I used to love listening to Wenger’s press conferences. He was eloquent, witty and far too smart for the journalists. I remember years ago one of them tried to goad him by asking: “Who is better — Henry or van Nistelrooy?” Wenger smiled wryly and said: “Everybody thinks he has the prettiest wife at home.”
I miss those days. More and more all I hear from our once great leader is propaganda and denial. Take today’s press conference when he was reminded that Arsenal have never been as low as seventh at this stage of the season while he’s been in charge.
“The fact that we have never been in this position is rather a credit to me in 16 years so I do not take that as blame. I take that as fantastic consistency, and that is the most difficult thing at the top level.”
Yes, 16 years of consistency is magnificent and certainly is credit to him. But notice how he shirks responsibility for the team’s current plight — “I do not take that as blame.” He is in denial that we are in a difficult situation with an average squad to try and get us out of it.
It was the same when he took off Oxlade-Chamberlain for Arshavin and refused to admit he’d made a mistake:
“I’ve been a manager for 30 years and have made 50,000 substitutions. I do not have to justify every decision I make to you.”
His arrogance is now breathtaking.
What I found even more incredible today though, is when he said:
“Overall I feel this team is strong mentally with a good spirit and attitude. We are ready for a fight and that is the most important thing.”
Now I can just about take the denial and the arrogance, but he crosses the line when he insists this team has mental strength. I’d rather he said nothing at all than tried to make people believe he has a team full of winners.
A team with mental strength does not concede two goals in the last five minutes to lose to Fulham.
A team with mental strength does not concede within 30 seconds of equalising at Swansea.
A team with mental strength does not lose all composure in front of goal at Bolton.
If anything we lack mental strength and that is a big factor in our recent poor run. So for him to insist the complete opposite is insulting. Maybe I’m being over-sensitive, but I feel like he’s saying to me “Forget what you see with your own eyes, you know nothing about football, we have mental strength because I say so.”
After my anger at reading more bollocks from Arsene subsided, I had a strange feeling of deja vu. ‘Mental strength, where have I heard that before?’ A swift search on Google for ‘wenger mental strength’ produced tons of results and I’ve listed some of them below in chronological order –– it makes interesting reading:
- After beating Blackpool last April: “We showed our mental strength.”
- After losing to Man Utd in the FA Cup last March: “I believe that we can [win the Premier League]. It is a good test for us now, to show that we can regroup, show our mental strength and respond quickly.”
- After beating Orient last season: “We responded well tonight, that shows we have a good united group and we are mentally strong.”
- After the Birmingham Carling Cup defeat: “It’s a good opportunity to show our mental strength, which I think is great.”
- After beating Birmingham 3-0 last January: “The team looked very strong and can get stronger and stronger.”
- Before the Barca away leg last season: “This team has exceptional mental strength and that makes me very confident for tomorrow’s game.”
- After we needed an injury time header from Bendtner to beat Wolves in April 2010: “They have a fantastic mental strength and desire.”
- After seeing off Bolton in January 2010: “We have a never-give-up attitude and a mental strength and quality as well.”
- After defeating Wigan in April 2009: “This young team has a lot of mental strength. We have shown some qualities that make it very interesting for the future.”
- After beating Villareal in April 2009: “This group is mentally strong and we have a team with a great future.”
Now repeat after me Johann: "I am a tough, fearless gladiator..."
I could’ve found more, but do you see the pattern? Wenger keeps promising that our ‘young team’ with ‘mental strength’ will come good soon. And he’s doing it again today. I believed him at first (to be fair he probably believed it himself) but after years of watching young Gunners struggle to cope with pressure I’ve lost faith. Walcott is a perfect example, but will Wenger drop him? No chance.
He’s also trying to convince youngsters like Walcott and Ramsey that they have mental strength by telling them so through the media. There’s a famous Chinese proverb that if you constantly tell a dog it’s a cat, that won’t make it grow whiskers. (Actually I just made that up, but it should be a proverb. I’m copyrighting it). It’s sad that he’s still trying his Jedi mind tricks to try and instill some mental toughness in his over-paid, under-achieving squad.
So Wenger, please, enough with the mental strength talk until we’ve actually shown some on a consistent basis. It’s hard enough to watch the team perform without mental strength, but it’s downright annoying when you repeatedly insist the complete opposite.
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