A Guest post from Shotta, @shotta_gooner
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?“
Did you know there was a mini-pitch invasion by at least 2 or 3 Manchester United supporters when they scored their match winning goal vs Crystal Palace on Saturday? The goal was also met by a cacophony of noise from the away-end as the travelling fans erupted in ecstasy that there 4th place is seemingly secure.But for the assembled media, given the scant coverage, there was no sound, no tree fell in the forest.
Hah, they hope. Contrast the media’s silence to their noisy reaction to that famous speech by Arsene to the October 2012 Annual General Meeting when he said:
“For me there are five trophies every season: Premier League, Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League…”
Ever since, the media and the doom-mongers have had a field day accusing Wenger of mediocrity and or diminishing the importance of the venerable FA cup. Hopefully by the end of this piece you will agree with me that there is “lots of noise, but no substance.”
Wenger’s very sensible observation of the importance of qualifying for the Champions League eventually morphed into petty ridicule and plain idiocy. Fourth place became the Arsene Wenger Trophy. Denizens of twitter, facebook and blogs had a field day mocking the club and the manager. In a bizarre type world where reality is distorted and emotions manipulated, the second most successful coach in the EPL history with 3 trophies and 6 FA cups was being equated with mediocrity and lack of ambition.
Paradoxically, during that same period, clubs like Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa and Tottenham, desperately sought the brass ring of becoming a top-4 club at Arsenal’s expense. The 2012-13 season, which Wenger’s speech will be forever associated, was no exception. The club had to fight until the very last day of the season to clinch 4th place, by beating Newcastle 1:0 (Alan Sugar, ex-chairman of Spurs, infamously tweeted that it was 1:0 to the Geordies and the Totts were temporarily misled into believing they could overtake us as they played concurrently – pure comedy). Yet media types were quick to decry the achievement. After pictures emerged of the players celebrating in the dressing room, the notorious celebrity gooner, Piers Morgan, long before he was separated from his lucrative gig at CNN, tweeted to his thousands of followers:
“No Manchester United team would ever celebrate coming 4th. That’s the difference.”
In retrospect, Morgan’s tweet marked the highwater mark of the anti-Wenger lunacy, the silly mocking of 4thplace trophy had met is Waterloo. Morgan could tweet as he did because Ferguson had, triumphed in the EPL for the 20th time, primarily at the expense of Arsenal by encouraging Van Persie’s messy divorce from the club. The Dutchman’s goals arguably won the United the title but came at a very high price, £24million for an ageing striker with a history of injuries as well as the alienation of Wayne Rooney, hitherto United’s most valuable player. Ferguson’s retirement and David Moyes inheritance of the consequences some of his final-term decisions resulted in the unthinkable, the demise of United as a top-4 club to a 7th place falling below even Europa League qualification.
Not only was the flagship club of English football no longer competing among the top clubs in Europe’s most prestigious club competition but the drip-drip of news from the owners and management of the United was to warn that prolonged non-participation in the champions league could be disastrous financially especially for its far reaching portfolio of lucrative commercial deals. In quick time, during the summer of 2014, the stenographers of United’s greatness and invincibility were falling over themselves to convince the public that the minimum goal for the 2014-15 season was qualification for the champion’s league. Ah ha, almost exactly what Wenger said at the AGM Arsenal less than two years before:
“I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they do not ask ‘did you win the League Cup?’, they ask you ‘do you play in the Champions League?’.”
But United “could never ‘celebrate 4th”, would they? Nor would they make winning the FA cup secondary to the champions league? Yet on March 2nd as reported by the Telegraph, Van Gaal explicitly agreed with Arsene:
“Yes, I think that he is right,” Van Gaal said after a thoughtful pause. “I think that Arsène Wenger is saying always the right things. I think that for a club the Champions League is the highest level and that’s why he is saying that. And to finish in the first four it’s a fantastic result, I think, and for us, Manchester United, more I think.”
“What is important for the clubs – when you win the FA Cup you are not in the Champions League but you have won the title. A title,” he says. “So for the players it is fantastic, for the manager it is fantastic but our goal is to reach in our first year together a place in the Champions League.”
Surely a tree fell loudly in the forest. Yet Jason Burt, the reporter giving the quotes, insist there was no noise, holding fast to his belief (and I suspect his peers) that the FA cup is priority:
“Van Gaal needs to win. And so does Arsène Wenger who is desperate to retain the FA Cup after his own nine-year long wait to land silverware and with accusations flying again last week – aimed by the former United midfielder and now a pundit Paul Scholes – that Arsenal simply lack ambition.”
What a piece of crock. The last refuge of a scoundrel or an English reporter is to give credence to quotes by a former well-known pro turned pundit. Go figure. In the meantime, as evident by the celebrations at Crystal Palace, United fans are desperate for that Arsene Wenger trophy. That ambition is clearly not exclusive to Arsenal.
In conclusion, I leave you with a quote by a friend of this blog, Bootoomee, who writing on the same subject for Untold Arsenal a few weeks ago, said:
There is little doubt that football fans are treated like idiots by the media but that is because far too many are stupid crowd following, cliché spouting lemmings. They take their cues from the media and run with it. With Manchester United and Liverpool fighting to get a CL place, all of a sudden it becomes important again. I wonder what they will say if either of Man United or Liverpool get the 4th place at the expense of the other and their players celebrate. Would they be mocked like Arsenal were in 2013?