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Rage Against the Obscene

Rage Against the Obscene

There are two very, very frustrating media clich├ęs that surround our football club in the modern era, both inextricably linked. The first is that we are somehow destroying the English game with our insistence on technically superior foreign players. The second is that "Arsenal don`t like it up 'em." The public in general being the imbeciles they are lap up both with Pavlovian quiescence. So when Arsene Wenger lost three players to injury at Stoke this Saturday following heavy tackles and had the temerity to complain about it, you just knew we were in for the extended radio edit of "Whingeing Wenger is a sore loser" followed by three verses of "the Gunners can`t handle the rough stuff."

Of course the statistics show that Arsenal finished the game on Saturday with an 85% tackle success rate and that we won more challenges than Stoke managed in the game. Statistics also show that Bacary Sagna, Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott all left the match on a stretcher, something which caused Wenger to become incandescent with rage in his Tuesday press conference,

'I read that my team were not brave.
'All I can say is they are brave and, for me, you need to have more courage to play football when you know that someone is tackling you from behind without any intention to play the ball.
'The only intention is to hurt you and I can show some tackles where I can prove what I say. The one who is tackling is not the brave one. For me the brave one is the player who is trying to play football.
'It happened at the weekend. Do you think Delap tried to play the ball when he tackled Walcott? Or that Shawcross tried to play the ball when he tackled Adebayor off the pitch. All the players have been injured deliberately."

The naysayers will dismiss this as idle whingeing, but he has a point doesn`t he? I am willing to accept that the tackle that took Sagna out of the game was an accident, in fact, I think the Stoke player got the ball and Banger fell awkwardly. Certainly no free kick was awarded. However, Delap quite deliberately kicked Walcott out of the game. Shawcross` challenge in particular was, as the manager points out, cowardly. The ball was already out of play when Shawcross raked his studs down the back of Adebayor`s calf. This was not sheer momentum; the ball had crossed the line before Shawcross committed to the tackle from behind, the injury was exacerbated by the fact that Ade was not braced for impact. Wenger is not wrong to point this out at all, he has not intimated that this is the reason we lost the game, and it wasn`t. As evidenced by Wenger`s contrite assessment in the immediate aftermath,

"Stoke played to their strengths better than we did and deserved to win."

But it is simply lacking in objectivity to suggest that Arsenal need to learn how to handle such roughhousing. The statistics showed we could do that in the parameters of the game (dealing with the long throw ins and showing imagination in the final third were things we demonstratably failed to do on Saturday). How can anyone legislate for being hacked down from behind and injured? It is not a case of being mentally or physically tough; one cannot circumnavigate such a tactic. It`s like asking a dead fish not to get eaten. The manager is also quite correct to dismiss the notion that raking your studs down the back of somebody`s achilles is somehow an example of brave, combative play,

'I am not ready to listen to things that are completely untrue and make people who are cowards, for me, look brave.'

However, while the manager`s comments were absolutely correct (both demonstratably and statistically), one must question his reasons for this splenetic outburst and whether those reasons are sound. (Although one might reasonably argue that van Persie`s challenge on Sorensen, whilst not career threatening, hardly screamed bravery). One could deduce that Wenger is playing a clever mind game. Firstly, with the visit of a United side to chez Emirates on Saturday in mind. Ferguson`s charges have hardly been shy of dishing out a bit of the old ultra violence in past encounters and the manager might just be planting a seed in the mind of the officials that Arsenal are typically targeted by sharpened studs and reared elbows. Le Boss could be hoping that this works on the referee on a subconscious level when the ever lovable Paul Scholes raises his studs in earnest, causing his opponent to hobble off gingerly. (Couldn`t resist).

He could also be exercising the old Mourinho trick of attracting the focus away from his diffident players and onto himself. Wenger knows how the press work in this country and he will be fully aware that his plea for sympathy will likely fall on unreceptive auricles. The team have come in for a hailstorm of criticism from all and sundry of late and the manager might just be deliberately tempting the flies away from the honey and towards the vinegar. However, there is one comment that troubles me slightly from his diatribe,

'We lost a game but we are six points behind the leaders, it is the start of November and we have plenty of quality to get it back. The same people who say we are not good, let them say it in three weeks when we are the best.'

When read at the end of the transcript, one shifts from the impression of a man looking to surreptitiously foster a siege mentality in his squad to a desperate man who is showing signs of pressure and strain. That comment sounds more like frustrated denial than exuberance or confidence and it shifts the perspective somewhat. It`s a pregnant promise that could well look very silly in three weeks time. How his press conference overall will be viewed by us, is probably not important. What is important is how his players view it. Will they see it as the arch protector showing a paternal belief in his band of child stars and draw strength from that? Or will they see it as a man displaying a father`s blindness and an unbecoming frustration that things simply are not going his way? As ever, mistress time will likely reveal all.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday November 5 2008
Time: 12:31PM


Good stuff. Great title too! What's amusing is that when Wenger dishes it out himself so many find it difficult to take no matter how compelling the simple, uncomplicated logic is. If there are any mind games being played it is probably with the minds of the players rather than any officials. Maybe his claim is leaving a hostage to fortune but with 6 games in the next 3 weeks 5 of them at home starting with tonights game it's a calculated risk.
05/11/2008 12:47:00
Unfortunately, on Saturday, I feel Rob Styles bought into the 'whinging Arsenal' game. Everytime time one of our player was brought down he seemed to look upon them with contempt rather than concern. I like the physical side of the game, and some of our players can be minges (Eboue/Adebayor), but some of their players got away with murder. On a different point, the clamping down on time wasting (or lack of it) really grips my s**t! Book em straight away, and they won't do it!!!!
05/11/2008 13:25:00
Wenger is 100% right on that 1. Those fools who say we are scared or weak coz we are not physical are 100% wrong. The fools who play physical football and tackles instead of playing football are the true cowards and weaklings. Coz they CANT play football! And I like what he says, you judge for yourself in 3 weeks time. Maybe the prof have something up his sleeve.
05/11/2008 13:38:00
Yeah Ros styles is a moron. He's has been doing it very consistantly agsint arsenal for some time now. I hate that idiot. Idiots like him who never been tackled from behind wont know it. hopefully he gets 1 tackle from behind and see for himself how nice it is.
05/11/2008 13:41:00
It's a difficult one to call but I agree with Amos in that it's probably for the benefit of our players. When Alex Ferguson and Man Utd come out and say the same thing (about when Ronaldo is fouled), the media don't quite respond in the same way.
05/11/2008 13:44:00
I see Pulis has come out and condemned Wenger for changing the comments he made directly after the game. "In London 48 hours later and 150 miles away from Stoke-on-Trent, Mr Wenger changed tack and has tried to rewrite history." Maybe Mr Pulis, Wenger has seen highlights and footage since the comments.
05/11/2008 13:56:00
He actually hasn't changed his tack at all. He has not denied Stoke deserved to win in subsequent comments, nor has he posited the bad challenges as a reason for Stoke winning. He was asked about injury news for tonight's game and reported that some of his players were unavailable due to injuries obtained from Stoke players. As for Pulis trying to convince us he is some sort of scholar by quoting Abraham Lincoln, here's a quote for him from Neiztsche, "to forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity."
Little Dutch
05/11/2008 14:07:00
Or maybe, Mr Wenger was just responding to each question from different interviewers? "Do yothink Stoke deserved to win?" "Yes" "What are your thoughts on the injuries suffered at Stoke?" "I think they are a fuc*** disgrace". People think Arsene just blurts out random things all the time, but he is simply responding to questions asked. He answers them honestly ..... or in a way that is best suited for the team. We're never going to shake the tag of whingers, so we may aswell have at it ... lol
05/11/2008 14:10:00
TO UNDERSTAND ARSENE'S COMMENTS YOU NEED TO HAVE LISTENED TO THE ENTIRE PRESS CONFERENCE (on the official site). As usual, the media and pundits and rival fans respond with total ignorance. At the press conference, reporters ask him about the Stoke game, which led to Arsene mentioning newspapers calling his players cowards. He repeatedly mentions the "newspapers" saying his players are not brave. He repeatedly uses the words "my players" in a passionate defense of attacks on their supposed bravery. He is angry at people calling his players cowards. IT IS THE MEDIA'S ATTACKS ON HIS PLAYERS' SUPPOSED "COWARDICE" THAT ARSENE IS ADDRESSING. He is NOT talking about why Arsenal lost to Stoke at all. And he is exactly right: Arsenal lost THREE players to serious injuries in one game, all left on a stretcher. The English football culture admires thuggery and bullying which values reckless or deliberate tackles from behind aimed at ankles and shins -- if they get the ball too that just means they can give the excuse "he got the ball." Yeah, you can get the ball and also aim deliberately at an opponent's ankle or shin to deliberately injure him. ARSENE IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. It is players who PLAY FOOTBALL knowing they're targeted for deliberate fouls aimed to injure them who are brave, not the talentless cowards who cynically foul them. LD, I think you put too much importance on AW's last comment on being the best in 3 weeks. I didn't interpret that comment the way you did. I think he was just pointing out the crazy knee-jerk swings in opinion when in one week you're the worst and the next week you're the best.
05/11/2008 14:35:00
"in a passionate defense of attacks on their supposed bravery" -- I meant "in a passionate defense against attacks on their supposed cowardice"
05/11/2008 14:35:00
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