The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

And On And On And On

A thousand more Arsene Wenger quotes have hit the press today in advance of tomorrow’s Liverpool showdown, and honestly, there’s nothing worth addressing for substance; I have no idea if Wenger even believes what he’s saying anymore, and if he does it’s been responded to many times over.

I will say this though: we are watching a man lose his mind and his reputation in public at a frightening pace, selling them for his club salary and the right to do as he pleases with Arsenal FC. He’s gone from being one of the most well-respected and admired figures in the incredibly slimy world of football to one of the most utterly loathsome in the space of a bare five years; from the man who revolutionized the English game with dignity and flair to a man who deserves to be bracketed next to the likes of John Terry and Ashley Cole. I have no idea what Wenger is like in private life, and I do not wish to know as it is profoundly not any part of my business or concern; but his public persona is, and the deterioration of it is unmistakable.

His principles are imaginary, ungrounded in fact or any recognizable theory of morality and more a manifestation of his individual twitchiness and personal obsessions than anything explicable to others. His respectful demeanor has collapsed into grumpy bitterness, complaining about referees, complaining about other teams, complaining about legitimate tactics, complaining about the internal financial dealings of other clubs, complaining about fixture schedules, complaining about national teams’ medical staffs, complaining about the media which quotes him accurately, petulantly refusing to speak to them in a manner which once would have been associated purely with Alex Ferguson, and generally acting like a bitter old man angry that his genius is going unappreciated. His explanations, when he deigns to offer them, contradict each other from week to week and make it clear that he’s completely comfortable with telling any lie he feels he needs to. His reaction to being sent off at Old Trafford earlier this season, while hilarious, was also clownish and not something the dignified Wenger of a decade ago would have done to himself. His claims that the Arsenal performance against Chelsea was better because of the possession times, despite Chelsea having stated in advance their intention to allow Arsenal to have the ball in order to play counter-attacking football, was the sort of deliberate hermetic obtuseness which would have been unimaginable from the man, once. Almunia is still in goal, and the way that man’s career has been handled and shattered in the last few years is just unbelievable. Amidst all the railing about Barca and their disgusting approaches to Cesc Fabregas, Wenger has semi-quietly engaged in a year-long attempt to unsettle and disrupt Marouane Chamakh at Bordeaux to either force a sale at a lower price or avoid paying a transfer fee altogether. That’s every bit as underhanded a piece of work, and it is not something he once would have resorted to.

Among world football managers arguably only Alex Ferguson has greater respect and cachet at his club than Wenger has at Arsenal, and while there’s much negative which can be said about Lord Fergie for all that the man retains his reputation inside and outside the club. It’s all but inconceivable that he would lose his the way Wenger is now doing, declining into a self-parody who garners attacks from everyone not because of his success, but because of his inability to stop criticizing everyone else despite his own failures. In that sense, Ferguson has already won his long duel with Wenger. Perhaps worse, while Ferguson will always be remembered for the legacy of titles and the great nights at the Theater of Dreams, the longer Wenger’s decomposition is allowed to continue without intervention from fate or his superiors the greater the risk is that his legacy and reputation are permanently damaged. There have always been whispers about the way Wenger comported himself at his previous positions, whispers easily dismissed in the past by present-day success; that is less easily done now, especially given the connections many are eager to draw- rightly or wrongly- between the way his time at Monaco ended and his current policies at Arsenal. No matter what happens from here, Wenger’s legacy will always have marks on it from the years he allowed to slip away as his behavior became more and more erratic, and he became less a respected football manager and more an international punchline. Even the people who want him to stay at Arsenal are using words for him which I will not repeat here, these days. It’s becoming football’s answer to all the years Floyd Mayweather and Roy Jones wasted refusing to fight top-level opponents.

On a personal level I’d like to say I’m sad about this, because when I became a fan of this sport and this club the respect and admiration due to Wenger were part of what drew me to Arsenal. But to be honest, I’m not; supporting this club increasingly feels like being sold a bill of goods and the utter contempt with which Wenger has begun treating everyone else in the sport, whether they deserve it or not, makes it difficult to feel much but contempt in turn for the way he comports himself these days. The man gets what he deserves. For my part I’m now down to probably 5 or fewer people involved with the club on any level who I can say I respect: a few bloggers, a few players, not much more. With every insane and ridiculous thing which comes out of Wenger’s mouth I question more and more why I follow this team. Losing doesn’t bother me; I have a game on the DVR from a 4-46 basketball team to watch tonight, a game I’m sure they’ve just finished losing by several hundred. Failing to compete bothers me. Pretending that that failure is a virtue bothers me. Never learning from results bothers me. Odious self-righteousness, unfounded in anything real, bothers me. Frankly, at this point, Arsene Wenger- or at least as much of the man as he shows in public- bothers me. For the first time in my life as a sports fan, l I have no idea why I’m paying attention to one of my teams, and am considering disowning them.

Believe it or not, there’s a limit to the amount of disrespectful fuckery I’m willing to support. Those are my principles.

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February 9, 2010 - Posted by | The Arsenal

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