sure I’ll be flogging them off for whatever I can get’, is expecting rather too much. Still, the message was somewhat confused as the papers and websites illustrate. First, The Mirror goes with:

wenger_mirror

Which is fine by me. Nobody says massive change is needed anyway. Then we have the official site hinting that transfers, and big ones, are ahoy:

wenger_arsenal

Ooooh, the old ‘I can buy a £30m striker if I want, I just never want to’ tease. Still, for those with a taste for transfers it’s good. Sadly, for them the Telegraph shoots them down:

wenger_telegraph

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be condoning anything that’s ‘completely stupid’. I mean, that’s what got us to where we are with Eboue. Hold on though, the Mail jumps in with some better news for those who wish the manager to dust off his blankety-blank cheque book and pen.

wenger_mail

Yay! New players. Shiny new players. With go-faster stripes and turbo charge and who will come with Winomatic Sensors pre-installed. But what’s this? The Sun give us:

wenger_sun

And that’s that because just look at his finger. He’s waving it about like a irritated school marm. God, I’m so confused. What’s happening? Are we going to not make massive changes or is he ready to spend? Is everything stupid or will we get that one big transfer?

Mixed messages from the media? Different interpretations to things that have been said? People putting their own spin on things? WHAT’S HAPPENING?!

Anyway, as it stands the summer will be the real measure of things, not what he says when we’ve still got five games left and, however unlikely it might be, still in with a chance of the title. Obviously we need Everton to do us a favour today – and there’s about as much chance of that happening as there is of people turning around to Phil Brown and saying “Ooooh, your tan is so natural” – but he will never, ever talk down his squad in public.

The other thing, as referenced above, is that I agree that ‘massive change’ would be foolish. You don’t get this far in the title race by being terrible. We’re 16 games unbeaten, we need a little extra to turn some of the draws into wins, not a fire sale. If you want to go ahead and make spreadsheets with ludicrous valuations on players and dream of 8 out and 8 in, by all means go ahead, but never in the history of this football club, or any other I can think of, has so much transfer activity happened in one summer. It’s about as realistic as Abou Diaby staying fit for more than three games at a time.

A certain amount of trimming is required, no doubt about it, and the best parts of the squad need to be retained then augmented with experience and quality. To decimate the squad entirely and bring in a rake of players, who will need time to adapt to Arsenal and English football, would hardly be great management. Change, yes. Massive change, no. Sure, we need to turn and face the strain, but too much and you’ll find the taste is not so sweet.

The issue of Cesc’s interview in Don Balon was brought up. The Spanish site published an audio clip of the recording after the manager claimed Cesc’s words were ‘twisted’. Asked about it yesterday, Arsene said:

We had an agreement that they had to send copy for approval and it was not done. So I maintain completely that they did not respect the agreement. The article, in itself, I do not want to discuss it with you. They will never get an interview with us again, ever.

As I said earlier in the week, the interview when taken as a whole really was very good. There was no stinging criticism, just an intelligent, measured assessment of where we are from the captain. If there was a hint of frustration to it, then fine, I’d be more worried if he wasn’t frustrated at how things have gone.

I do wonder why Arsene made such a big deal out of it. If the interview was ‘twisted’ in any way it wasn’t by Don Balon. It was by various websites and newspapers who took and used snippets out of context. If he was vexed by anything it should have been that, and if he’d come out and said so then I don’t think anyone could have any problem.

I think we’ve learned down the years that innocent remarks taken out of context from interviews can be spun whatever way you like. For example, from 2004:

BERGKAMP SAYS ARSENAL LACK EXPERIENCE

This is quite a young group of players but they are still learning and developing. We should have done better.

or

BERGKAMP SAYS ARSENAL DEVELOPING WELL

This is quite a young group of players. They are still learning and developing and are not at their peak yet. Our ambition next season will be even greater, and so we will frighten a few more teams. We could become even better.

All from the same piece, just a snippet taken from a bit earlier in the interview adds a different spin to what was a positive comment later on. That’s what Arsene should be complaining about. Perhaps Don Balon didn’t uphold the agreement to give Arsenal copy approval – and the consequences of that for them are no more interviews, ever, and for anyone who now wants to interview an Arsenal player will be even stricter guidelines – but what they published shouldn’t be criticised in any way.

I can’t help thinking that the boss scored a bit of an own goal on this one. There was no massive reaction from fans upset at what had been said, neither he nor the club were painted in a bad light, and if he’d just let it go there’d have been no lengthy fuss about it at all.

And watching Sky before the Sp*rs game it strikes me as well that by not focusing on the real issue – the snippeting – he’s missed an opportunity too. Alan Smith was asked about Cesc’s comments and it was obvious he was commenting on what had been reported in the UK rather than on the interview as a whole. It’s things like that which people remember – the half-truths rather than the reality.

Remember Wenger saying it was possible to go a season unbeaten? The accepted wisdom, until we actually did it, was that he said we would go a season unbeaten. Urging people to read the entire thing before making comment would have been much better than suggesting, wrongly, that the words had been twisted by the Spanish publication.

What they should have done is come to an agreement with Don Balon, translated it fully and published it on the official site so everybody could read the whole thing. There’s no room for misinterpretation then. Any newspaper/website who does want to fiddle with things and create controversy will run the risk of everybody knowing that’s what they’re doing.

Anyway, look at me waffling on. It’s Saturday morning, it’s a bank holiday weekend, happy St [George/Jordi/Jorge/Julio/Javier]’s Day to the 51 nations who have him as their patron saint. Back tomorrow with a proper preview of the Bolton game.

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