Wenger the villain again

This lunchtime, Eduardo was hospitalised by a tackle from Martin Taylor of Birmingham City. He will almost certainly miss the remainder of the season and will more than likely miss his country’s participation in this summer’s European Championships.

I have not yet seen the tackle, all I have to go on is that which I have heard on the radio (BBC Radio 5) and it does sound horrific. Many tackles are made in every single football match in the Premiership and a lot of fuss is made about some of them – but any tackle that causes the players nearby to react in the way that Alexander Hleb and Cesc Fabregas did today, quite obviously deserves some severe condemnation.

However, most of what I’ve heard since that moment has not been directed at Martin Taylor but at Arsene Wenger for his post-match comments.

Wenger said that Taylor should not be allowed to play football again, which is obviously an over-reaction but who can blame the man for over-reacting when something like that has happened to one of his players and, indirectly, caused his team to lose vital points in the title race?

I made the mistake of listening to Radio 5’s phone-in show, 6-0-6, after the United game – I knew I shouldn’t have done but something compelled me to listen for just 5 or 10 minutes. This turned into 40 or 50 minutes as I stood in wonder listening to idiot after idiot (including the host, the ridiculously named “Spoony”) talking about the “disgraceful” comments by Arsene Wenger and how he should be reprimanded by the FA and criticised by the media. One super-idiot even suggested that he should resign once he realises how stupid he’s been!

Once again an incident in which an Arsenal player is the victim has somehow, in the space of a few hours, been turned around to portray our manager as the villain rather than addressing the real crime in question. Now I am not for one moment suggesting that Martin Taylor should be banned for life from playing the game – as I said, that statement was obviously an emotional over-reaction. But one thing is for sure, he should certainly receive some extremely harsh criticism for tackling a player in such a way as to break his leg in this way. It certainly should not be the case that the negative headlines feature the manager of the player who he has injured, but that is what has happened.

Back in April 2006, Tottenham deliberately played on when an Arsenal player was “apparently” down injured, and scored a vital goal at Highbury – the debate over whether they should or should not have done this died a death when people realised that Arsene Wenger had said that he saw the incident and that he thought they shouldn’t have played on. “Wenger never sees anything, how can he criticise” was the argument and we never heard another word on whether the Tottenham players involved had been unsporting or not. The same argument seems to be being used with regard to this incident – he doesn’t usually see things, so how can he comment so strongly on this one?

It seems to me that the reason that Arsene Wenger often says he did not see particular incidents is not because he has selective eyesight and chooses to see what he wants in every situation – it is because he prefers not to have to comment publicly about certain things during the game. He feels that he should appear after football matches and be interviewed by the media about the match, but there are certain subjects on which he would prefer his personal feelings to remain private. I’m sure that, if he thinks a certain player has behaved badly, he criticises this player – but privately, away from the cameras and microphones – is that so wrong? Alex Ferguson refuses to even allow himself to be interviewed, but do we hear public criticism of this attitude? No, all we hear is jokes about Wenger’s eyesight and tallies of how many players have been sent off under Arsene Wenger.

As Wenger said, this type of tackle has been waiting to happen to an Arsenal player for the last few years – we play nice football and most teams don’t like it. They therefore choose to try and combat it with hard, physical challenges which, largely, go unpunished. Now Eduardo has paid the penalty. Jose Antonio Reyes was brutally kicked out of England for being too skillful and my gut feeling tells me that, if and when Eduardo is back to full fitness, he may not wish to play football here again either – and who could blame him?