Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Fan the Latest Gossip from Paris Is That Arsene Wenger "Feels" His Players. (Columns)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Fan the Latest Gossip from Paris Is That Arsene Wenger "Feels" His Players. (Columns)

Article excerpt

I didn't have a ticket for Arsenal-Spurs, as the half season ticket for Highbury I had for a few years has been reclaimed. I hate football-less Saturday afternoons, so I sat listening to the game on the radio while watching the rugby on television while making tea for the builders doing damp-proofing work downstairs. I always believe someone who can do three things at the same time can easily do a fourth, so the moment Arsenal went a goal up I thought, oh God, it's going to be a hammering, I know, I'll fax my friend Pierre in Paris, see if he can give me any dirt on that bastard Wenger.

Pierre Merle is a French writer who happens to share two of my interests, football and the Beatles, and has written books on each subject. Clearly a talented, intelligent, admirable person.

Mon cher Pierre, I wrote, right, that's enough French for one fax, could you please answer some questions for me? I know Wenger sounds German, presumably because he comes from Alsace-Lorraine, but what sort of first name is Arsene? Pretty poncy, if you ask me. And what do French fans think of him?

"Dear Hunter," replied Pierre, "Wenger began as what we call 'entraineur adjoint' - second manager--in a town called Nancy, in Lorraine, in the east of France, which is where he originated. The name Arsene is not very common in France, old-fashioned, I would say, but everyone knows it in France because of Arsene Lupin, the gentleman burglar, a hero of the French novelist Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941).

"French fans like him because they remember how well he did at Monaco. They say over here that he 'feels' his players.

"By the way, I seem to remember some English press when he came to Arsenal saying 'Arsene who?' Now they have the answer..."

OK, Pierre, calm down. Why are French league clubs so rubbish in Europe? …

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