I read Arsene Wenger’s comments about player development, made last week before the West Brom match. Wow. They somehow slipped under the radar of the majority of the press. They were pretty concise and clearly lacking in self-deprecation. Our French maestro declared, unequivocally, that no manager in football has a history of developing players like he does. One of the best in a field of many, nobody would disagree. By far the best ever? Maybe Harry Redknapp down the road is right, our Professor has turned nutter.
Now it’s not even a case of whether the claim is true, it might well be that Wenger has the best record (quite how you quantify player development is another matter), but the way Wenger spoke so desperately was shocking. He was pleading for approval. I’m not even convinced he realises how ridiculous he sounded. Our Professor was desperate. He wanted an arm on the shoulder and somebody to tell him that yes, in fact, he was a good coach. That the press conference preceded a 3-2 home defeat to West Brom doesn’t help. Is our Monsieur losing it?
Wenger listed plenty of players. Song, Diaby, Gibbs, Cole, Djourou, Senderos, Fabregas and intimated others, like Henry. But it didn’t really help his case. Song had played over 30 matches for Bastia before he signed for us. Diaby was a 19 year old playing for Auxerre before we signed him.
Djourou and Senderos are hardly worth boasting about. Gibbs might be good but at the moment it’s hardly right for Wenger to boast about his development. Fabregas is the obvious example. Sure, he started at Barcelona, but the majority of his development has been here. Henry was a good example too. We signed him from Juventus, yes, but Wenger worked with King Henry at Monaco. What’s more some members of the media pointed out that if Wenger wants to count players like Diaby and Song then Sir Alex Ferguson can count teenagers he signed too, like Ronaldo, Rooney, Nani and Anderson. Each had played games elsewhere but so had many of the names Wenger mentioned. More pertinently over at Manchester United they could talk about Scholes, Neville, Giggs, Butt, Beckham et al. Wenger came out with a point to prove but he ended up making himself look very bad. Furthermore, i am no football historian but didn’t a Celtic team made up entirely of local lads, developed by the same coach, all born within 20 kilometres of the stadium win the European Cup?
The whole press conference was cringe worthy. Arsene Wenger just kept digging deeper and deeper and making himself look worse. Most Arsenal fans will recognise Wenger as either our best manager, or the second, and nobody at Arsenal, or any other club, would deny he has an exemplary record at developing young players into very capable professionals. That’s not the point. The way Wenger spoke with conviction about being the best coach at player development and then crumbled under the fragility of his own fragile claims and supporting evidence made him look a desperate man. The arrogance was horrible. The desperation evident. The insecurity clear. Arsene Wenger is our French genius but on Friday at the press conference he made a fool of himself.
Andreas Vassiliades writes for Arsenal.ie