Johnny/Al's Football Managers on TV: Wenger

The massive sleeping bag, the professorial benevolence - we've all seen thousands of Arsene Wenger interviews over the years. He neither roisters nor doisters...

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In a new series, John Nicholson and Alan Tyers take a look at the Premier League's gaffers and how they come across on the telly. To kick us off, it's Arsenal's very own Professor Yaffle, Monsieur Arsène Wenger...


Philosophy
He has perfected the art of saying little while convincing journalists and interviewers that he's very open. Early on, his greatest media hits were fancy modern 1990s ideas such as being fit, eating pasta and kicking seven shades out of people. Then it became all about skill, artistry and the moral superiority of retaining possession and not getting bruises. But as they couldn't win anything doing that, he signed a couple of big lads and rediscovered the art of crossing, but all the while has given no concession to any interviewer that he has changed his approach.


Interview style
Can do sulky indignation with the best of them, especially when his players have been bullied by some bigger, nastier boys (which is almost every player). Height gives him a looming, vulture-like quality as he looks down at his interviewer with a weary pity.


Suit, tracksuit or other
Used to favour the full sportswear but soon realised it made him look like an over-enthusiastic PE teacher and reverted to the fits-where-it-touches dark suit and inevitable red tie. In recent years has taken to wearing a massive head-to-toe sleeping bag as a coat from about October to May, giving him the look of a man who lives under a bridge or of an especially comprehensively lagged boiler.


Can he talk the English?
No interviewer need fear Arsène descending into glassy-eyed, garbled foreign or come on like an incomprehensible footballing version of Nancy Dell'Olio. He's now so familiar with the language after nearly two decades in English football that you could be forgiven for thinking he's really an Englishman putting on a dodgy French accent for an episode of 'Allo 'Allo.


Cliché counter
His remarkable longevity has meant that we have all seen thousands upon thousands of Wenger interviews, all conducted in that measured, lofty way, beginning sentences with "Well..." Has made the TV persona of the measured, reasonable Prof his own, a real one-off. Any cliché he delivers on TV is his own, such as the legendary, "I did not see ze incident" when Pat or Manu had done something especially heinous to an opponent, possibly with a flick-knife or a firecracker smuggled back on the coach from France.


Proper football man?
TV football people love a PFM but being French automatically excludes any manager from being such. Tendency to drink fine Alsace white wine is also a major disqualification. Everyone knows the Proper Football Man drinks 'a nice bottle of red'. When we say bottle, we mean, petrol tanker driven by Peter Reid, of course. Arsène will not roister nor doister with 'the boys' in the studio. Punching someone on the top of their arm very hard is not his style at all. However, he is the PFM's idea of an intellectual, which is to say he's been told he's clever by Peter Reid.


Sacking ahoy?
Not even if he ran up the Seven Sisters Road singing Chas'n' Dave songs and had a homemade tattoo of Martin Chivers on his face. Has always benefited from the pundit's default 'be careful what you wish for' conservatism even as the years rolled on with any silverware. Will surely die with his boots, and massive sleeping bag coat on, possibly aged 197 during a TV interview, pondering benevolently a question from the Geoff Shreeves-Bot 2000.

John Nicholson and Alan Tyers

Check out John's new series of crime novels about life, death, sex and UEFA Cup football.

Or Alan's illustrated sports books here.

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