Wenger Closes Ranks Ahead of Derby

Arsene Wenger has again decided not to schedule a press conference ahead of a big midweek game. This is viewed by some as a sign of reluctance to answer tough questions and a missed opportunity to rally the troops.

You can generally count on Wenger to make some interesting points, some controversial ones and to make statements in support of his players. He is good value in front of the assembled hacks. There are those who feel that he is ceding column inches to Harry Redknapp ahead of a hugely important match for both sides; both in terms of league position and bragging rights.

It seems perfectly reasonable to me that Wenger should let Harry do the talking. No doubt Redknapp will talk of how Tottenham want to get back into the Champions League, how brilliant Gareth Bale is and, almost definitely how they’ll “have a right old go” at us. All good stuff but why does Wenger need to get drawn in?

The facts are that we have lost our last 2 league games to them and we don’t want to lose another one. If we play to the best of our ability we will win. The league says we are better than them and our histories confirm as much. There is no need to reiterate this. One of Wengers key philosophies is that our best should be good enough regardless of the opponent. Sometimes this is plain stubborn but it is also admirable that he believes whole heartedly in what he’s built. There may be a need for revision of this strategy at the end of May but now is not the time to change the approach.

There is also very little left to say after the game on Sunday. Wenger was quick to state that he thought the added time was too generous and that the penalty shouldn’t have been given. If he were to do this again he would be cast as deranged, delusional and desperate. It seems far more reasonable to close ranks and let the players know his expectations behind closed doors. Deep in his heart he may have felt that the penalty was justified and that Eboue is a clown but there is no way he will, or should, publicly chastise one of his players. It’s easy for a fan to criticise the players out loud but it’s far more damaging to morale if the Boss does it.

Wenger is fiercely proud of his young players and protects them from the media. If he can’t say anything good about them then he’d rather keep quiet. I’d be very surprised if Wenger hasn’t told the players that some of them are playing for their futures and that our lacklustre displays of late aren’t good enough. You can also guarantee that he will have told the players that they can still win the league, that United are fallible and that we have enough talent to win well tomorrow night. The key point is that this should all be going on in house; we don’t need to give the media ammunition by admitting our frailties in public.

If Le Boss sat there in front of the usual journalists, all looking for another juicy Wengerism, and told them that we were still in the hunt, what do you think the reaction would be? It’s unlikely reports would portray an admirable never say die spirit. It’s far more likely that someone at a red top would mock up a picture of Wenger in a straight-jacket and report that he’d lost it once and for all.

If anyone thinks Wenger is happy with what has happened of late – or that he is happy to have won nothing for so long – then they are wide of the mark. Wenger marches onto the pitch to berate refs, refuses handshakes and glasses of wine from other managers and bites at provocative journalists precisely because he cares. Wenger has given everything to develop this club and these players and will feel as let down by some of their performances as we do. What is required now is to stick together until the title is mathematically impossible; the questions can wait until the end of the season.

Keep The Faith. In Wenger We Trust.