Mar 182011

What a day. There are occasions when I don’t keep abreast of the day’s sporting news – a busy day at work, a day away from the laptop and phone – it happens. The most notable one was the day of Henry’s sale to Barcelona – I remember being oblivious until a family phone call in the evening that took a few minutes to figure out. Sometimes you aren’t aware of events until the furore has died down.

Today, I could tell something had happened – my Twitter timeline was enormous, unusually so. Had Wenger got slapped with a mighty ban? Djourou had another twist in his injury saga? Something takeover related, perhaps?

No, none of the above. Instead, it was all about Wenger’s dubious use of the word ‘never’ when describing his expectations over Thomas Vermaelen’s fitness. As with many misleading stories, the context is vital, so here is his full quote:

“For Thomas Vermaelen the season is over. In fairness he has not played since September, I never expected him to be fit before the end of the season. He is not out on the field yet and it is impossible [for him to play] after six months without competition. I am confident he will have a full recovery but for this season we cannot rely on him.”

If, like me, you read this and see nothing particularly wrong, then apparently you are in the overwhelming minority. The major issue has been with the words “I never expected him to be fit before the end of the season“. People have taken that to mean that back in January, when he had the opportunity to sign a covering central defender, he knew that Vermaelen was unlikely to play again, and chose not only to make no purchases, but lie to the Arsenal fans with an overly optimistic assessment.

The quotes came out on Twitter, and as with everything stuffed into 140 characters, context was entirely absent. The pot had been stirred, the torchlight was burning, and people were making a beeline for our manager. A liar, an idiot, a moron, a deceptive fool whose time was up – all descriptions I saw tonight, from our own fanbase. People I have a lot of time for got caught up in the madness and wrote entire blogs on how it was another example of him losing the plot.

Excuse my language, but for fucks sake, take a step back and look at the full quote. It is fairly clear to me that he went for an assessment on Vermaelen’s fitness yesterday or today, and did not expect to be told that Vermaelen would play a part in the rest of the season, largely because there is not long left, and he has been out for so long that the remaining recovery, plus light training, plus full training, plus a couple of reserve matches would take us to mid May. He even clarifies this pretty clearly in the line that follows the contentious one.

What he doesn’t mean is that in January, he expected Vermaelen to be out for the season. The word ‘never’ does not refer to ‘from the day he was injured, I knew it was a season ender‘, because that plainly isn’t true. He couldn’t have been more explicit at the time, in January, and since. Only now that he has been out for so long has Wenger accepted that Vermaelen would not feature again this season, irrespective of how soon the medics feel he can return to training. Today, he ‘never’ expected the medics to give him a report that suggested Thomas would make it – essentially he is saying ‘it doesn’t matter how his Achilles is now, he isn’t going to be match ready by May anyway’.

When you look at it like that, it is not unreasonable in any way. Of course it is frustrating for all of us, much as I’m sure it is frustrating for the manager, not the mention the player, but I suspect that today’s ire has had a great deal more to do with the risk Wenger took in January as opposed to the comments themselves. It is almost as if many have been waiting for an opportunity to slam him with a great big fat ‘I told you so‘. Today, by taking something wildly out of context and warping the meaning, they got their wish.

Part of that is understandable – Wenger certainly took a gamble in January. Vermaelen was some way from fitness, Djourou was doing fantastically well but his record suggested an injury was likely (the actual injury he got was unfortunate, however, and could have happened to anyone), Koscielny was looking fine while Squillaci has flattered to deceive. We had a similar depth to last January, when Sol was brought back to boost the numbers. This year, a bigger gamble was taken.

It seems that gamble is the real issue that caused today’s storm. But I can’t help but feel it is enormously counterproductive to be waiting for an opportunity to write the doomsday stories, and I’ve been really disappointed to see so many rip into Wenger so mercilessly over something he didn’t even mean. Put simply, Wenger is not enough of a moron to say that sentence in the way people are taking it, yet that simple fact doesn’t lead people to investigate further.

What is perhaps more concerning is that it hasn’t been the press overreacting – look for the story in the papers and you’ll see only loose references. It is the Arsenal fanbase picking this up and running with it, and quite frankly it has been horrible to watch.

The 24/7 news cycle has a lot going for it, Twitter in particular – news arrives fast, some excellent journalists are on hand and willing to interact with the public, and great debate and discussion can quickly be had. It is a fantastic medium. But sometimes it encourages a mob mentality, where people react without thinking and get caught up in the crest of a furious wave. It can happen to anyone – I’ve seen some very reasonable people involved today, and perhaps if I had been on Twitter when it came out I may have joined them. Being reactionary is one of the easiest traps to fall into.

But we are all Arsenal fans. We get furious when the press twist things to suit their own agenda. Let’s not do the same.

“For Thomas Vermaelen the season is over,” confirmed Arsène Wenger at his pre-match press conference.

“In fairness he has not played since September, I never expected him to be fit before the end of the season. He is not out on the field yet and it is impossible [for him to play] after six months without competition. I am confident he will have a full recovery but for this season we cannot rely on him.”

  31 Responses to “The day Twitter went mad – storm in a Wenger teacup”

  1. Thank you, a reasonable gooner. Honestly these days it just seems like most arsenal fans are looking for reasons to martyr themselves. If some put the same effort they would put into supporting the team rather than doom and gloom imagine what amazing fans we’d have..sad reality we live in

    • Thanks. It is an unfortunate byproduct of the black and white world we live in that we have to always be on the brink of glory or disaster. That suits the press because it sells papers, and to an extent I don’t have a problem with that – it is their job after all – but it is a shame that so many have followed suit.

      A fortnight ago we were ‘on course for a quadruple’. Now we are in crisis, with people latching on to anything to create a negative story. Never hurts to breathe and pause before getting angry.

      • That last sentence is exactly it, people need to stop and take a step back to gather their thoughts before letting out all that negativity. The problem is its contagious, it thrives in these situations where all seems lost and more and more people start jumping on the wagon. It’s not so much the anger or questioning that upsets me, getting angry shows you care, but the way in which they share that anger really is unnecessary, and worst of all it reflects badly on the club

  2. I have found it quite surprising how positively mean-spirited and even downright evil some people have become since the team’s recent bad results. The level of pure hatred is really ugly. One site in particular has become a shrine for some really vile abuse by a lot of people that I doubt even go to watch the team live. Their sickening venom has grown like some weird Internet epidemic of nastiness that I personally find sickening and shameful. Dislike Wenger by all means and criticize him if you can sustain an argument but take a look at yourself occasionally before you show the rest of the world just how sick you are. If you don’t like what is happening at Arsenal, then don’t go next season and don’t watch the team. It is as simple as that.

    • It certainly is a self-perpetuating thing – like-minded people (both positive and negative) seek each other out and enhance each other’s views. Perhaps the positive (of which I am one) seek to excuse too much, but in my opinion that is partly what fans do. The negative, however, do seem to get angrier and angrier by the day, and quite poisonous with it. Each of the players goes through a character assassination, which is horrendous to witness.

      But when Arsenal fans are creating the anti-Arsenal stories by twisting quotes, you know you’ve got a problem.

  3. Excellent article, I said similar in a few blogs and was shot down. I assumed he meant based on the latest setbacks that Tommy V was out for the lot. Besides, medically it may not be possible to anticipate set-backs etc.
    The negativity being spouted all over the net is just stupid in my opinion. Here we are, the title run-in and in with our best chance in years…and we are sacking the manager and shipping out half the squad! Yes, the cup exits were disappointing, but do you honestly think AFC will benefit from negativity? Its as if half the fanbase has fallen into a trap.
    If we fall away in the run-in, and our manager refuses to strengthen key areas in the Summer, I too will probably be calling for his head.
    But until then, can we not all support Arsenal in the run-in? Lets believe in them.
    Just postpone the knife-sharpening until the Summer!

  4. After hearing so much rubbish today, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one in the world with more than an ounce of sense. Excellent post.

  5. haha i’ve bumped in to the few remaining AKB’S wow its hilarious you bunch of heartless fans, yes heartless. If you felt the pain that the rest of us feel when we lose or dont win anything year on year you would want the truth and not things spun at every chance.

    The reason Wenger did not admit that the injury was for the season was then it would have forced him into the transfer market and boy would we not want that!! we all know spending money is as painful to him as salt on an open wound. Mark my words when we win nothing this season, wenger will start feeding us crap like we are looking 1 to 2 special players to bring in. Then it will be, only if we finding something better then we already have ie sqillachi for silvestre-thats alot better then we had. He is a liar plain and simple. Take this as an example for a lie- we would have beaten Barcelona,lol. instead of realizing how far away and giving them credit he comes off to everyone as a bad loser, which is a shame because he is the only one who could do something about it.

    Its not this wengerism with the truth that bothers me its the hundreds of lies mistruths and half truths wenger feeds us.

    • why are you lot so daft?

      i’m not an AKB, i question wenger. but i don’t do it by spewing hatred on a man that still has our club in a good position.

      • Precisely. Sadly there are many who respond to any defence by claiming you are blind to failings, irrespective of how much you criticise on other occasions.

        My point was simply that in this case, he said nothing out of place.

    • Ur an idiot. Do u think we would have beaten barca? The 1st game they were doing fine until the RVP Scored, then it was us to turn on pressure. They had a relief wen RVP left knowing that we cant score and we will panic. I wonder who gets them next how they will perform? Badly I day, worse than us.
      Wen AW leaves little boy, u will regret it deep down and then change teams to Chelsea or something. I bet u started following arsenal after wenger came to us and that’s why u are angry at him. Glory hunting cockhead.

      • Wenger have mismanaged this team for 6 seasons now i grant him that the firstr 3 years were hard financially but now there really are no excuse for not getting rid of the dross and sign some capable players .When Cesc leaves in the summer dont be surprised if he fails to invest one penny of the money.

    • That makes absolutely no sense, and your anger and interpretation is based entirely on guesswork.

      You have made a claim that Wenger deliberately fed us lies about Vermaelen in January to avoid buying. I’d like to see you back that up with any kind of evidence because as far as I can seeing you are guessing, purely to suit your viewpoint.

      I know Wenger said he was confident about Vermaelen’s injury, but Achilles injuries are notoriously unreliable.

      Also, I hate labels like AKB. Don’t pigeonhole me or anyone else. I criticise Arsenal when I feel it appropriate, I praise when I feel it appropriate.

      Being optimistic and being blind are categorically not the same thing.

  6. Does anyone remember we were written off beginning of the season. Out of top four, to be replaced by Man City. Becoming a mid table team. no chance for a cup. Basing on the earlier prediction by pundits and some negative fans (the anti-arsenal arsenal) we have done well. Some of these people who were wishing bad season are the ones who are trying to look for anything negative.

    We did well this season because no body gave us a chance beginning of season. Next season we will move a step forward again

  7. I don’t use twitter, was all this crap today just on twitter?
    what bout the ten year plan? Let wenger see put this plan of his and then act if a failure, who else can take us on that better than AW?
    It’s sad, I hope AW wins stuff again before he leaves us. I would hate it and be so sad if he left cos of a bunch of young glory hunting ‘fans’ crying. We are football fans, real ones who see their team win, lose and draw and their team come close but not enough. So many ppl up and down the land have the same frustrations, ecstasy and anger that all other fans have. Except celtic/rangers UTD n Barca (ATM) who have had good success and see their team win stuff. We are not them, we are real fans sharing in all the emotion…

    • It did seem to be many Twitter focused, yes. The press didn’t consider it a big story, but Twitter has the habit of spreading false rumours (or poor interpretations) very quickly.

  8. Not many in world football can rival Sir Alex, I would say two at most Mourinio and Wenger – why cant real Arsenal fans see what is happening with this great club. We are moving from strength to strength without bankrupting the club and beleive me some so called top clubs are ridled with unhealthy levels of debt.

    Wenger uses the correct recruitment policy in buying youngsters with potential and turning them into world class players, which is actually long winded and harder to do. Even Sir Alex is adopting this policy more and more recently.

    The Notion the Wenger doesn’t have Arsenal FC interests at heart is bewildering to the highest level, being caustious, astute and prudent with the clubs finances to me means someone cares alot about the club ffs.

    So some fans question Wengers ability to bring back trophies – why are fans doing this? part 2 soon true gunners…….

    • Hahahaha Wenger have entered your mind son,his spin is really paying dividends.Wenger could spend 50 mil in the summer and Arsenal would be as healthy financially as a horse.

  9. i have supported asrenal since 1986 when i was 5 years old and haven given more money back to the club which i couldnt always wisely afford so dont patronize me(son). I have earned my right to an opinion.

    noone is asking for sums of money like chelsea and man city are spending but take van der vart as an example, as a squad player rosicky or him and only 9 million.

    Wenger knows that van persie has been injured nearly every single season for almost half a season, where is the forward planning to cover for him. the examples are endless, you are just eaither as stubborn as wenger to care or just dont altogether and you can comfortably carry on with your day and feel no pain.

    • I’m not debating your right to criticise. Understand that you are debating my right to counter you. That you are a long term fan is irrelevant – a fan is a fan. We are no better than each other.

      You miss my point though. I think Wenger deserves some flak for his January gambles. My point was merely that yesterday’s comments were innocuous, but latched on to by the masses who have been waiting for an opportunity to crucify him.

      No patronisation intended, but when you start calling other fans heartless you are asking for trouble.

  10. ok so if your right then wenger aint as clever as he makes out to be, he supposeed to be the prof, that knew about diets, injuries etc, dont be fooled he knew then alright, purely because he was not in training a top manage know when a player is expected back, he lied to us all and for thsi what respect i had for for him has completely gone,

    • Really? Managers are not medics, and injuries that are believed to be of a certain severity can have complications, setbacks etc, that the medical team is not going to expect, let alone a non medically-trained manager.

      I’m sorry, but that is nonsense of the highest order.

  11. Another good read, Pete. One of the few sites I can reliably turn to these days without being force fed a column conceived in August and dusted off after a tough run for the team. While I agree with your interpretation of Wenger’s comments, I thought the line, “But I can’t help but feel it is enormously counterproductive to be waiting for an opportunity to write the doomsday stories” was the most insightful of the article. So many “fans” popping up to claim they knew our season was doomed from the start, that we as a club and fans have more of a right to win than any other club, and barring at least a double any person remotely involved with the club needs to be replaced. And all this while we are in a two-horse title race and our best chance to win the league in 7 years. Dennis wept…

  12. […] the Beautiful Groan pointed out yesterday everyone needs to calm down and read the context. Wenger meant “never” in the context of the latest setback, which happened a few days […]

  13. All these “Wenger out”, “Wenger is a liar”, merchants are a bunch of losers who expect Arsene/Arsenal to win things so they can feel good in their miserable loser lives. They can’t create their own success so they expect someone else to do it for them and then moan when they don’t get what Daddy and Mummy promised them. Poor diddumses.
    We’re second, three points behind, with a game in hand. That’s not to say we will win, but we have a chance. If you can’t remember how we took Chelsea apart at the Emirates then tough. Even if we don’t win, remember, there are only 4 competitions so only a maximum of 4 teams can win a trophy. The rest just take part. We are taking part every year, in style, and we will be there in the CL next season too. I’m happy to be entertained in the way that Wenger’s teams do.. Actually winning a trophy would be the icing on the cake, but if you give me a choice between cake and icing, I’ll take cake – it’s more substantial.
    And if you want to moan, go somewhere else and do it.

  14. Thanks – where is article source?

  15. Well done pete. Wonder about the intellect of most of the wenger out loonies. The two infantile media in this country has to take a large part of the blame, fostering the culture of the cliche and soundbite where context is an irrelevance. I’d love to warp some of these kids back to the barren early seventies!

  16. great Blog keep the faith. Sam is a wee eejit!

  17. Good blog.

    I can’t believe the amount of whiney, negative and down-right thick criticisms AW and the Club are catching at the moment from these so called fans (clearly not supporters). I’ll defend anyone’s right to question and even criticise, because Wenger is fallible like anyone else, but the tone and heat and shear ugliness of what I’ve read lately is out of order. To suggest AW is deliberately sabotaging the team and telling lies to supporters is a slander and total shame on our Club. It’s also all based on conjecture and represents a bunch of low quality thinking.
    It’s like an Arsenal Tea Party. ffs

    3 points and a game in hand.

  18. This is very new information as for me. Author – respect!

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