Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger came under a barrage of questioning and criticism in the wake of the Gunners’ 0-0 draw at Villa Park on Saturday – not from the fans, but from the media apparently speaking on behalf of the fans.
In his post-match press conference, Wenger was asked,
“What would you say those Arsenal fans who were chanting quite loudly ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ towards the end of the game?”
Here, the journalist seems to have heard chanting he perceived to be aimed at the Arsenal manager with relation to the substitution of striker Olivier Giroud who was taken off in the 86th minute and replaced by young defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin whilst Arsenal were still searching for a late winner.
“I do my job and I give my best for the team and for the club and I let you judge.”
Another reporter quipped,
“Does it hurt at all?” to which the manager smiled and retorted simply,
“I managed for 30 years at the top level. If I have to convince you that I can manage a team, it would be an insult to you.”
“How many games have you managed?” he asked with a wry smile.
“I promise you if you manage one, I’ll sit in the stand and I’ll chant ‘you know what you’re doing’.”
The reporters began to fire in unison, one voice above the din shouted,
“It’s not us who are saying you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s your own supporters”.
To me, the most illuminating part of the row was when one piped up,
“I don’t understand why you’d want to create any kind of rift with the Arsenal fans.”
Perplexed, Wenger replied,
“Why should I create any rift?”
“Because it’s not showing them any respect,” said the journalist.
Here we have a classic case of journalists creating a story out of nothing. I wonder whether there were such chants at all – perhaps there were – but regardless, it is the journalists who create the story for their own interest – the narrative of Arsenal fans doubting Wenger’s ability to manage their team is tenuous, to say the least.
I’m inclined to suggest these reporters perhaps preferred to browse the tweets of Arsenal fans to gage their reaction to Giroud’s substitution – not, as suggested, the reaction of those in attendance at Villa Park. The Twitter hashtag #WengerOut may offer more insight as to where the reported ‘chants’ were coming from.
Furthermore, for the reporters to then adamantly claim to speak on behalf of Arsenal fans – asserting that Wenger was the architect of a ‘rift’ of their creation and then to ignore his answer entirely, opting instead to reply with platitudes about respect is a disservice to their readers and subscribers.
To cap it all off, before the PR rep had to shut down the subject altogether, Wenger became visibly offended by the suggestion that the journalists were speaking on behalf of the Arsenal fans.
“You think what you want. You imagine now that you think you know what they [the fans] thought. You don’t.”
The reporter’s placation on the concept of respect may have been justified had Wenger said that he didn’t care what the fans think. He didn’t. It’s acceptable that a manager in the Premier League will come into some criticism from fans and the media alike if the team are underperforming but it’s disrespectful to the readers of these newspapers when the headlines read, as they do this morning,
“You don’t know what you’re doing! Wenger battles against Arsenal woes” and,
“Wenger fails to mend growing rift with angry Arsenal fans”
In the words of Mark Twain,
“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald