Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Wenger v Mourinho furore ignores the point

This blog post is going to be slightly different to most of my ramblings after an Arsenal game. Rather than an overall view of the match with a few key things that stuck out to me, this will mainly focus on the one incident. Partly because it’s really annoyed me and I need to have a bit of a rant, but also because the match itself was horribly familiar that there isn’t much else to say on it. Arsenal had plenty of the ball and Chelsea were defensive, but the Blues were more clinical when they needed to be. Like most recent trips to big teams, it was incredibly frustrating.
The incident that’s really annoyed me is the one that has dominated media stories after the match. Despite having a hand in the second Chelsea goal, even Cesc Fabregas has had to share some of the media limelight with the touchline spat between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.
Because of the way he walked down the touchline and shoved Mourniho, Arsene Wenger has been portrayed as the aggressor. There’s been talk of how he’ll avoid a touchline ban and some pundits have been quoted as saying how it’s bad for image of the game. Ok, that’s all very well, but the thing that has really annoyed me is that I’ve struggled to find the Wenger shove put into context.
It makes for a great story to make Arsene Wenger look petty by pushing Mourinho because the Portuguese manager has an unbeaten record against Wenger, or that it shows the strain of Arsenal being bullied and comfortably beaten by another top four rival. But this again doesn’t show the real reason why the Arsenal manager was so unhappy that he felt the need to go down the touchline and have a push and a shove with Mourinho.
The incident happened while referee Martin Atkinson failed to properly deal with a horrendous tackle from Gary Cahill. The England centre-back went over the ball, had his studs showing and could have caused from serious damage to Alexis Sanchez. I could well be reading too much into this, but part of me really thinks that the media has ignored the challenge because Cahill doesn’t have a track record of challenges like that, and because he is an England regular that could, and probably should, have been England captain instead of Wayne Rooney. That shouldn’t change the fact it was a dreadful challenge that Sanchez was lucky to not be seriously injured from, and should have resulted in Cahill being sent off.
Understandably, that tackle incensed Arsene Wenger. Just a few days prior to the trip to Stamford Bridge, Galatasaray’s Felipe Melo launched into Sanchez with a crude two-footed lunge that also went without proper punishment. For Wenger to see his star summer signing be on the receiving end of another reducer was infuriating for the boss. You have to accept a bit of roughing up and jostling, but those sorts of leg-breaking challenges are unacceptable. Twice in five days it happened to Sanchez, and twice the referee failed to deal with it and offer some sort of protection to the Arsenal player.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Arsene Wenger has seen careers seriously disrupted, and in some cases almost completely ruined, by such challenges. Abou Diaby, Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey have all suffered horrific injuries because of them, and understandably Arsene Wenger doesn’t ever want to have to see one of his players go through that again.
As a fan watching the game on the sofa, I jumped up, shouted, swore and got very angry when a red card wasn’t produced for that tackle. I completely understand why Arsene Wenger went down the touchline to make a point. It just so happened that Mourinho was in the way of his rage.
Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t need a bad tackle to make most people connected with Arsenal want to push Jose Mourinho. The Chelsea manager shows a staggering lack of class and respect to opposition managers and generally comes across as a thoroughly dislikeable person. But, as it feels like it’s been reported, this wasn’t just a slightly annoyed Arsene Wenger randomly deciding to confront him. This was a passionate manager wanting to make a point that one of his players had been on the receiving end of a very bad tackle.
Given I’ve been annoyed at how much media space has been taken up by this bit of touchline handbags, I know that it is pretty contradictory that I’ve devoted the majority of a blog to it. But it’s annoyed me and I needed to have a bit of a rant about it. If Mourinho gets in the way of my rage, I’d shove him too, Arsene.