‘STOP ME IF YOU THINK YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE’
For popular news agency Reuters Friday’s Arsène Wenger press conference, scheduled in theory so the Frenchman could look forward to Saturday’s game against Newcastle, revealed one thing that was particularly exciting. “Arsenal will not sell Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil during the January transfer window, manager Arsène Wenger has said,” they breathlessly reported. “When asked in a news conference on Friday if Sanchez and Özil would see out the season at Arsenal, Wenger said: ‘I can tell you a global answer – yes. They will all stay.’”
Huzzah! It really is the season to be jolly! Deck the halls with boughs of holly! Fa la la la la, etc! Unbelievably, Fiver readers, it turns out Sánchez and Özil are going to stay at Arsenal for the rest of the season. Clearly, this is fantastic and also surprising news. But hang on, is anyone else getting a strange feeling of déjà vu? Yes, something’s definitely ringing a bell here. Oh yes, it’s that press conference Wenger held a couple of weeks back, when he was asked if he could rule out the possibility of Sánchez and Özil leaving Arsenal before the end of the season, and said: “Yes of course. That’s what we’ve said many times. Yeah, I rule it out.”
Yes, that’ll be it. The reason the story seemed familiar was that we’d read it before, and even then we were told that we’d already read it “many times” before that. Hang on, doesn’t that also ring a bell? Oh yes, it’s that press conference Wenger held four months ago, when he was asked if he would be selling Sánchez and Özil. “I think we are not open – what I said to you many times – to any offers,” he responded. Even then, four long months ago, a third of a year during which Wenger has held press conferences twice a week at the very minimum, he’d said it many times. That exchange brought to mind the press conference Wenger held the month before that, when he was asked if he would be selling Sánchez. “Do I think he will stay? Yes, of course,” he replied. “How many times did I tell you that?”
Many times, Arsène.
This has gone beyond persistency, beyond standard repetition, into the realms of performance art. Long-memoried readers may recall what happened at Arsenal last season, but for goldfish-brained Fiver fans a little reminder: Wenger’s contract was going to expire at its end, and so he was asked literally every week for the entire season whether he was going to sign a new one. Normally several times a week. After every match, and again before the next one. Life became like a series of Casualty, only without the seriously injured people: things kept happening that were almost exactly the same as the stuff that had just happened and also practically identical to the stuff that was about to happen, an endlessly repeating cycle that left all participants in serious need of anaesthesia. And here we are again, with the same people asking the same person the same question about the same people and getting the same answer, and then reporting it to us as news.
And we have several months of this to look forward to, until the season ends and the players either move elsewhere or sign massively inflated new contracts at Arsenal. And how much bigger will those contracts have to be if they’re to be persuaded to stay? You guessed it: many times.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Thousands and thousands came to the house. People came from China, from Singapore, from Morocco, from all over the world. People would catch a plane to come for only 10-15 minutes and then they went off to their country again. It was amazing. And that’s what our religion teaches us: when God loves a person, you will see it in the people on earth, not only Muslims but black and white … you saw the Feyenoord fans, the club who hates Ajax normally, but even they were at our house, wearing a Feyenoord shirt with his name on the back. That’s the thing what makes me happy – he’s loved by God” – Abderrahim Nouri, brother of the prodigiously talented Ajax midfielder Abdelhak Nouri, who suffered permanent brain damage after collapsing in a pre-season friendly in the summer, talks candidly about the affection inspired by ‘Appie’ in this long read by Stuart James.