Wenger’s Philosophy

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
September 23rd, 2003 • 8:33 pm

The Guardian has a good column by Kevin McCarra on Sunday’s incidents during the Manchester United vs. Arsenal clash.

The only part where I would differ significantly from Mr. McCarra is in his assessment of Manchester United and how they have improved in recent years in terms of discipline. I still see Roy Keane barking at the referee whenever he gets the chance, and I cannot count the number of instances where offenses by Man U players such as Phil Neville, Paul Scholes or Nicky Butt deserved at least a yellow card and were left unpunished.

Similarly, Ruud van Nistelrooy typically bullies his way to the opponents’ goal and, in doing so, is usually guilty of a fair number of fouls, only a fraction of which actually get called.

This would seem to indicate that there is a bias in refereeing that tends to favor Manchester United over any other team, including Arsenal. In fact, this imbalance could very well be at the core of the issue raised by the latest incidents. If Arsenal players lose their tempers so easily, it might also be because of the perceived unfairness of refereeing decisions when it comes to Man U as opposed to other Premiership teams.

Of course, Arsenal could do the noble thing and try to win in spite of this imbalance that always favors the Manchester United side. But that’s easier said from the comfort of an armchair than it is done on the pitch week in, week out.

Yes, the behavior of players such as Keown, Lauren, etc. after the final whistle was stupid. But punishing them for this stupidity will not fix the root causes of the problem, in the same way that banning Vieira will not fix the unacceptable fact that Ruud van Nistelrooy was not sent off for his attack on Vieira as well, and that Vieira’s first yellow card was totally unjustified.

This, I believe, is the gist of what Wenger himself is trying to say, although he’s not in the best position to do so at the present time since he too is responsible for the stupid behavior of his players after the end of the game.

Once passions have boiled down, I believe that there should be a real debate about all this. Football players are committed, passionate, impetuous. These qualities are required by the game. So it’s inevitable that sooner or later they end up doing stupid things. They should apologize for them, but punishing them harshly will not do much to fix the root causes of the whole problem.

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