Wenger, is he undervalued in England?
The CSKA Moscow media room was filled with a joyful, excited atmosphere, the place seems packed full of Russian reporters along with the odd English journalist as well as a Russian fan or two. This does not feel like the atmosphere of a team who have just lost, which they have, as Arsenal knocked them out on Away goals 6-3. Sure, they had a credible 2-2 all draw with the North Londoners but the bottom line, they were knocked out.
So what was the reason for this jubilant feeling emanating around the media room? It was all about the “special guest”. I say special guest, because that is what it feels like as if for this brief moment this was… An Audience with Arsene Wenger.
The questions from the few English reporters are predictably penetrative and probing but the Russians are kinder, more respectful as if they were talking to a high-end celebrity, it is no doubt to the Russian media this was a big deal.
Arsene is complimentary to CSKA which obviously endeared him to the local journalists, in wrestling circles they might call that “a cheap pop” to butter up the locals. Not long into the press conference though he was presented with “a traditional Russian hat, as a part of gentle affection”. I mean when was the last time John Cross handed Wenger a traditional London hat, let alone as part of gentle affection?
We also hear giggles after the next Russian question regarding Mkhitaryan’s injury status, saying they are worried about him, Wenger kindly, with a glint in his eye says he will be two more weeks out so do not be too worried we have good medical staff, Arsene now knows he has them in the palm of his hand.
Finally a Russian reporter asks if Arsenal are interested in Golovin (who Arsenal have been linked with in the past) and if Wenger could point out any players he likes from CSKA Moscow, these are kind questions, questions that show these people value and care about the opinion of Arsene Wenger. Once again, Wenger does the “cheap pop” open goal reply and says he could not see one bad player for CSKA. The Frenchman closes the press conference soon after by saying his thank you’s and that he will be back for the World cup.
After the press conference Arsene poses for group photos, selfies with many of the local press, this is a nice change for him to feel so loved, so respected by sports writers, and you can’t help but feel happy for him in this moment.
After watching this press conference, it did make me think how different this was to the ones I am used to watching on home turf in England. The usual process for Arsenal press conferences is 15 minutes of grilling for poor Wenger, as he tries to bat away questions of his future, discontent in the team or even his thoughts on random outspoken fans views on his tactical approach. The question I am left asking is why does near every countries media seem to view and value Arsene Wenger far higher than our very own media.
To labour my point, Arsine is constantly making media appearances doing punditry for many sports channels outside England, often Bein Sports but I cannot recall him ever being on Match of the day or Sky for international coverage. After a match this season I recall the Arsenal boss saying why, is it that all the media outside of England see things differently about Arsenal and referee decisions effecting them? He obviously has a point, It has been long mooted there is a degree of bias among many of the English media.
Arsenal as a football team have faced far more criticism than other such dwindling big teams in recent years, last season Manchester United had one of their worst Premier League campaigns but nothing was said about the club nor the manager, the same can be said for Liverpool until recently too. Arsenal have been one of the few constants in the top 4 while many around them failed.
Arsene Wenger has almost been press-ganged for the past 10 years now by the local press. Every loss is met with a headline or conversation about his status at the club, every victory met with almost indifference and disappointment that they cannot have another go at the Frenchman.
In conclusion I must say regardless if you feel it is time for Wenger to go or indeed if you feel he should stay, I think it Is about time we as Arsenal fans at least treat the great man with the same esteem as many of our peers around the world do.