For a manager who rarely witnesses the on-pitch misdemeanours of his own team, Arsene Wenger is never short of views on football’s bigger picture. Comrade Wenger has used his weekend off to good effect by bemoaning the break-up of communist countries into smaller states, and particularly its impact on international football.
Overlooking the various conflicts currently taking lives in these regions, Wenger said: “I’m not a big fan of international football as they destroyed it. Take Russia — once it was one country, now it’s 21. Yugoslavia was one and now is six.” In Russia’s defence, it does currently seem to be making attempts to cut Uefa’s quota of footballing nations by getting one or two of its former constituents back on-board.
As if a barely concealed campaign for the reformation of the Soviet Union was not controversial enough, Wenger then launched a vicious Maxist attack on international football’s bourgeoisie elite. He continued: “Ryan Giggs never played in a World Cup. If Maradona was born in Luxembourg he would never have played in a World Cup — but he still would have been the best player in the world. In club football you get to put the best players in the world together — that is justice.”
Ryan Giggs barely played in an international match at all, never mind a World Cup, but that was more to do with Sir Alex Ferguson’s dictatorial shackles than anything else. And Maradona won the 1986 competition single-handedly (literally), so there is no reason to assume he could not have at least got Luxembourg through the qualifying stages.
Although his argument seems a little flawed on closer examination, it is very noble of Monsieur Wenger to have signed Arsenal players from those footballing backwaters of Togo, Ivory Coast and erm, Wales to further their football experiences and give them opportunities they may not have got in their native lands.
In all seriousness, Aaron Ramsey is the only member of Arsenal’s first-team squad whose nation has not qualified for at least one of the last two World Cups. The Arsenal squad has a distinct lack of Luxembourgers, a scarcity of San Marinans and an absence of Andorrans. So much for Wenger’s hard done by big fish in the small pond.
So perhaps Wenger is employing that most communist of tactics, the double bluff. Could it be that the demise of international football might actually benefit his ethnically diverse bunch of World Cup qualifiers? The thought of Cesc Fabregas with his feet up all summer must have the Arsenal boss glowing like Chernobyl.