In his press conference before Arsenal’s game with Liverpool on Friday, Arsene Wenger was predictably asked about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Having signed the winger in 2011 and managed him for six years before selling him to Liverpool, Wenger cannot have expected any different.
But he could perhaps have expected his quotes not to be manipulated beyond recognition to create a pair of back-page stories completely unrepresentative of what he actually said.
‘You can’t be a big player, sit in your rocking chair and say: I do not want to fight,’ shouts the Daily Mirror headline, with a picture of Oxlade-Chamberlain adorning almost all of their back page. ‘Wenger jibe as the Ox returns to face Gunners’ reads the sub-headline.
The Sun, as they often do, go one further. ‘OX LAZE’ is their back-page headline. You can draw your own conclusions from that.
Both the Mirror and The Sun carry the following quotes from Wenger:
“What do you want to be, a big player and not have to fight? You can’t be a big player, sit in your rocking chair and say, ‘I don’t want to fight’. It doesn’t work like that.
“Every player has to fight. I am convinced it is an important part of being a top player.
“Is he sure of a place there? You are sure of a place nowhere. In a big club you have big competition with some good players. I didn’t want him to go, I offered him a contract to stay but in the end he decided to go and we just had to try to get the best possible price.
“Look, he had one year to go. At the start of the season we had four players with one year to go and I wanted him to extend his contract. He decided to go and we respect that.”
But both the Mirror and The Sun appear to have made an embarrassing mistake, one which makes claims of ‘jibes’ and ‘laziness’ look rather silly. You see, what Wenger actually said was:
“What do you want to be, a big player and not have to fight? You can’t be a big player, sit in your rocking chair and say, ‘I don’t need to fight?’ No.’ It doesn’t work like that. Every player can do that and Chamberlain does it. I am convinced it’s part of being a top player.”
The Guardian are one of few to actually include the “Every player can do that and Chamberlain does it” line, which most would accept is rather important. Leaving it out, deliberately or otherwise, helps to create a dig rather than a compliment.
What a shame for John Cross – one of the most well-connected Arsenal journalists – and Paul Jiggins to both make the exact same error. They must both be feeling terribly awkward.
The Daily Mail were not brave enough to go with that story on their back page, but Sami Mokbel’s article carries a headline of ‘Wenger: Ox didn’t fight for his place’ three pages in.
Does Mokbel, another journalist well connected with Arsenal, leave out the bit where Wenger literally says Oxlade-Chamberlain fought for his place? Yes, yes he does.
But this all pales in comparison to Football London, whose top story at Friday lunchtime is thus: ‘You can’t be a big player’ Every word Wenger & Klopp have said about Ox’s Arsenal return’
You can put Arsenal correspondent Charles Watts on the naughty step with Cross, Jiggins and Mokbel, because he too has simply ignored that crucial line.
And when the Daily Mirror happily take Watts’ piece for their website, the result is obvious:
💬 "You can’t be a big player, sit in your rocking chair and say, ‘I do not want to fight.'"
💬 "He is on a very good way. I like it, but he has so much potential it's unbelievable."
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) December 22, 2017
‘Everything Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp are saying about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Arsenal return.’
Well, *almost* everything.
Your biggest fan
In other Thursday press conference news, Mauricio Pochettino has found the perfect word to describe Sean Dyche and Burnley and he is sticking with it.
“The patience of the project that they build is fantastic. He’s a fantastic manager when he was in the Championship and he’s a fantastic manager when he’s in the Premier League.
“They are doing a fantastic season and I think it’s fantastic to praise him, the players and the club.
“I think in this Premier League for Burnley to be in the position that they are in is to praise the chairman, everyone; the manager, the kit man, the grass man, because they are doing a fantastic job on the Premier League.”
Brilliant. Or fantastic.
In his pre-match predictions for Sky Sports, Paul Merson is not as impressed by Burnley, however.
‘I watched Burnley last week, and in the first half, they just let Brighton play, and got away with it. Then, in the second half, they came out and played. Brighton played them off the park early on. Maybe the wheels are starting to come off.’
They are sixth in the Premier League table after 18 games, and have lost two of their last nine matches. The tyres might have slightly deflated, but the wheels are firmly on.
Elsewhere from Merse:
‘Teams like Leicester have to work so hard to win a football match, and the match against Man City in midweek will have taken a lot out of them. These top teams can play in second gear and win a football match.’
Probably why Leicester made seven changes to their starting line-up.
Dunn, Dunn, Dunn
In his column for the Daily Mirror, Andy Dunn is here to provide a sobering reminder that the joy Bristol City felt in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday could quickly dissipate if they earn promotion to the Premier League.
‘All they need now is promotion to the Promised Land of the Premier League… and then the laughter can stop, then you can eventually try being bloomin’ miserable,’ he writes.
‘Remember when football was Bristol City-type fun for Swansea City fans not that far down the road?’
Dunn goes on to lament how the Premier League ‘has made the game a joyless experience at so many clubs’, before suggesting that Mark Hughes’ seemingly imminent downfall would be not his fault, but that of England’s top flight.
‘The reason why relegation from the Premier League is viewed as an unimaginable ogre is obvious. They are why Mark Hughes might well become the seventh managerial casualty if he fails to beat West Brom tomorrow.
‘Never mind the decent job he has done at Stoke City over the whole four-and-a-half-year piece, falling into the Championship where they might win a good few games would apparently be catastrophic for a club that spent the previous 22 seasons outside the top flight before promotion to the Premier League in 2008.’
Forget winning six of your last 29 Premier League games and sitting one point above the relegation zone, two of the three teams directly below and two of the three teams directly above you having sacked their managers. Because Hughes actually has a masterplan to win some games: getting relegated.
That is some mightily impressive upselling of failure.
Strange headline of the day
‘Swansea may seek quick fix with De Boer’ – The Times.
‘Quick fix’? Did they see Crystal Palace at the start of the season?
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Wilson previews Arsenal v Liverpool.
Dominic King on Mohamed Salah.
Gabriele Marcotti on El Clasico.