The majority of the UK papers criticised the atmosphere at Ashburton Grove on Sunday as they continue to be clueless about what is really going on at Arsenal.
It was expected to be an emotional day for what was the first match of Arsene Wenger’s farewell ‘tour’.
Although there were some empty seats, the stadium was noticeably more full than it has been in recent games. While it took some time, and a few goals, to get the crowd in full voice, singing ‘One Arsene Wenger’ in unison, there was certainly a weird atmosphere at the ground.
But those who work for Daily Cannon and go to matches regularly, home and away, reported there was certainly an uptick in the atmosphere at the ground.
The ‘weirdness’ seemed to translate into apathetic football from the team in the first half. The players promised us they would deliver a send-off worthy of Arsene Wenger and what he has done for Arsenal but produced a display, for 45 minutes at least, that is part of the reason the Frenchman has to go.
But it seems the media expected Arsenal and their fans to put together some sort of wailing goodbye ceremony for a game that started around 48 hours after Wenger made his shock announcement.
The Daily Mail asked, ‘Is that the best you can do?’ in a double page spread.
Martin Samuel also wrote, “Atletico Madrid will not face an Anfield-like explosion of noise and fury when they visit on Thursday. Thanks for the memories? Modern football still does memory — but only of the short-term kind. This was the farewell for a manager who has won FA Cups, not Doubles. Who is scrambling to finish above Burnley, not going the season unbeaten.”
Did I fall asleep and miss the final month of the season? Was the game against West Ham Wenger’s last in charge of Arsenal?
No and no. Samuel, as he tends to be, is being completely absurd.
But he’s not the only one.
The Guardian, who usually have more sense, wrote, “Until the final 10 minutes it was tempting to wonder whether a few Arsenal supporters might even be impertinent enough to subject the tall, grey-haired man on the touchline – hands on hips, elbows out, wearing a worried look that has been seen here too often in recent years – to a smattering of boos at the final whistle.”
This from the same paper who said of Tottenham’s latest bottle-job, “Following defeat against Manchester United on Saturday, there were more accusations of “choking” and “bottling it” thrown Spurs’ way, and to some extent they were justified given this was the club’s eighth successive defeat in an FA Cup semi-final, and one in which they faded badly having started strongly and taken the lead. Yet to choke and lose your bottle you first have to get to a stage where those failures are relevant and that is what Tottenham are doing now on a regular basis – winning games, going far, remaining in the conversation beyond the winter and into the heat of spring. Is that in itself not success?”
The Daily Express also got in on the act, proving, once again, that many sports journalists do sit around and decide what the narrative will be and then follow that rather than think for themselves.
Matthew Dunn wrote, “IF ARSENAL’S fans are not going to get emotional about it, why should anybody else?
“The first date on Arsene Wenger’s farewell tour showed just how much damage has been done by the vanity of this extra season in charge.”
The Daily Star, never one to have a mind of its own at the best of times, also stuck to the script.
David Woods wrote, “But if this was supposed to be an Arsene Wenger love-in after last week’s shock announcement he is stepping down at the end of the season, then someone must have put a sedative in the fans’ teas and beers.”
Many of the journalists highlight that there was no loud rendition of ‘One Arsene Wenger’ until quite late in the game. They make zero allowance for the fact that Arsenal fans might still be in a little bit of shock.
How were they supposed to act and feel at this game? Were they to throw a switch and instantly transform themselves in the space of 48 hours? Or, could it possibly be that they were still digesting the information by the time this game rolled around?
Wenger hasn’t gone yet and he isn’t dead. There will be a send-off for Arsenal’s greatest ever manager that will leave the footballing world in tears. Of that you can bet your house.
To expect it at every match is churlish and the coverage from the majority of the mainstream press in the UK on Monday morning is nothing short of a disgrace, trying to hijack what is a very difficult time for both club and fans, to drive the knife into Arsene Wenger even more.
They should be ashamed of themselves but, as we know, they won’t be in the slightest.