Reacting to the recent furore surrounding Wayne Rooney‘s phantom ankle injury, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted to a recurring personality trait that many have vehemently accused him of since the very first sepia-toned time he claimed to have missed clogger Martin Keown ‘reducing’ a flighty striker or midfield general Patrick Vieira gobbing in a cohort’s eye.
Wenger is a liar, we know it and he knows it, but he’s also a cerebral so-and-so and you can rest assured that he has a strategic agenda in place to back up his highly selective retrospect;
“If you ask me have I lied to the press to protect a player, I must honestly say yes. I didn’t feel comfortable but I had a clear conscience because it was for a good cause. But when I lie to the press I speak beforehand with the player and say: ‘Listen, this is the story we’re going to give’.”
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, the Frenchman also declined to identify the lies he had told in the interests of confidentiality, adding;
“If you ask me why I’ve lied, I would have to give concrete examples and you would find out which player [was involved]. This defeats the purpose.”
Wenger’s revelations (in the loosest sense of the word) come after his veteran counterpart at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, was forced to quash then ‘brush off’ rumours of growing unrest at Old Trafford when Rooney refuted his manager’s official line as to why the struggling striker had missed so much first-team football of late.
Having been the first Premier League manager to highlight (i.e whine until he was told to shut up) the issue of tackles approaching GBH, Wenger has also once again called for video evidence to be provided for retrospective punishment when serious incidents are missed by the match-day officials;
“The referee can send somebody off but if your leg is broken it is broken, what can you do? Football has a responsibility to punish people on video who do dirty things which the referee has not seen.
Individually, everybody is responsible for their own behaviour. We have to make sure that the players know when they go into the game that if they do something that the referee has not seen that is dirty they can get punished.”
Wenger then cited the French Football Federation‘s (FFF) system as an example of a preferable method of post-game discipline;
“You can get punished more in France. You can get a six-month ban. It depends how people judge it.”
Which in itself is a bif of a fib, as the FFF are governed by the same FIFA rules that apply to the English FA and the Premier League. Both associations have an ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause at their disposal, which allows for much lengthier suspensions to be applied in the incident warrants it, but similarly both are discouraged from applying such strict sanctions in order to avoid setting an unsustainable precedent.
When previously questioned about his notoriously cataract-riddled hindsight when it comes to perpetually ‘not seeing’ offenses committed by his own side, Wenger was again quick to extol the entirely altruistic virtues of his jiggery-pokery – saying that he is always willing to give his players the benefit of the doubt, no matter how myopic it may sound in post-match interviews;
“At times I saw it, and I said I didn’t to protect the player. It’s because I could not find any rational explanation to defend him. This is a job where you have to have an optimistic view of human nature or you become paranoid.
You always have to think that a guy wants to do well. A coach is there to help. He must think that if he helps in the correct way the players will respond. You cannot be suspicious.”
Which sits in stark contrast to the quip he then made yesterday when asked whether or not he believes that certain Premier League players deliberately endeavour to hurt others;
“What do you think? That all the injuries are coincidence? It’s not God who tackles people, it’s players.”
Such is the walking contradiction that maketh the man and, by proxy, maketh the great manager. Could it just be another in a long line of lies perhaps? Christ, it’s like Mulholland Drive all over again.