Have Arsenal hired a new PR officer?

To pick up right where I left off yesterday, I have to admit I spent most of Monday night checking and re-checking for news about the extent of Abou Diaby’s ankle injury.

Yet while I did finally find some sort of answer – two or three games out according to Diaby himself – there was something that tweaked my interest in the comments made by Diaby and the manager regarding Paul Robinson’s tackle.

These were Diaby’s full comments on the incident:

“I will miss our first game in the Champions League but to be honest I am lucky to only miss two or three games, I really thought I would be out for a long time. Bolton is a very physical team and to be honest the tackle was a strong one, but it is Premier League football, people are committed, so it is fine for me. I hope the team start the Champions League with a victory, the first game in any competition is always very important.”

While Arsene Wenger made the following comments regarding the physical nature of English football:

“More protection can become boring… I have seen some countries when every little push or shoulder-to-shoulder is a foul and then it becomes boring because they interrupt the game too much. I must say I love the way the English game is played in England and the one restriction has to be full commitment with the intention of going for the ball and only for the ball.”

The thing that strikes me as a little peculiar about these comments is that both Diaby and Wenger appear to be steering clear of complaining about the tackle by Robinson, praising the physical nature of English football and in the process accepting it as part of the game. This is in direct contrast to the sort of comments made after the Ryan Shawcross and Martin Taylor tackles and indicates to me that the PR officer down at Arsenal has implemented a new approach with addressing these sort of concerns in the media.

Are Arsene Wenger's "complaining" days over?

Instead of being seen as complainers or a club who “don’t like it up ’em”, this change in approach appears to be specifically designed to remove any unfair focus the English media may be hoping to place on Wenger and the club. Many of the perfectly valid points the manager has been made in the past have been, quite unfairly, used against him as the media turns attention away from the thugs making the tackle and focuses on the “French complainers” trying to remove all contact from the game.

But the above comments give the media no fodder, no grounds for any sort of controversial article and I think that is a change in approach by the club deliberately intended to diminish media focus and erase the false myth that the best way to beat Arsenal is to be physical. Bolton used to use this approach to great effect a few years back but eight wins in eight over Sam Allardyce’s ex-side indicates that physicality against Arsenal simply doesn’t work anymore.

Interestingly Wenger, a true pioneer of the game and man who cannot help speak his heart and mind, added the following comments:

“I love the English game but people are more interested in controversy than protecting the players. Why should I create another story? You asked me how the tackle was and it was bad. But I don’t know if my views are taken seriously. Diaby has been injured from an unfair tackle. I’ve watched it 10 times and it is an unfair tackle. But people just think I’m protecting my players by saying that and that I have a [vested] interest.”

“Don’t get me wrong – sometimes my players commit bad fouls. Yet the beauty of the game is down to the fact that you play with commitment, with passion but also with the right intention. If you have a good sliding tackle where the player takes the ball, it’s as good to see as a player scoring a goal. But when a guy closes his eyes and jumps with anger it’s not right.”

“I’m not enough, alone, to change things. Managers, referees, people who watch games, even journalists have to take responsibility. It’s a matter of respecting the rules. The problem is that, when I say it, it is only considered ‘controversial’ and it is just ‘Wenger, Wenger, Wenger, Wenger’.”

These comments are a little riskier and unfortunately do give the media something to aim at Wenger and Arsenal. Indeed, The Guardian, which features England’s most respected and personable football journalists, ran the story ‘Arsene Wenger condemns tackle on Arsenal’s Abou Diaby by Paul Robinson’.

Despite this, Wenger’s comments give the impression of a man who knows he has done all he can to address this unnecessary part of the game and accepts that it is now not up to him to make the change. Whether he really does accept it or not (and I would suggest strongly that he almost certainly does not) is irrelevant, all that matters is that he paints a picture to the media and the rest of his league that he and his players are not fazed by the physical nature of the Premier League.

It is PR 101 and it is expertly executed.


Have your say on Diaby and Wenger’s comments by leaving a comment of your own.



  1. My goodness have things changed around here since I last had a look. Now that my alter ego has left me (don’t ask) I might have to come back and read a bit more often, great stuff Andy.

    What a cracking start to the season for Arsenal. If what Diaby says is right (he’ll only miss between one and three games) then that is fantastic news. I hear Nasri is not far away either. We’re not in as bad a shape as everyone thinks injury wise and are playing some fantastic stuff. Sure I would’ve loved to have seen Schwarzer signed but all we can do is get behind Almunia now (another who has started the season surprisingly well) and cheer on the lads. I can’t wait for tomorrow morning’s game. Let’s go you Gunners!

  2. Agree with you there fella…a definate change in how our Club respondes to the tackling used against our players, Not even a Wengerish moan up about the tackles that went unpunished during the Bolton game naming no names but we all know who they were. Any hoo great start to the season and we are still looking solid even though we now have 5 odd first teamers out. Looking forward to tonight, i predict a 3 – 0 result. Good to – good to – good to be a GOONER!

  3. You’ve left a good footballing side in Bordeaux for a very attacking team such as Arsenal. You must feel very privileged.

    Yes. When you’re out there and you’ve got Nasri and Fabregas behind you, you know you’re going to get quality service. With Cesc you could see that against Bolton. He’s our key man and he set Arshavin up a few times as well. He played the cross in for my goal and he also put me in on the right. He’s got exceptional touch and I’ve never really seen anyone pass the ball like he does. He can play it short and long and when you call for the ball you know you’re going to get it just where you want it. It’s great. I bet a lot of strikers would love to be in my shoes.
    Source: http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/clubfootball/news/newsid=1302185.html?cid=rssfeed&att=

  4. The problem is that the media have their own agenda which is based on xenophobic principles and it does not suit them to report accurately or honestly. Today, the Guardian has a report by Dominic Fifield where he states “Wenger’s players have been guilty of similarly ugly challenges, not least when Bolton’s Mark Davies was seriously injured by William Gallas last season”. Firstly, let me say that it was a bad tackle but from memory Mark Davies was so “seriously injured” that he played in their next game! You just have to contrast the press and media coverage of the Gallas tackle and the Robinson one to tell you all you need to know. I notice that none of the newspapers even have the photo which shows Robinson with his studs up over the ball on Diaby’s shin.

  5. They’ve clearly chosen to make their case using new media/PR guidelines. For my money, I think they’ve taken the right approach.

    I’m sick of watching the media troglodytes paint us as delicate little ballerinas in red and white tutus.

  6. Last season Wenger got waaaay more stick than was really necessary. I think what did it though was the comment about Villa and long balls.

    Wenger said they play the long ball sometimes (which they do) and then boom! “Shit! Wenger says Villa are a long ball team OMG” Even Martin O’Neill obviously didn’t bother listening to Wenger’s interview (which was largely positive about Villa), and just blurted out some nonsense about something. I don’t remember. But for some reason it was the biggest story in football for a while.

  7. Good points about the PR objectives – makes a lot of sense, but still gets the point across.

    The point about Bolton might not be quite right though, they haven’t really been the same side since Allardyce left, and if you look at our record against Allardyce rather than Bolton this year was our first win away against him since 2002. It still shows that we are making progress though.

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