Editor’s note: This is the transcript of the beginning of Arsene Wenger’s 19th anniversary press conference. A press Conference which is supposed to address the match previous and the match following but which devolves into an interrogation about what Arsene Wenger knew and when he knew it, over his team selection and then further devolves into an attempt by the reporter to have a duel between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho with the reporter acting as Mourinho’s “second”.
Good morning Arsene. First of all I just want to congratulate you on 19 years at Arsenal. How proud are you of that achievement?
Well, I’m more focused on our next game than looking back, you know, at how long I’m here. But we just, I don’t realize it has been such a long time because in our job we are focused on what is in front of you. One day, maybe, I will look back, but I don’t think it’s the best day today.
It seems appropriate that as you go into your 20th year there’s an Arsenal-Manchester United game after so many big tussles down the years. Is it still that same special fixture it’s always been for you?
It is a special fixture, yes, because usually Man United is always fighting at the top. It is even a bigger meaning now because there’s three points between the two teams, we play at home in a big game, we just come from a big win at Leicester, and we want to continue our run.
In terms of the team news is there any update on Laurent Koscielny at all?
Laurent Koscielny will certainly be out. He has a hamstring strain and it looks like it will be three weeks. Something like that.
Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are they in contention at all?
Both are out.
Francis Coquelin? Did he have any reaction? is he OK?
Francis Coquelin should be OK, yes.
(This is the Sky News reporter’s bit) Arsene, regarding some of the fallout over what happened in mid-week. In the press conference after the game, you said, when we asked about team selection, that were things that we didn’t know and things that we chose to ignore. What do we not know about what happened in mid-week with your selection and what did we choose to ignore?
Look, I do not want to come back on that. I think all has been said after in the press conference and I don’t change a word of what I said. Looking at Ospina and Petr Cech, I think I have two World Class goalkeepers and it’s the easiest choice I have to make because I can pick any of the two and I’m very comfortable. It’s most difficult as well because the two of them are World Class players and always you have to leave one out.
You said we ignored things, what did we ignore?
I do not know anything that you do in your job. And so you make decisions because you have more information than I have and that’s exactly the same in my job.
(Talks over Wenger) That’s not ignoring stuff, though, is it? If we don’t have the information, we can’t ignore it.
That you don’t know, yes, but, look, you come to the game, you judge the game and you assess was I right or was I wrong. I never criticize that. I accept your judgement of how the team played and what is your assessment but I do not have to give you all of the information that I have to make my decisions.
That’s fair enough. Do you accept that when you look at your squad in the summer and you think that ‘we only need to strengthen in one area’, which is the goalkeeper, that when it comes to a competition in the Champions League that you want to improve upon, when you don’t use the guy that you think improves your squad in that that the fans will be frustrated and angry? Do you understand that?
No. Not at all.
Because I make the decision that I think is right on the day. (big pause)
You said after the game.. you sort of inferred that you aren’t accountable to people for your selection. Do you think you should be accountable? Is it healthy that you’re not?
I’m accountable on the results of my team and the way we play football. (at this point the official video cuts to a later segment of the interview).
(From SkySports video) Do you think you should be more accountable for the fans on selection issues? Or you don’t see that as a valid argument?
I just gave you the answer.
If you’re not accountable in that way, does that not make José Mourinho right when he says that there’s only one manager that’s under pressure? That there’s only one manager that’s not under pressure?
Look. Stop that story or we stop the press conference.
This whole line of questioning was bang out of line from the start but went from simple muckraking to wallowing in the pig sty when the reporter choose to parrot Jose Mourinho’s line that Wenger isn’t accountable.
First, it is absolutely astoundingly simple-minded to say that Arsene Wenger isn’t under any pressure. He is clearly under tremendous pressure from the fans who go apeshit on Arsenal Fan TV, twitter, the blogs, and on train platforms in Stoke, any time Arsenal have any slip up.
He is also under pressure from the players: what happens if he loses out on Champions League football? Do you think Alexis and Ozil are going to stick around while Wenger toils with an Arsenal in 10th place? Are you really that stupid?
As for Wenger’s accountability? I feel like an idiot that I even have to address this.
Wenger is ultimately accountable for everything at Arsenal. If the fans stop attending matches he will lose his job. If he loses the dressing room, he will lose his job. If he is relegated from the Champions League, he will probably lose his job. And if he thinks he can no longer do the job, he has said time and again that he will fire himself.
And the pressure of the job at Arsenal is massive. He has to deliver results on the pitch, results that make the vast majority of the fans happy, that make the players happy, that win trophies, and all the while that keep Arsenal’s bank balance positive.
You don’t think Arsene Wenger is under pressure? That he’s not accountable? How stupid are you?
What he’s not accountable to, is a small, loud, and ridiculous minority of fans and THEIR expectations. Their expectations that Arsenal be Chelsea or that Arsene Wenger apes Jose Mourinho, or that Wenger gets every decision right, that he never makes a similar mistake to the last mistake, that he buys the players they want, that Arsenal play like the Invincibles, and that he turns the clock back 20 years and turns himself into George Graham’s magic bung.
Wenger isn’t accountable to Johnny Rotten, some corporate clown who is about as counter-culture as Ward Cleaver and who knows fuck all about actual football. Or that guy on twitter who always gets the first reply to anything Arsenal tweet and it’s always “fuck off, buy players”.
And Wenger most certainly isn’t accountable to some SkySports reporter who wants to play a game of “gotcha” with the manager on the anniversary of his 19th year as manager in England. The absolute shamelessness of that reporter, going after Arsene Wenger over his selection of a goalkeeper as if he was pressing George W. Bush over the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction. Do you think he sat there, smiling, and thinking of the Pulitzer he was going to win for this “hard-hitting journalism”?
We get it. Three League titles, not enough. 18 years of European football, not enough. Keeping the club afloat during the 10 year rebuilding, not enough. Buying Ozil, not enough. Winning the FA Cup, not enough. Buying Sanchez, not enough. Winning the FA Cup, not enough. Buying Cech, not enough. Three points from the top of the table, not enough. Never enough.
The venerable Nick Hornby once wrote about this ubiquitously moaning fan phenomena:
“I’ll tell you where it all went wrong for Arsene Wenger,” said a friend after the first leg of the Champions’ League quarter-final against Liverpool, a game that Arsenal were unlucky not to win. “That two-all draw against Bolton, when we threw away a two-goal lead.” Like many Arsenal fans, I remember the game well – it was a decisive moment in the race for the Premier League, and those two dropped points meant that Arsenal would not win the title…in 2003. According to my friend, we have been on a sad, slow but steady decline ever since.
“What about 2004? When we won the League without losing a match? You don’t think he temporarily stopped the rot that year?”
“That was a disappointing season,” he said. (My italics.) “We should have won the Champions’ League, and he chucked the FA Cup away.”
That was written in 2008, about fans during the Invincibles season. Wenger is not accountable to those people. He is, exactly as he put it, accountable for the results on the field.
And the result on the field was bad. Wenger acknowledged that fact as well the fact that his team didn’t play defense at the top level, gave away the goal right after scoring, and lost the game in a shambles. But instead of addressing the game, instead of asking what Wenger is doing to fix the defensive problems, instead of asking questions like “why has the pressing game changed this year over last”, instead of asking actual football questions, we get a reporter asking about team selection and accountability so that some fucktard can get a sly dig in at Arsene Wenger, elicit an angry reaction, and get his Pulitzer Prize winning headline story.
In essence, we get Jose Mourinho pulling the strings of a SkySports muppet.
And it’s a fucking omnishambles.