In April last year – a long time ago I admit – a story emerged from a desperately slow news day. And the headline was….”Is Jose really a boring manager?”.
Pundits and journos alike breathed audible sighs of relief when their man weighed into the Arsenal fans, who had criticised Chesea’s playing style after their goal-less game at the Emirates.
Not wanting to report the tedious contest, they gratefully hung their copy on Mourinho’s hook. Cue pages of Jose-speak in the Monday editions.
How different to the coverage of the Special One’s regular target, Arsene Wenger. The media hate Wenger for his dearth of ‘big’ signings and lack of ready quotes.
And they hate him because he talks about the football and won’t get drawn on much else; referees, opposition managers, the FA etc.
After winning the FA Cup two years running, he probably thought he’d ended the Decade of Failure headlines, only to see the goalposts shifted sideways by a selection of back page hacks and Piers Morgan.
To Arsenal fans and the media, the Cup is no longer a major trophy. If anything, the abuse has been worse this season, as it has slowly sunken in that Arsenal are not champions of Europe.
And like lions scenting blood, punters and pundits have torn into the Frenchman, with the worst offenders the Arsenal ‘fans’ themselves.
It’s a long-running theme, with the pursuit of Wenger at Stoke railway station in December 2014 the worst example, closely followed by the anti-Wenger banner at the recent victory over Hull in the FA Cup; the viciousness of the vitriol matched only by its longevity.
On air, ‘pundits’ like Piers Morgan have demanded Wenger’s head, while some Gooners have been more willing to praise visiting players than any of their own.
Even Arsenal loyalist Ian Wright has used the; “If it wasn’t for (Alexi) Sanchez…” line.
That’s fine, except Sanchez is part of the team (36 goals in 76 games) and a Wenger signing, not that the Frenchman has received credit for it.
Part of the problem is that a section of the club’s support is unchastened by the bad times – the pre-double Gunners went 17 years without a trophy in the 50s and 60s – and casts casual abuse the manager’s way via radio and social media.
‘His tenure as manager depends on tonight’s game’ said a fairly typical caller to Five Live last year. The accent was more south Bristol than north London, suggesting that his interest in the Gunners was televisual at best.
Many Arsenal fans under 25 may not appreciate Wenger’s contribution to the honours and infrastructure of the club. Neither could they recite Monty Python. If they could some would realise that ‘Arsene must go’ is matched for pure irony by ‘what have the Romans ever done for us’.
Anti-Wenger banners – the sort that rely on bad results for impact – have appeared both home and away this season.
And while a 400 mile round trip for a midweek away game is laudable, going in the hope of defeat is something else entirely.
‘Thanks for the memories, it’s time to say goodbye’, ran the anti-Wenger slogan at the Arsenal end during the Hull game. Even allowing for the collective amnesia of the Gooners this season, that is some statement.
The truth is they’re bored of Wenger, bored of the Cup Finals and constant Champions League football; something they would soon be cured of if they followed another club, or if the Frenchman’s replacement suddenly reminded them of what they had lost.
They want a new manager to keep them entertained. I hear Jose Mourinho is available.