Wenger once again plays blame game in post-match interview


Judge at the end of the season, not now.
There are still 45 points at stake.

If, like me, you support the manager and want him to come through and win something significant this season – more than the FA Cup – you have to answer some awkward questions. That is how it is after a setback, in football as in life. If you are honest and straight you need to deal with failure as you do with success – no hiding place.

It was not our day. Chelsea played well. Hiddink has taken them out of their post Mourinho depression. They are now a unit with talent and commitment. We may be disappointed in ourselves and I will come to that but we cannot pretend that Chelsea are not on the way back. Prior to Per’s sending off they were finding space, playing triangles and giving us problems.

Lonely walk back to the dressing room for the recently demoted Captain

Lonely walk back to the dressing room for the recently demoted Captain

As to the sending off – I thought at the time that Willian’s pass was an absolute beauty – I had a good view across the pitch and he put the ball in just the right place with just the right pace. It challenged Per, and in fairness to him it would have challenged any defender. It was that good. Because it happened to Per and he rarely looks athletic it has stirred much anti-Per comment and much anti-Wenger comment.

There are two issues – was it a foul? and was it a sending off?

Clattenberg was sure about the foul and gave himself time to decide whether it was a sending off. In deciding it was a foul he decided that Per caught Costa. At the time (at the Emirates) the assumption was that it was a foul. Viewing it again I still think it is a foul. Per did enough to foul Costa. That said there is room for doubt. Costa stumbled and fell a step or two on from the foul and not at the foul and people are suggesting he dived. Costa does not have a happy reputation outside of Stamford Bridge and here again he went down in “agony”. The referee has no action replay. In two years he will and there will be better decisions but I am not going to criticise Clattenberg – not because I am pro-referees (which I am) – but because with what was going on and he was not far away he made an honest decision. Unfortunate? Maybe… but remember Per was under pressure because Willian played a great ball and Costa was well positioned to exploit Per’s vulnerability.

Next question: was it a sending off? Only one issue here. Could Koscielny have got back in time to challenge? Was it a one on one with the keeper? Alan Smith thought it was a red card. Smudger is straight and on the action replay it did look as if Koscielny was a step maybe two behind. So a foul and a red card. Sorry about that, but self-deception never gets you very far in life.

wenger post-match

Wenger’s choice of words left a lot to be desired…

Now in my view, Wenger made a mess of the post match interview on this point. I accept he was trying to control his emotions following a big disappointment – but he was clumsy when he should have been clear. He should have said “there were two issues. Was it a foul? Was it a sending off? I need to see the action replays but I have doubts whether my player actually touched Costa so maybe it was not a foul. If I am wrong and it was a foul I still think Koscielny was well placed to make a challenge so it was not an obvious goal scoring opportunity.” Excellent – clear – honest and no sour grapes. Instead Wenger allows his answers to look as a certain accusation that Costa is a cheat. He said “He [Costa] got Mertesacker sent off”. Maybe he rolled around in agony, but if he was caught and made a meal of it, he was still caught. Wenger has been around long enough to know how to handle the post match interview – tense and emotional though it may be.

Now the reckoning. The knives are out. Tyburn is installing spectator seats at Marble Arch. The date of the hanging is to be announced. The animosity to Wenger is strong. It is reflected in today’s Sun when Steven Howard’s headline is:

“Bottled it…again. Arsene’s spineless Gunners will never win the title.”

Those of us who stand behind the manager have to ask ourselves the question: Are We Defending The Indefensible? Is it the case that we lack bottle and commitment? Are us Fancy Dans incapable of landing a punch? Are we going to fail again?

Those are the uncomfortable questions being asked and we know it. The answer is We Do Not Know.

An incredible selection of authentic Arsenal shirts at amazing prices!

An incredible selection of authentic Arsenal shirts at amazing prices!

There are still 15 matches to go and 45 points to play for. The time for a decision is at the end of the season when we will be either crowned champions or dismissed as pretenders. The questions are not going to go away. We have had the opportunity to buy and improve the squad if there are doubts about individual and collective abilities. This is Wenger’s team. Yes – there have been injuries, but we are only three points behind with 45 to play for. It is in our hands. No one else’s. If we fail, we fail and it will be Wenger’s failure. If we succeed it will be Wenger’s success. This is his team, his squad, his signings, his stadium. I make it clear I want him to succeed because I like what he stands for – except for some of his post match interviews – and I want success to come to vindicate the principles of football that he espouses.

But the reality is there. We cannot avoid it. We have made the transition from Highbury to Emirates despite being forced to sell many of our vera best players. We are now poised to be a top Club for many years to come, but we have to have success. A loss of nerve by the players; a failure to stand and take the strain and meet the pressure and come out on top will make it difficult to support Wenger.

He may sign players but more likely he will stick with his squad. He needs to peer into the whites of their eyes and ask if he sees winners or also-rans. Wenger and his players can come out on top and flummox their critics. Or they can go quietly and slip away into the shadows. Everyone has to put themselves on the line.

We will know by May.

No love lost - Cesc responds to another hostile reception at the Emirates

No love lost – Cesc responds to another hostile reception at the Emirates

Final point – and I return to the booing of Fabregas. It diminishes Arsenal. It is an embarrassment. Boo Adebayor and I will be alongside you. But Cesc?! He was wonderful for us. He wanted to return, but things had moved on. Booing him and doing it on national TV merely makes us look narrow minded, short sighted and massively ungracious.


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6 Responses to Wenger once again plays blame game in post-match interview

  1. Josh January 25, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    I can’t believe you think booing Cesc is an embarrassment to the club! What is an embarrassment is our former club captain refusing to report back to training and attending the Forumula 1 when he should of been in London Colney to push through a move to Barcelona.

    Arsenal fans are not stupid and we cannot blame him for wanting to go to Barca but his actions in making it happen where an embarrassment. He also stated previously his hatred of Chelsea and in particular Mourinho I don’t care how well he did for us he has shown his true colours and people can boo him all they like if they pay their money.

  2. Richard January 25, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    Well now when I first saw the incident I thought it was a foul and red card. Since I have seen it three times and I’m less convinced it was a foul. Why? Well the reasons are two fold first Costa legs crumpled after passing mertsacker. Secondly costa’s direction and momentum in going down and after going down was unnatural. Now that doesn’t excuse fact that maybe had flamini not been on pitch and chambers of eleny been on we would not have conceded the goal. I’m struggling to see what flamini does other than run around pointing he doesn’t seem to tackle or intercept balls much. I agree why boo fabregas he served us well before returning back to Spain to his boyhood club, ok he agitated for that but it was the club he left to join us and secondly it’s Barcelona. Booing doesn’t affect him in fact it seems to inspire him.

  3. Edmund Hill January 25, 2016 at 2:58 pm #

    Hi Graham,

    Just two points:
    1. From replays, there’s no indication that Mertesacker made contact with Costa. It’s clear that he was not caught, but simply played the situation (and the ref) to his advantage. You may not agree with Wenger’s response, but he was correct in that Diego Costa got Mertesacker sent off. Even if he was implying that Costa is a cheat, that is also an accurate appraisal of the man. Diego Costa’s dishonest approach to the game is well established. Fair play to Clattenburg though, under the circumstances that was the best decision he could make. Perhaps with video replays in future, refs will be able to assess the situation better.

    2. Booing Fabregas. What he did for the club is there for all to see, yet the way he forced his way out was really disappointing for a club captain. He got his wish and left, fair enough. We had right of first refusal, but not once has Fabregas actually said he wanted to return to Arsenal. He’s always simply stated the contractual element of things, never his personal desire. Last season he was actually clapped off the pitch. Perhaps this season people have realised that he doesn’t genuinely still hold the affection for AFC they thought he did (e.g. when he said Jose is the best manager he’s worked with – he can’t have been oblivious to what gooners would think of that). Wenger’s been criticised for not buying back Fabregas, but I suspect that the negative sentiment towards Cesc will only increase the more we learn of what actually did happen behind the scenes.

    • Edmund Hill January 25, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

      One more point. Chelsea didn’t play well, honestly. They were pretty average and did just enough to get over the line. We more than held our own for a team playing with 10 men, and probably deserved at least a draw. But can’t say we were outplayed. Just outnumbered.

      • DEW January 25, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

        I agree with you that chelsae didn’t play well. I didn’t agree with you that we were outnumbered. Because even with full number we will give the ball and the space for chelsae so that they look champions again. If it were not for the points from Arsenal they were 2 points from relegation zone.

  4. Mike Walsh January 25, 2016 at 5:20 pm #

    A little more research needed by the writer and the criticism of the fans booing Fabregas.
    Fabregas thanked Wenger for the loyalty and faith shown by his manager by going “on strike” and refusing to play matches for the Arsenal before he left the club. His excuse was that he was worried about getting injured before leaving for Spain, he was happy to accept his wages and to add insult to injury by showing up at a Gran Prix race when we needed him on the pitch.
    Loyalty?? I think not and yes I reserve the right to boo him.

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