Top 5 misplaced Arsene Wenger rants
Arsene Wenger isn’t thick. Within the football genre, that’s not to be taken lightly. Not being thick makes him as substantial a beacon of hope as we’ve got. There’s him and the fact that Tony Pulis isn’t yet England manager. That’s it. So when the headline read “Arsène Wenger claims football has “sold its soul” to television,” hopes were rightly raised. The clever man, using his position to help people imagine that television money might be bad for football, was the sensible guess. Then it emerged that what he meant by “sold its soul” was “we [football clubs] do not control our fixtures any more.”
Having missed the “selling its soul” point by such a wide margin – amongst so many legitimate targets to aim at – we began thinking of some other misplaced Wenger rants. The clue was in the title of this piece, actually, but there you go. Here are the top five misplaced Wenger rants:
5. Wenger’s famous discourse on Opal Fruits/Starbursts.
Some moments transcend sport. But in early 2004, it was wider culture that did the transcending. Wenger strode into a press conference like a man who’d been drinking Lucozade out of a lid for the last month because no-one in his house would wash up a glass “on principle”. Each minuscule sip bringing up the righteous fury in him as it would any Lucozade fundamentalist. Our man Arsene was furious: “They’re Opal Fruits,” he explained, “not Starbusts.”
So began one of the most expletive-filled press conferences since the guy who played Harold in Neighbours did a “reveal all” on how he’d been told about his character being cut. There were accusations of “dumbing down the brand,” strong questions over what exactly he was getting for his licence fee and, when asked why he “cared so much,” Wenger spat a Starburst into a journalist’s eye. As we all know, they come sharp.
Of course, he was six years too late on this one.
4. Wenger’s accusation that Sir Alex Ferguson had “stolen his idea”
In 2007, Wenger used a newspaper interview to accuse Sir Alex Ferguson of “stealing his idea” of winning the Champions League. With a fervency reminiscent of a Vincent Kompany derby-day tackle, Wenger set on his old rival for having only thought of winning in Europe after he had thought of it first. “I thought of winning a European Cup when I was eight,” he argued, “and you can’t argue with statistics like that,” he added, before undermining his own reasoning by pulling out a picture of Fergie smeared in excrement. “Look at the fat Scottish cunt.”
If you ask Wenger about this now, he’ll deny it. But he’ll also deny that he’s the owner of a warehouse and 10,000 packets of Opal Fruits.
3. Wenger’s insistence that nude speech-making was an art.
Actions shout louder than journalists can scream. A 62 year old football manager entering a packed press room nude will burn into memory better than words could. Months later it would come out that Wenger was acting in support of the “nude-speaking is an art” movement, but in March 2001, those sitting, guard-down, waiting for Wenger to arrive, were not to know.
One journalist who was there claims that it was “a defining moment in his life,” having happened to sit in the front row for the first time in a 25 year career on that day. When I caught up with him in researching this piece, he insisted on sitting behind a screen for fear of what he called “a surprise attack”.
2. The Milk incident.
[looking at fridge door] ‘You fucking having a laugh? Where’s the fucking milk. I precisely remember asking you, Katherine, to get the fucking milk today, and you fucking cunt, you’ve done fuck all, haven’t you? You’ve fucking sat on your fucking fat arse all day, and got leathered on Stella. As usual. Look, if this relationship is gonna work then when I ask you to do something, you fucking do it. I know you’re having a hard time with your lupus and your arthritis, but the doctor says that exercise is good for it. Put something in, get something fucking out, you know?
[at fridge shelves] ‘Oh, you’ve laid it down on its side, I didn’t see that. Sorry.’
1. The ball boy assault.
Standing on the very edge of the technical area, 3-1 down to Manchester United in the European Champions League semi-final, Wenger decided the reason for defeat was a girl in the seats forty yards back. In row J, Wenger decided, she had not been cheering loud enough to secure victory. Wenger instructed all ballboys to line up any free footballs directly in front of her. A deep breath, and he systematically launched each and every ball, twelve in total, with increasing force at her face, the crowd parting on all sides as they joined in the baiting. The last one knocked her out, and she wouldn’t regain consciousness for three days. ‘Have that, cunt.’ Arsenal and Wenger were fined 300 euros each.
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