Le Boss’s Defence

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He comes from Senegal, he played for Arsenal

Several nice talking points today, I feel.

Firstly, of course, is the return of Patrick Vieira with his Juventus side for the Quarter-Final of the European Cup (it’s not a league anymore, it’s a cup, and anyway, it sounds a whole lot better).

Nobody can dispute that the Gods of fate were in some way involved in drawing Arsenal against Juve. It’s not only a magnificent tie – a very, very tough one too – but it will pit our former “colossus” (to use Dave Dein’s words) against his old muckers. Wenger’s right: he deserves a great welcome and he will of course get one. We have had no better player than him in his position – a true gooner legend.

I can’t wait for it already, and the game comes with a carrot of sorts – the side that wins it gets to play one of Ajax, Internazionale or Villarreal, a tie that is certainly no harder than the Juve one.

And we’re in a pleasant sort of a position if you ask me. We’re not underdogs but we’re far from being favourites – look no further than Juve, AC Milan and Barcelona for that. There’s really no expectation on us to win the competition, yet we’ve knocked out Real Madrid and people might start talking looking over their shoulders. It suits us fine this way.

Then there’s the other talking point, the thorny issue of nationality brought up by the ‘Stam manager Alan Pardew (whose surname is, unless I am mistaken, by origin French – par Dieu – you see it’s not an easy argument to win).

You know, I think his comments were ill-advised, but I do understand the argument beneath it all. I’ve long advocated for Wenger to buy or play more English players, purely because, as an Englishman, I like to see them succeed at Arsenal. There has always been a touch more empathy for players who are from the same culture as you. It’s not racist, it’s just a fact.

However, take the emotion away and Wenger is absolutely right when he defends himself passionately against such accusations. He looks only at his duties as club manager, and that’s to play the best team available. This he does – and who can argue against what he has achieved? He doesn’t look at passports, purely at talent, and he’s right to do so. Furthermore, in a Europe where the right of one citizen to work in another country is long established, it’s the inevitable conclusion that a football team will be made up of players from those countries.

Wenger’s not troubled by the argument because he’s not English. He looks solely at how much English players cost – too much – their technical ability – often not as good as European players – and the way they lead their lives – sometimes recklessly.

And I think his policy has largely been vindicated. How many English ex-Arsenal players have gone on to be snapped up by a big club? None, yet.

I think he’s wrong to invoke racism because that clearly isn’t the issue, but in every other aspect of his defence, Wenger is spot on. English players play if they are good enough.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.