Mediawatch: Who thought Wenger was ‘absolutely masterful’?

Date published: Wednesday 30th August 2017 8:00

I spree freely
‘£200m Klopp spree’ – Daily Mail back-page headline.

‘Virgil next in £183m Kop spree’ – The Sun back-page headline.

‘Liverpool’s spending spree that could top £250m to continue’ – ESPN.


You might not have noticed over the Bank Holiday weekend, but Arsenal lost a game on Sunday. It went a little under the radar, and Arsene Wenger escaped without criticism.

Nothing gets past Garth Crooks however, and he dedicates part of his BBC Sport team of the week to the situation at the Emirates Stadium.

“Arsenal were poor against Liverpool and I can’t work out the reason for such a woeful performance in such an attractive fixture. What I did learn was how to manage your emotions in a post-match interview.

“As abject as Arsenal were, manager Arsene Wenger was absolutely masterful at not blasting his team publicly, instead offering quiet reflection and allowing time for him and his players to put things in their proper perspective.

“I agree, Arsene. Wait until Monday.

“And then rip them to shreds.”

Mediawatch can now only picture Wenger standing alone in the Arsenal dressing room on Monday, having given himself a motivational speech in the mirror, ready to “rip” his players “to shreds”. Only then does he remember that it’s the international break, and everyone is on duty with their countries.

The best bit of Crooks’ weird praise is that it is part of his selection of Joel Matip at centre-half. But of course.


We need to talk about Kevin
Sticking with Crooks and his team of the week, the pundit has selected Kevin de Bruyne in midfield.

‘The king of the assists is back.’

Kevin de Bruyne assists at the weekend against Bournemouth: Zero

Kevin de Bruyne assists this season: Zero.


By hook or by Crooks
Completing the hat-trick, here is Crooks describing the ugly late scenes at Dean Court on Saturday:

‘It was during that euphoria that I witnessed a member of the local constabulary utterly defuse a situation and calm Sergio Aguero down after he had been spoken to by a steward as though he were a child. I would like to personally thank the police officer for acting so sensibly and not imposing the ‘letter of the law’.’



Not in our day
Patrick Vieira has been talking to a number of outlets this week, which is a wonderfully timed opportunity for many newspapers and websites to shed a single tear as they reminisce over the good old days of Arsenal having ‘leaders’.

The Daily Mail are one such outlet, and Sami Mokbel wastes little time in lamenting how the Gunners have failed to replace Vieira since he departed in 2005.

His first paragraph reads thus:

‘How Arsene Wenger could do with Patrick Vieira in his ranks. Sunday’s harrowing experience at Anfield would never have happened on the Frenchman’s watch.’

Nope. Never. Certainly not on December 23, 2000, when Vieira started in midfield and played the full game for Arsenal as they lost 4-0 at Anfield in the Premier League. That sounds awfully familiar.

It would also be embarrassing if Vieira had played the full 90 minutes for the Gunners when they lost 6-1 to Manchester United on February 25, 2001. Fortunately, such results and performances ‘would never have happened’ on his watch.



Mart thinking
Mediawatch knew when it opened its copy of the Daily Mail and landed on Martin Samuel’s column that it was diving headfirst down a rabbit hole. Some things are impossible to resist, even if you should know better.

You see, Samuel heard Pep Guardiola’s post-match press conference after Manchester City beat Bournemouth with a late goal in controversial circumstances, and he decided to take his fine-tooth comb and examine them in-depth. Because why not?

‘Pep Guardiola sounded a little tetchy after Manchester City secured an added-time win at Bournemouth,’ he writes. ‘Asked if such a narrow escape was evidence that the Premier League was the hardest in Europe, he bristled.’

Probably because he has been subjected to the same tiresome line of questioning ever since he came to the Premier League in summer 2016. Ask him an interesting, original question, and you might receive an interesting, original answer.

Of course, that does not wash with Samuel, who took great offence to Guardiola’s answer that La Liga is hardly “easy”.

‘Guardiola added that when English clubs do as well as Spain’s in Europe, then the Premier League can claim to be the toughest,’ Samuel continues. ‘Yet he wasn’t being asked to compare European performance. he was asked to evaluate a visit to Bournemouth, and came up with opponents such as Sevilla and Athletic Bilbaco.’

What follows is Samuel rightly identifying that Sevilla are perhaps not a fair comparison with Bournemouth, and he goes off on a tangent which concludes:

‘So while the quality of La Liga is unquestionable, the challenge is largely contained within the elite. That’s why it’s tougher here, even if Bournemouth may never win the Champions League.’

There are a few points to make at this stage:

a) Why does it bloody matter?

b) Guardiola has managed in both England and Spain, as well as Germany. Samuel writes only for an English newspaper. Who has the more rounded perspective?

c) Bournemouth finished ninth in the Premier League on 46 points last season; Alaves finished ninth in La Liga on 55.

In games against last season’s top six, Bournemouth won one out of 12. Alaves won four against Spain’s top six, including away victories over Barcelona and Villarreal.

Perhaps that’s why it’s tougher in Spain, even if Alaves may never win the Champions League.


Pep talk
Not content with picking apart a throwaway quote from a manager given in the immediate aftermath of an eventful game, Samuel continues with his main hobby: assembling a straw man and taking aim.

‘Well, we all knew would would get the blame eventually. Not the fans, even though they spilled towards the pitch; and not the players, because how can they possibly be expected to control their emotions when something as rare and unexpected as a goal happens. It’s not as if they train for precisely that event every day of their professional lives.’

Mediawatch would love to have seen the training session Guardiola organised where the players were tasked with celebrating a last-minute winning goal away from home, but that’s beside the point.

‘No, it’s the stewards’ fault that Raheem Sterling got his second yellow card at Bournemouth on Saturday.’

Who on earth has claimed as such? Guardiola’s complaints after the match were levelled at referee Mike Dean, not the stewards. Did anyone point the finger at the stewards for the Sterling red?

‘It was the stewards who were intimidating and out of control; the stewards whose behaviour requires sanction.’

Mediawatch agrees that the fans and players were culpable for the events that unfolded on Saturday, but those who saw footage of Sergio Aguero attempting to aid a City supporter as his arms were held behind his back and his face pushed into the turf would suggest that the stewards hardly helped the situation.



Mirror, (Sunday) Mirror

Just talk to each other, guys.


That went well
“There were 37 managers on the shortlist. I talked to all the potential managers and said: we need an evolution over a period of time” – Steve Parish, Crystal Palace chairman, June 26.

‘Crystal Palace are considering trying to persuade Sam Allardyce to return as manager if they part company with Frank de Boer’ – The Times, August 29.


Recommended reading of the day
Suzanna Wrack interviews Lucy Bronze.

Sam Drury on the 2011 summer transfer deadline day.

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