Every so often the traditions and values of football in England get challenged. Who do we turn to in these hours of need? Nick Griffin? Nigel Farage? Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon-Bellend)? Nope, thank Christ, we look to Arsene Wenger, a Frenchman who looks a bit like a raisin.
Back in 2005 such a notion was unthinkable, on February 14 of that year Wenger became the first manager to field an all foreign squad. Chelsea beat him to the starting 11 but he was the man who named a whole match-day squad from foreign shores. Wenger’s Arsenal are not, and never have been, a ‘traditional’ English side in terms of style but, somehow, he is the loudest voice when it comes to some of the core attributes of our domestic game.
The Winter Break
The idea of a winter break gets raised every season, usually by a manager new to the Premier League. This time it was Jurgen Klopp who admitted he’d prefer a rest over the festive period, presumably so he could indulge in a gratuitous variety of sausages and the finest beers Germany has to offer without having to think about Daniel Sturridge’s injury woes. In a somewhat strange twist of fate, it was a Frenchman who offered England’s strongest defence against Jerry on this occasion.
“You get that from everybody who comes to England at the start because you have to adapt to the English style. I was like that and I’m still in favour of a winter break – but without losing the traditions of English football. That is play over Christmas and maybe have a break in January.”
You tell him Arsene, we’re British and that means football on Boxing Day to help ease us out of our turkey comas.
FA Cup Replays
The idea of scrapping FA Cup replays has been floated out there of late. I’m not a fan, neither is Wenger.
“This is the most traditional competition in England. Let’s respect it and keep it as it is. I am convinced all of the clubs can compete with the number of games.”
This is an even more admirable stance when you consider the fact Arsenal would almost certainly benefit from the removal of replays. Getting rid of them only helps the Premier League, clubs in the lower leagues would certainly suffer. Wenger’s stance is supporting the little guys and underdogs – what could be more British?
There are other reasons why Wenger has become almost quintessentially English, if I may use that hoary old chestnut. For one thing Piers Morgan hates him and any enemy of that privileged, irrelevant gobshite masquerading as some kind of man of the people is a friend of mine.
But I’ll leave it there. Wenger might get a lot of stick, largely from Arsenal’s own fans, but I guarantee we’ll all miss him in a way when he’s gone. Admittedly I wasn’t a fan originally, maybe even for the first 10 years or so (football aside, Wenger’s Gunners are generally fun to watch) but now it is nigh on impossible to imagine the Premier League without him.
Wenger’s thoughts on the winter break via the Guardian.
FA Cup Replays via the BBC.