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Arsenal Versus Burnley: Arsène Versus The Reptiles

Like many of us I was deeply saddened to wake yesterday to the news of the death of Richie Benaud. Sport lost another of the good guys and in the world of sports media that leaves a very short list indeed. Among the tributes being paid many people, myself included, shared Richie’s tips for commentators, which could translate as guidelines for life in general. As I looked down the list so many pearls jumped out all of which are routinely ignored by the swine who usually pollute the airwaves during a football match. ‘Avoid clichés and banalities’ is probably the most often transgressed and ‘The Titanic was a tragedy the Ethiopian drought a disaster, and neither bears any relation to a dropped catch’ is a lesson in the dangers of of being sucked into melodramatic hyperbole which the likes of Savage and Pearce probably haven’t the wit to even understand.

My personal favourite however, was the most succinct of them all. ‘Never ask a statement’. I couldn’t help thinking of this perfect and obvious piece of journalistic advice as I watched a repeat of Arsène and his weekly duel with the reptiles. Count how many times they fall foul of the statement as question mistake and it is genuinely depressing how Mr Benaud’s wisdom has been entirely ignored by these odious people. I got to wondering why they do it quite so often. Why make a long rambling statement expressing nothing more than their own opinion and then end either by encouraging Arsène to agree with them or not even bothering to ask a question at all? If I were in the manager’s position I simply wouldn’t answer until they actually asked me something.

But again I wondered why. They can’t all just be stupid. Owen and Savage aside you need a modicum of intelligence to get into the industry in first place, surely. Then it dawned on me. They’re not really asking anything are they? They are simply trying to write the headline in advance. They have no interest in Arsène’s ideas or opinions. One of the single most intelligent and fascinating men in the history of this or any other sport and they don’t even want to know what he thinks. When they say something like ‘Hector Bellerin has been in great form this season, it looks like you have another fine young player on your hands, but you must fear that one day he might want to return to his home country, perhaps following Cesc Fabregas in returning to Barcelona’ all they are waiting for is any hint of a ‘yes’ in Arsène’s response so they can publish ‘Wenger Dreads Barca Exodus’ with the subheading of ‘Arsenal boss says Bellerin could follow in Cesc’s footseps’ or ‘Want Away Catalan Kid Eyes Camp Nou Return’ and then print some guff about his blood cells or some such twaddle. I believe this is why Arsène always begins answers to these minefield questions with the word ‘look’. It avoids a positive or a negative and buys him the second he needs to marshal a politician’s answer. Which is why press conferences are such a waste of time. Like political interviews they are merely jousts between journalists desperate for a slip and interviewees desperate to say as little as possible.

So we didn’t really learn anything from Arsène about today’s opponents nor today’s game. Nothing we didn’t know already. Burnley’s home form is better than their away from, their latter season form is better than their early season form and they are fighting for their lives in the relegation zone. They were unlucky not to beat Spurs in their last game, have recently beaten Man City and drawn with Chelsea so anyone out there who believes this is a simple guaranteed three points for Arsenal needs their head read. You won’t be surprised to hear me say that I think we can win and that we ought to win, it should go without saying that we need to win. While the opposition has admirable qualities and has achieved the creditable results mentioned above we have more than a few advantages ourselves. For one the greatest manager in world football, the most experienced in guiding his team through the rocky road of a season’s end. For another a collection of truly astonishing footballing talent epitomised by the peerless Mesut Özil. With the likes of Jack Wilshere coming back into contention the side will only be stronger still and at long last the manager has genuine options throughout the team.

Having said that will he change a winning line up? He might just do that. He is above all a master tactician, more capable than his peers at changing the balance of the side so that the innate qualities of the players he chooses alters the way in which the team performs. That is his real genius. He doesn’t just ask the same players to play in a different way as many lesser coaches will. He drops one player who posses one set of qualities and picks replacement possessed of a subtly different style. Bellerin for Chambers, say, or Gibbs for Monreal. Thus the way the team plays alters because you have a quicker or taller or more attack minded player in the position. The style of play, the manager’s philosophy remains unchanged but the emphasis alters. We might need a more offensive, faster or more tricksy right side with a more solid left side. Or we could be facing a goalkeeper with an identified weakness so we might need players adept at exploiting that weakness. How Blackburn must rue shooting low to Mignolet’s left every time. Did they learn nothing from us? Perhaps the midfielder Arsène wishes to play on the left covers his fullback better than the one he chose the previous week and so he picks the fullback best suited to the changes that implies. There seems to me much more going on than just not changing a winning side or simply picking the players we like best or who you and I might think are in the best form.

I know nothing about Burnley’s strengths or weaknesses but you can bet the man who matters does and whichever team he selects will be the one he believes is best able to counter and exploit those qualities and frailties. It would be fascinating to hear his thoughts on these kind of subjects but sadly he won’t be asked a proper question any time soon. We can only dream of a world wherein the weekly presser features Arsène and somebody of Richie Benaud’s capacity sitting in pleasant surroundings and discussing in patient depth the art of football management. Instead of which we have something far more closely resembling Cantona’s flock of screeching gulls diving and screaming hoping for a bite of something they can shit out onto the pages of their sordid, demeaning rags.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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123 comments on “Arsenal Versus Burnley: Arsène Versus The Reptiles

  1. Evening all. I enjoyed the blog, today, Stew, even with all the cricket talk, which I don’t understand. The tips for commentators, though. That’s good stuff. If only they would listen…

    I watched the game today at the pub with a small, but vocal group of fellow fans. Well, it was mostly me being vocal, but they’re used to that from me now. I stayed off Twitter which meant I was spared from people complaining. Except for one guy at the pub, but I’ve gotten pretty good at pointing out to him why he’s being silly.

    I thought we were for the most part well in control of the game. Nervy, yes, but that’s my problem, not the team’s. They didn’t seem nervy at all. They had one thing in their sights…three points. Job done. And a goal from Aaron as a bonus for me!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sam @samuelJayC · 27m 27 minutes ago
    Last season’s FA Cup semi-final XI: Fabiański; Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen Monreal; Arteta Ramsey; Chamberlain Cazorla Podolski; Sanogo #afc
    5 of those players have been sold or loaned out, whilst Kallstrom came on that day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Squawka Football @Squawka · 3h 3 hours ago
    Francis Coquelin made 11 interceptions today; more than any other player has managed in a single Premier League match this season

    Liked by 2 people

  4. And we didn’t have to pay crazy Fernando or Fernandinho money for him either. And unlike his Brazilian colleagues, he can play a pass or dribble out of trouble.

    We win and Obama is shoring up relations with Raul Castro. What a pleasant afternoon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fräncïs Böd Äwösünlë @awosss · 11h 11 hours ago
    @Sultantschke @thedanielcowan “Where were the Arsenal scouts when Swansea were scouting £2m Michu?” I used to read this a lot on Twitter.

    Daniel Arsenal Cowan retweeted
    Sultan @Sultantschke · 12h 12 hours ago
    Remember Michu? Hasn’t scored a goal since October 2013.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. S @attwood10 · 3h 3 hours ago
    Coquelin with 11 interceptions, one of which started the attack from which we scored. If he’d cost £30m, people would be raving.

    so true, if we had done what Chelsea done with Matic, sold him when he was younger and not ready for the first team and then paid £20M to bring him back when he was ready, then the AAA would love Coquelin and brag about him, but of course they would still whinge about us selling him in the first place

    Liked by 3 people

  7. looks like we are on 3rd tonight on MOTD

    Like

  8. i.am.sam™ @AsTallAsHerEyes · Apr 6
    Not heard much from Stewart Robson lately.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Daily Cannon @DailyCannon · 2h 2 hours ago
    What I always love about MOTD is that they always manage to make games seems balanced.
    I didn’t realise Burnley had more chances than us, those shot stats which showed we had twice as many must be wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Positively Arsenal @Blackburngeorge · 2h 2 hours ago
    We have to lose 4 of the last 6 game to finish outside the top 4. This following the worst start ever. Another manager would get praise.

    jeez George have you not listened at all to the AAA, they have explained why Wenger does not deserve any credit for this late charge, its simple really, Wenger fucks up some portion of our season, this season it was the start, he does this deliberately so that when he fixes the problems, he caused in the first place and we go on a winning run he creates the illusion that he knows what he is doing and that we can challenge the next season.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hiten. @HitenPatel13 · 6h 6 hours ago
    People complaining about how poor Arsenal were…

    Burnley 1-1 Tottenham
    Burnley 1-0 Man City
    Burnley 0-0 Man Utd
    Burnley 0-1 Liverpool

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sir Jenkinson @theEpicGooner · 6h 6 hours ago
    Spurs were 1point ahead of us when they beat us and now we’re 12points ahead of them.

    Like

  13. Just got back, that’s a long journey but I waved at George as we passed Blackburn. Turf moor is a real old fashioned ground and the pitch is tiny, the area nearly touches the corner flag. So you can imagine a team with energy can defend in numbers and cause problems at the other end quite easily. Make no mistake that was a brilliant win in the circumstances and one which many teams wouldn’t have achieved including our own of a few seasons back. The group we have at the moment really are a special bunch

    Liked by 2 people

  14. yes ian i agree that we have a special group at the moment, interesting that a line by Wenger last week that was not taken up by anyone in his quotes about our attacking options (or maybe I’m reading more into it but for me Wenger, as he usually does, was talking more generally and not just about our attack)

    Wenger: “something big is happening here”

    Liked by 1 person

  15. so by the time our game with chelsea is over in two weeks time the worst case scenario is with five league games to go
    chelsea 13 points ahead of Arsenal and Arsenal out of the FA Cup too

    best case scenario
    chelsea 1 point ahead of Arsenal and top four place guaranteed and St Totteringham Day celebrated and Arsenal v Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final too

    Like

  16. Above, Henry talks about Coq.

    Like

  17. good article on Dean and the Burnley fans including the lines

    “‘Same old Arsenal, always cheating’.
    It’s the chant of a small club that is annoyed they aren’t able to get away with persistent fouling.”

    Read more at http://dailycannon.com/2015/04/pull-one-mike-dean-annoys-burnley-fans/#PzbUIdmVK7SR9cSz.99

    http://dailycannon.com/2015/04/pull-one-mike-dean-annoys-burnley-fans/?

    Like

  18. Michael Gooner
    ‏@MickTheGooner
    Spurs fan on 606: “We need to get rid of Daniel Levy, so we can WIN the league.”

    Like

  19. I was away from a proper keyboard yesterday so didn’t have the chance to thank Steww properly for this great piece. The line that stood out for me was “One of the single most intelligent and fascinating men in the history of this or any other sport” and that is absolutely on the money. I would love to meet him and listen to him on a whole host of subjects, and it beggars belief that he is so often ignored or derided.

    I think that one of the big problems with football in the UK is the way it is marketed so obviously to seemingly poorly educated urban males. I base that on the advertisements that feature so prominently before and during the matches, the popularity of shows like Talksport, and the astonishing influence of the tabloid press. A very conscious editorial dumbing down is going on, and far from being held up as an example of the way to genuine growth and self-improvement, Arsene is lambasted as a nutty professor who is quite simply weird and wacky. It reminds me ever so slightly of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and once again I am left wondering why.

    But back to the football: we were f good, and a game I had felt uneasy about since 2 o’clock last Saturday was negotiated with the minimum of fuss.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. the ARSENAL fans outsung the home fans all game yesterday and created a great atmosphere. the cheeky reply to the always cheating chant was same old burnley always moaning, followed by your going to moan in a minute and all you do is fucking moan. while i understand some of the reasons for emirates being quite, i dont understand how a really compact ground full of supporters seeing their very hardworking team fight for their lives in the top division is totally dominated by away supporters. they have all the ingredients to be as famous for home support as a stoke but fail miserably.
    the journey back was made even better by the amount of spuds ringing up blaming lewis,levy,potch and every player, even kane for being a poor captain!, for their impending failure again this season only ethel the tea lady emerges without stain on her character.

    Like

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