An example to all of us. Shame a lot of us won’t notice.

A personal view on Brentford 0 – 1 Arsenal

Here’s a simple thought: things don’t always work at once. It’s bloody annoying I know, but that’s how it is.

Take my laptop computer. Bought it, brought it home, plugged it into the mains and … nothing. Several annoying phone calls later it appeared that the X94 pre-adaptor modem recidivator had to be initiated before the retro-transmission device could link with the output mode. (I may not have got that quite right, but it was something like that).

The same is true with footballers. We all want them to be like Declan Rice. Turn up, smile quite a bit, play extremely well and then after a couple of matches have it all working perfectly.

But life isn’t like that. At least not always. OK it was for Patrick Vieira. Wenger was in Japan phoning instructions to Pat Rice who dutifully brought Patrick on midway through the second half of Wenger’s first match in charge, and he (Patrick not Pat) transformed the game within seconds. I remember saying to my pal as we sat in the north upper, “who is that guy?????” and of such moments are made legends. (Well, at least when my mate and I are in the pub together.)

Yet with Thierry Henry it didn’t go like that at all. In fact he was dropped and reported later that he thought coming to England had been a dreadful mistake and was asking Wenger if he could go back from whence he came. Fortunately Wenger persevered, although for a while the derision of the crowd was something to behold.

Now of course no one remembers any of that, and everyone claims a) to have been there and b) to have loved Theirry from the start.

But no. Two things are certain. One is that not all transfers work out straight off, and two everyone forgets their own impatience.

So we have Havertz. Someone quite big who can do stuff in the air so the wingers (of whom we appear to have two of monumental importance and ability) can pass to him. Someone who is not Gabriel Jesus or Eddie N. Someone with an extra skill that isn’t their forte.

That’s Havertz – the man who can face up to the blocking tactics that teams now use against Arsenal.

He’s taken his time to fit in, not least because like Henry before him, he’s been hounded by the media and by some so-called “fans” who think it is rather helpful to the player and the team for a one man to be picked on and jeered. (I guess these people are auditioning for lives as journalists. If you are, here’s a word of warning. It’s not as good as you might think.)

My view is simple: it is never helpful to pick on a player, no matter how much you think he is no good. It doesn’t make him better. I know that sounds odd, because the entire English education system is based on the notion that telling pupils and students how awful and stupid they are turns them into swots who will pass exams.

But 100 years of trying this approach still hasn’t made it work, but we go on packing the school staff rooms will bullies, in the hope that one day it will work, and besides it makes the bullies feel good about themselves, and the people doing the appointing are bullies so…

So it is with football clubs. Shouting at a player who is deemed, by people not working within football professionally, to not be good enough, is considered a jolly good thing to do because the manager is so stunningly inept that he won’t realise until this has gone on for much of a season and the player who (contrary to all that some supporters and much of the media suggest) is actually human and has real emotions, has been reduced to nothing.

After the game Mikel Arteta said of Havertz, “against teams that defend the box [en masse], you need this type of profile. He is exceptional at that. He won the game in that action for us.”

Now the media is suggesting that the reason Havertz hasn’t delivered before is “a lack of chemistry.” So not the fault of the fans and journos who have been getting on his back. That’s all right then, because that means they can do it again for the next player who isn’t Declan Rice.

But some of us noticed: he took us to the top of the league. Of course it’s his fault that he hasn’t nurtured his disbelief when a lot of Arsenal fans have joined the media led assault on the player.

Somehow however, the lad got through it (as they used to say). Or as Arteta said, “He is an example for all of us.”

I’ll go with that.

Tony Attwood, November 28 2023

Pictures from John Wiliamson


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