I’m sure, like me, it frustrates you no end that a large part of the media have been panning Wenger for what seems an eternity for his crusade against violent tackling, but have completely switched their viewpoint now that others have joined in. The hypocrisy is laid bare – take these two articles by Paul Parker, for example:
In case you don’t want to sit through Parker’s illiterate nonsense (and I wouldn’t blame you), I’ll summarise. In March, he penned an article insisting that injuries caused by the likes of Ryan Shawcross were ‘unfortunate’, and that Wenger was the one in the wrong for being angry. Seven months later, he criticises similarly brutal challenges, calling for lengthy bans and their eradication from the game.
Of course, Parker regularly comes out with articles that amount to no more than diseased spittle, but the double standards he demonstrates are sadly commonplace. As Wenger himself noted, the minute he mentions tackling, the world stops listening and pens a cookie cutter ‘whinging Wenger’ column. That he wants to remove tackling from the game is a media myth, now believed by the majority.
However, in the wake of some shocking challenges in matches not involving Arsenal, the subject has become the hot topic is should have been a long time ago. Karl Henry is the current serial offender, but almost as worrying as his continued recklessness is the speed at which he is defended. One such backer is Ryan Shawcross, an irony he might appreciate if he understood the word better than Alanis Morissette.
Elsewhere, there is Nigel de Jong, who followed up his World Cup Final kung fu kick by breaking Hatem Ben Arfa’s leg, a challenge that saw him dropped from the Dutch squad. That he caused such an injury is of no surprise – with his tackling ‘style’ such an event was an inevitability.
What was more surprising was the lack of ‘not that sort of player’ comments in the aftermath, and even a newfound focus on the issue. With no England match or Premiership football for ten days, the media have had nothing else to talk about, and after Danny Murphy bravely broke ranks to suggest that certain managers should take a long hard look at themselves for sending players out with violent intent, they were left with no choice.
Finally, players who ‘get stuck in‘ and ‘let the opponent know they’re there‘ are being scrutinised. Perhaps something will come of it – with the authorities so reactive to media outrage it is a possibility that a clampdown will occur, or perhaps it will all blow over in a week or two as those irresponsible managers tell their lumbering apes to behave until something else becomes the hot topic.
But one thing would kill this momentum in an instant – Wenger joining the fray. Public opinion is currently against insane challenges, partly because the likes of Murphy are well respected, and partly because de Jong and Henry have few redeeming qualities (in fact, Henry’s astonished reaction to being sent off was the poster moment of this whole story). If Wenger chimed in at this juncture, that would change rapidly.
And he knows it. After years of saying everything the press are now parroting, he must be tearing his hair out. Time after time he has been parodied for his opinion, and now that the masses finally see where he’s coming from, he is showing remarkable restraint to keep counsel. It can only be because he recognises that he must stay out of it for any true action to occur.
For a long time it seemed that only serious injury to an England star would see this kind of movement against morons like Allardyce and Pulis, but the broken leg of an exciting player, new to the Premiership, caused by a repeat offender, in a week with no football, has seen the tide finally turn.
Despite the temptation to call out the hypocrites, Wenger must now stay out of it.