Another Premier League Manager Can't Keep Newcastle's Name Out Of His Mouth

Stu Forster

Arsène Wenger has some complaints about Newcastle United.

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has used some press conference time to bemoan the current structure of the January transfer window and, most specifically, Newcastle United's part in the current edition. After presumably being asked about potential transfers at a press conference, he took the opportunity to call the current structure of the mid-season window "unfair".

"I think it should be all completely cut out or limited to two players because it is unfair for the league. Some teams who have played Newcastle twice already have an advantage on teams who play against Newcastle now when they have bought six or seven players. They do not face the same team. I believe the number of players you can buy should be limited."

--from espn.co.uk

Of course, Arsenal have a fixture against Newcastle United yet this season, so this is a very thinly veiled "woe is me". Without a signing of his own this January, it's perhaps pretty easy to see why he might feel compelled to complain... or is it? His assertion that people who are playing Newcastle now are playing a considerably different side than they faced in the first fixture. This is pretty well inarguable - with our 6th 5th transfer of the window purportedly in its final stages, we have changed our team dramatically. There are three reasons that this argument rings hollow:
  1. The first meeting between Arsenal and Newcastle - The scabs from this one should be relatively fresh... or if you've gone numb to this season a bit, maybe they're not. However, Arsène and Arsenal took advantage of a cancelled match v. West Ham during the jammed Holiday Programme to pound a weakened and tired Newcastle United side, running out 7-3 winners. I don't recall him saying at the time that it was a bit "unfair" that his side had a full week's rest to prepare for this match while every other team in the league (save West Ham, of course) was playing the most grueling part of the fixture list as scheduled. I don't recall very much shouting about it from our end, either. There was some mention, mostly after we looked completely gassed in the last 15 minutes and they took advantage to make the scoreline laughable... but certainly not much shouting.
  2. How many direct competitors have played Newcastle twice already? - Presumably, Wenger's complaint is based on the fact that Arsenal do still have the match against New Newcastle United. A quick check of the fixture list, however, shows that only two teams in the top 10 have played both matches against Newcastle United thus far. The two? Swansea City, who could conceivably be a threat to Arsenal's league position... and Manchester United. Let's be honest. Arsenal is not catching Manchester United. ALL OTHER TEAMS in the top 10 of the Premier League have a match against New Newcastle United... just like Arsenal.
  3. The rules are the same for everyone. During the same press conference, Arsène came out with this quote:

    "It's a market for me that is a wrong transfer market because the only teams who sell players are teams in financial trouble, or players who are unhappy where they are," Wenger said. "So the gamble is much bigger than during the normal transfer period in mid-summer."

    This statement is tacit admission that Arsenal could do the very same as Newcastle have done. Because he has cold feet, however, they don't. If his team were sitting in 16th at this stage of the season, I would reckon that he would be hoping to bring in more than his proposed cap of two players. A complaint about a rule that you choose to not take advantage of just rings hollow.
Perhaps it bitterness that Newcastle United have become "the French club" in the Premier League, a mantle that Arsène and his club wore proudly in the late 90s and early 00s. It would be hard to categorize most (or all) of Newcastle's new signings as malcontents. In fact, they are players that in very recent times have been linked with Sky6 clubs in the not so distant past. Ultimately, you can't bemoan a rule as "unfair" when you choose not to take advantage of it and you're really at no competitive disadvantage because of another club taking advantage of it.



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