Mediawatch: Wenger hypocrisy and a hatchet job…

Date published: Tuesday 8th May 2018 11:05

Oliver Holt, the Mail on Sunday‘s chief sports writer, tweeted his displeasure at Arsenal supporters delivering what he saw as mawkish tributes to Arsene Wenger after they spent a fair amount of time wanting him gone.

It’s not an opinion that Mediawatch agrees with, but Holt’s point is at least pretty clear: He considers this to be hypocrisy of the highest order on the part of Arsenal fans.

Still, it takes one to know one. Hypocrisy, thy name is Oliver.

You see the very next day, Holt wrote a glowing tribute to the seriously ill Alex Ferguson.

‘Sir Alex Ferguson is a colossus who has dominated the lives of so many of us who love football for the past 30 years.

‘In many ways, he still dominates our game five years after he retired as manager of Manchester United. He is still the yardstick against whom every other manager is judged. And, inevitably, every other manager falls short.

‘When he presented Arsene Wenger with a silver vase at Old Trafford last week, it was impossible not to compare the two and think that for all the great things Wenger achieved at Arsenal, Ferguson outdid him in longevity and dwarfed him with the number of trophies he won.’

No issue there. A highly appropriate and well-written celebration of the manager at a difficult time.

But in 2005, Holt wrote the following about Ferguson:

‘Next Monday, Sir Alex Ferguson will celebrate 20 years in charge of Manchester United.

‘In some ways, I’d like to join in the accompanying orgy of back-slapping and misty-eyed remembrance. But I can’t.

‘I’m happy to acknowledge that after Bob Paisley and Brian Clough, Ferguson has been one of the most successful and brilliant managers in English football history.

‘He has consistently produced teams that have played breathtaking attacking football and which have been superb ambassadors for our game. He has moulded players and men to admire in his two decades at the helm and built United back up into one of England’s leading clubs.

‘But like celebrating his pal Tony Blair’s 10 years as prime minister next May, Fergie’s anniversary amounts to nothing more than a lazy and meaningless ballyhoo for a man who has stayed on too long.

‘Whatever United go on to achieve this season or in seasons to come, nothing changes the fact that Ferguson should have quit in 2002 when he said he was going to quit.

‘And so he made one of the worst and weakest decisions of his life and decided to stay on. In the four years that have elapsed since, his legacy has been irrevocably tarnished.’

We’re hearing that it’s now okay to believe that a great manager went on for too long and should have left earlier, while still paying glowing tributes to his reputation and past achievement. More as we get it.


Pick and choose
‘Sick of Oz-ill’ shouts the back page of The Sun on Tuesday morning, with the claim that Arsenal ‘stars’ are fed up with Mesut Ozil’s ‘injuries’.

The inverted commas suggest that they believe Ozil is faking ill health (he reportedly had a back injury on Sunday), as perennial Arsenal grump Mark Irwin explains:

‘Mesut Ozil has angered Arsenal teammates with his shocking prima donna attitude. A number of the Gunners squad suspect Ozil is being allowed to pick and choose which games he plays in.’

Leaving aside the hyperbolic first line, if Ozil was indeed feigning injury on Sunday and is ‘picking and choosing’ the matches he plays in, wouldn’t a meaningless home game against Burnley in the sunshine be exactly the type of match he would want to play?

He doesn’t fancy it up him. But he ‘picked and chose’ to start away games against Atletico Madrid, Milan, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool? Hmmmm.


Xherdan Shaqiri: A hatchet job
‘George Graham had a maxim on which he built his Arsenal team. ‘Never buy a player who is taking a step down to join you,’ he would say. ‘He’ll think he’s doing you a favour.

‘The league has moved on since then and with the money now pouring into English football, it is not unusual to see a middling club taking talent from Inter Milan, say, or Valencia. Yet, watching the sorry state of Stoke this season, it is very possible Graham had a point.

‘Yet watching Shaqiri bung vital corners into the first man, or lose his balance in the box as Stoke chased the game against Crystal Palace, it was hard to reconcile how much higher he thinks he should be playing. He looked every inch a Stoke player, every inch a relegation candidate’ – Martin Samuel, Daily Mail.

1) We’re just ignoring Wilfried Zaha keeping Crystal Palace up after stepping down from Manchester United, Aaron Mooy being crucial in helping to keep Huddersfield up after leaving Manchester City and Nathan Ake being one of Bournemouth’s best players this season after leaving Chelsea, are we?

2) Shaqiri has been Stoke’s best player this season. We can’t stress this enough: He is not the problem, and nobody who plays for or supports Stoke thinks he is the problem.


Stat massage
In the Daily Mail, Dominic King offers a perfectly fair assessment of Wayne Rooney’s Everton future, but Mediawatch can’t help thinking that the following is a slightly one-eyed shot at a compliment:

‘Such treatment suggests Rooney, who sat out the Southampton draw with a calf problem, is horribly out of form. He has not sparkled of late but the irony of this season is that he remains the man who has provided the best moments.

‘Without Rooney’s 10 goals, the last against Swansea on December 18, Everton would be four places lower in the table and seven points worse off.’

Well yes, if Everton replaced him in the side with a player who failed to take any of the chances Rooney has had and failed to score or assist any other goals given the same minutes on the pitch. And missed the same three penalties as Rooney.

That’s the problem with the ‘without Player X’ statistic: You would have Player Y instead, rather than a gaping hole.

Maybe even somebody on less than £160,000 a week.


Changed your tune
‘Darren Moore has done an excellent job as West Brom’s caretaker manager. “He’s been around the place a long time and knows what works,” said keeper Ben Foster. “He’s steeped in the West Brom tradition.”

‘And what tradition would that be? The Tennent Caledonian Cup winners 1977 tradition? The Watney Cup finalists 1971 tradition? It is 50 years since West Brom last won a trophy of significance – the 1968 FA Cup and they are going down because the same players Moore has available to him played like drains under Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis.

‘So either Moore is a genius, or the players let the club and its previous managers down badly. As tends to be the tradition with relegated sides’ – In the Daily Mail on May 1, Martin Samuel explains why West Brom are better because the players have decided to play rather than because Darren Moore ‘is a genius’.

‘He does have arguably the most remarkable run of results recorded by any manager in the Premier League this season, but that doesn’t seem to matter. From rock bottom, winning at Manchester United and Newcastle, beating Tottenham, drawing with Champions League finalists Liverpool, somehow isn’t enough to secure Moore his position permanently’ – In the Daily Mail on May 1, Martin Samuel explains (correctly) why it is a disgrace that Moore might not get the job permanently.

Perhaps the players will just decide to ‘not play like drains’ under another manager? As it’s supposedly that simple.


In which we ask the question: Have The Sun done a feature based entirely on a non-league footballer being successful on Tinder?
Yes, yes they have.


Sorry, there’s more
‘STEP aside David Beckham, you’re NOT Britain’s sexiest footballer,’ begins the latest offering from The Sun features guru Jon Boon. It’s a day ending in ‘y’, so he’s towards the top of the football homepage. What dirt does he have?

‘That moniker goes to the still single Tom Derry who… wait for it… plays for Leatherhead in the Isthmian League Premier Division.’

And here we were thinking that players’ clubs were determined by how good they were at football.

‘SunSport spoke with the 23-year-old Londoner who told us where we’re going wrong with our love lives and how YOU can improve your profile.’

Oh Jesus. No. Not really?

‘Tom compared going on a date to playing a football match, shared his best and worst Tinder moments and admitted swiping has now become a pregame ritual.’

Oh yes. What then follows is 800 words of advice from a non-league footballer on how to get dates through Tinder, along with his annoyance that he missed out a dating app’s most-swiped men the previous year. Even by Boon’s usual standards of ‘is this really about football?’, this scrapes the barrel.

“I usually get to football early because swiping has become a bit of a pre-game ritual.”

And you thought non-league was where to find the real game.


Tony Gale does expert analysis

It’s all in the detail.


Quote of the day
“You could compare a Tinder match to a football match. I like to keep my opening line simple, like a completed pass in the first few minutes. Then, after we chat for a bit, I ask for their number and see how the match progresses after that.

“Re-evaluate at half time, switch up the tactics if need to and consult my teammates. Organise a date, maybe some refreshments, to keep you going until full time. If you’re pleased with the chemistry, arrange a repeat fixture as soon as possible” – Tom Derry.

There are not enough cringes in the world.


Recommended reading of the day
Nick Miller on Cardiff City’s promotion.

David Squires on the Premier league relegation battle.

Jonathan Liew on Per Mertesacker.

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