Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thank you, Jonathan Wilson

This is the point that I was trying to make about Arsenal, only Wilson puts it in a more measured and convincing fashion:

There are two points here. First of all, by crying wolf so persistently about referees, Wenger invalidates genuine grievances. Against Sunderland two marginal decisions were called wrongly and went against his side; against Barcelona something inexplicable happened that really ought to be examined. And, it might be noted that a linesman incorrectly gave a marginal offside in Arsenal's favor in the first leg against Barcelona, ruling out a Lionel Messi goal: those things happen, and until FIFA finally permits technology, they will continue to happen and managers just have to put up with them.

And the second is that the constant bleating and offering of excuses gives the players a get-out. Wenger is not alone in blaming referees, of course, and if Sir Alex Ferguson gets away with a one-match ban for his attack on Martin Atkinson, who refereed United's game against Chelsea, as was suggested by some media reports, then that is appalling. Ferguson's rants tend to be aimed at generating a siege mentality and/or distracting attention away from his side's failings and it could be argued that their cynical nature makes them morally far more questionable than Wenger's impassioned irritation.

Behind closed doors, though, Ferguson doesn't offer his players a get-out; Fabregas, meanwhile, has spoken of the calmness of the Arsenal dressing-room, describing how nobody ever shouts at anybody and everybody gets on perfectly. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but the result appears to be that nobody ever takes responsibility. It's always somebody else's fault: the referee, the opponent's tactics, the fact the opposing goalkeeper always has a brilliant game against Arsenal (so buy a good one yourself), bad luck.... Yes, Arsenal has had injuries, but United's injury problems were so bad it fielded seven defenders and Darron Gibson against Arsenal in the FA Cup on Saturday and still won comfortably 2-0.

Maybe I just should have said that Wenger’s post-game outburst reflected a classic instance of displaced anger.  Rather than focusing on his team’s shortcomings, he spent his time working up a media firestorm against a bad refereeing decision.


Anonymous said...

There are things I disagree with Mr. Wilson on, but I should also point out that what you've conveniently omitted shows that Mr. Wilson wouldn't agree with the position you took one bit:

The following Tuesday (on March 8), of course, Wenger was apoplectic about the dismissal of Robin van Persie in Arsenal's loss to Barcelona. Again, it's easier to understand why: there was something a little odd about the way Arsenal went in at halftime with yellow cards while Barca had none, despite three clear instances in which Barca players grabbed Arsenal players by the throat. Did Van Persie hear the whistle and kick the ball away in frustration, or did he genuinely believe the game was still live and shoot? It hardly matters: it's impossible to tell, and if Massimo Busacca, the referee, had the slightest doubt as to Van Persie's motive, he surely had to err on the side of leniency. It was an appalling decision, one that effectively ended Arsenal's chances, and seemed so arbitrary that it did raise horrible suspicions as to why he might have made it. But it wasn't the reason Arsenal lost; Arsenal lost because Barcelona played the same sort of football, only much better.

Sure, Mr. Wilson overstates the point that we've now come to agree on - that Barcelona's odds went from somewhat north of 50% to somewhat north of 90% based on that call. But otherwise, he's saying a lot of things you aren't saying: that the reffing was not one sided (and note, I have not seen the game), that the outrage was justified, and, quite paradoxically to his last sentence, that the bad call "effectively ended" Arsenal's chance of winning.

But the point Mr. Wilson is making is in another paragraph you've omitted:

"This Arsenal hasn't even won trophies to feel the ache of them slipping from its grasp; what it is losing is potential and opportunity. Perhaps it can find some inner resolve, can fight off the doubts, and claim the league title, but if it is to do so, Wenger and his players have to accept that misfortune happens. Greatness is overcoming it."

Whereas your point is that Wenger is a whiner who is a disgrace to the game, and that Arsenal sucks and will continue to suck unless . In other words, Mr. Wilson is providing some (rather cliched and unhelpful, in my opinion) advice to Wenger, while you're just lashing out at him. To try and say Mr. Wilson's opinion piece (which seems to be right up there with his "Sunderland is a better team without Darren Bent" opinion piece in its lack of any logic) somehow is what you were trying to say is laughable.

Anonymous said...

my "unless" got omitted by the use of brackets, but it said something to the effect of "here you've been vague as to what Arsenal needs to do to not suck, other than implying they should emulate Barcelona, which, absent the success and the outrageous salaries (which Arsenal cannot afford), they're already doing more than practically any other team in Europe."

David Stinebeck said...

Well said first Anonymous!