Today’s guest post by Varun (@WengerArmy) gives us a possible view of the thoughts in Arsene’s head in a pre-match presser ahead of Everton.
A lightning rod of pain shot through his head. It was as though he had been speared by…well, a spear. Only, this one was invisible- like ‘Arry’s Cloak.
Press conferences, even on the best of days, were about as enjoyable as watching Tony Pulis picking his nose on the touchline. Today however, it’d be like watching Tony Pulis pretending to be a manager.
As he prepared to face the horde of ‘media personalities’- cause they sure weren’t journalists- a suitable opening remark struggled to find him. The bloody flashes from the cameras didn’t help either. In the end, he decided to go with something simple. “I have a selection headache.” Nobody got the pun, though. It was partly true. Although Theo and Jack were back and had performed to a varying level of competence in the last game, Rosicky was suffering with his hamstring. Even before Norwich, he would’ve preferred to have continued with the same lineup that had been so good over the last 4-5 games, but you can’t help it if a player is injured or suspended. It’s all about the balance and understanding among the team. How else did people think the Invincibles were made?
They would have all sorts of questions about Wilshere, he was sure. Jack this, and Jack that. Of course he was a brilliant player- heck, there was a reason he was touted as England’s best prospect- but he wasn’t perfect. He often left his defensive partner without cover when he went forward with his driving runs- The covering that was essential, and something that Diaby was very good at. He also lacked a little bit when it came to his final ball and his decision making in that situation-Both of which were essential as a #10, and something Rosicky was very good at. And yet, Jack was everyone’s favourite.
In the former’s case, he supposed it was to do with their style of play. Jack wore his heart on his sleeve and played that way on the field. Diaby appeared to be calmer, almost as if he were a stream carrying the ball. That was what they saw, and that was what they wrote about. Jack had the ‘spirit and desire’ and Diaby was ‘careless’.
What did they know? They hadn’t seen Abou in tears, profusely apologizing for letting him down. The constant battles with injuries, just so he could play. He overcame all that mental and physical trauma to come back, time and again. The guy just wanted to play football. If these ‘journos’ had had even a fourth of those injuries, they would have been gibbering wrecks by now.
Not one of these media people appreciated football anymore. To them, it was all about the shiny silver trinkets called trophies. Football was such a dynamic game, filled with possibilities. Each step a player took ruled out and created options. It really wasn’t about the goal that was just scored, but how that goal came about- how your players functioned as a unit, each playing his own part in that creation. Everyone misses out on those nuances and notices only the obvious parts.
Giroud labeled a ‘flop’ because he doesn’t score in 8 games. Is a striker good only if he scores goals? No one mentioned his flicks, layoffs and general hold up play which brings others into the game. And he was still in his first season. Like magic, the criticism disappeared when he scored and won a penalty. To them, this was actual football.
A good defender is one who is tall, black, has a face like a mashed potato and makes goal-line clearances. A midfielder is great if he plays incisive passes game after game. He smirked. They were guilty of the very offence they often accused the Arsenal defence of committing- ballwatching. Very few look at the field in totality.
“Now that Theo’s back, what happens to Gervinho?” says a pustule from the Daily Mail. “He’s not very good, is he?”
There they go again. Gervinho, or The Forehead as some people call him. A waste of space, they say. And why? Just because he had missed a few chances and fluffed a few crosses. Wenger sighed. Why didn’t they focus on Torres? Torres missed sitters- there was a phase when he was absolute bollocks. Yet, no one says anything since that Russian forked out 50 million for the transfer. Which must mean Torres could do no wrong.
Hadn’t Hazard himself said that Gervinho was the best player he’d played with? He himself had admitted that Gervinho rushed things somewhat, and that would improve as he calmed down- he was one of those players that flourished in a positive environment. The home fans hadn’t exactly provided that.
Just yesterday, he had chanced upon a blog by that PIMP guy. It was brilliant, he thought. He smiled inwardly at the Eurofighter comparison. Gervinho only appeared erratic-like the Eurofighter that was aerodynamically unstable, hard to control and yet it was this unpredictability that allowed it to maneouver quickly in a dogfight. The very people who had mocked him have suddenly begun to praise him. Again, it is perception- he’s assisted 3 and scored 2 in 3 weeks, so he is suddenly a good player. And when the same player does the same things without scoring or assisting, he becomes ‘average’. Add ONE mistake to that and he becomes a scapegoat.
“Gervinho is a great player and he has confidence. Theo will have to fight to get his place back”
As he waited for the next question, Arsene ruminated on the other players that had been mocked by the ‘faithful’. Ramsey for ‘dwelling on the ball’ too much last season. People conveniently forget that it was his first full season after that ‘footballer’ Shawcross had almost ended his career. Also, he was overplayed and had to cope with the tragic suicide of his mentor. For all that, Aaron had never hidden. He came back stronger, and was now enjoying football, particularly as the deep lying midfielder. He’d performed solidly when asked to play in the defence too. Part of this was down to his being played on the wings- a position which had helped Aaron improve his composure and decision making significantly, Arsene thought. Yet he was still criticized for playing him ‘out of position’ by people who simply didn’t realize that they were witnessing the outcome of that exercise with Aaron’s arguably Man of the Match performance against Norwich.
Denilson- once such a bright prospect and now on the edge of leaving, all due to constant heckling by the fans.
Walcott- Once thought of as a waste. Till this season, when he burst into goal scoring form. He then became ‘indispensable’, signed a new contract and hasn’t shone since. And so many others for whom he took the blame- Fabregas, Nasri, van Persie, Hleb etc. when in reality they had betrayed his faith in them.
It was then that realization hit him. Almost all the people who ‘wanted their Arsenal back’ had no idea what they were talking about. They were like sheep, being egged and pushed on by the media who in turn were encouraged to pursue negative angles due to this culture of ‘instant gratification’ that had pervaded society through the Internet.
These days, a Twitter handle knew more than the Club Staff. Why, the person was qualified to become the Manager! On what justification? 8 trophyless years. He wasn’t about to waste his time defending himself because none would appreciate the difficulties the Club and he had faced together. Other clubs would have crumbled. Other managers would have gotten another job. Hadn’t Barcelona, Madrid, Bayern etc wanted him? Not Arsenal, and not him. He was an honourable man and he loved this Club. They would all see the plan unfold in the years to come.
For now, though, he just wanted a break. For now, he wanted to tell them all- the crowd of journalists and the so called ‘supporters’, nay, SING at them “You don’t know what you’re doing!”
Putting these thoughts aside, Arsene Wenger sat up straighter in his chair. Smiling, he pointed to the next reporter in line.