The week leading up to any clash with a side managed by Jose Mourinho is one that I dread – and not because I live in fear of the man or his turgid brand of football.
Rather, it is the wearying, thoroughly tired, and frustratingly predictable narrative that is trotted on every occasion.
Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho don’t like eachother and don’t get on. They haven’t done so for a decade. Nothing is new here, no wounds have healed and they probably never will.
But still, despite those very obvious facts, reporters feel the need to frame every question in such a way as to illicit a specific sort of response. They are desperate for anything resembling a dig or a criticism.
They will go to stupendous lengths to skew every answer given by either manager into a slight on the other’s character, and most times this is so far from the intended meaning as to be laughable.
As I journalist, I know every good story needs an angle. I know that the competition for clicks in the social media age is ferocious, and I know that the best way to achieve website hits is to court controversy.
But this has been going on for years now. Endlessly they go back and forth, egging each manager on to respond to something which the other may or may not have said, regardless of the context.
As detestable as I find Mourinho, even I am tired of him being set up to criticise Arsene, or Arsenal, or comment on his dislike for his rival.
Is there really nothing else about this match worthy of observation? Are the fans and followers of both sides really so disinterested in this match that wheeling out the Mourinho Wenger war is the only way to make it interesting?
I doubt it – and yet still we are force fed the same old waffle and told to like it. Invited to ‘have our say’, wound up into a froth of hatred for a man the overwhelming majority of us will never meet.
Frankly, it’s bollocks and it is past time that a new angle is found, one that in some way relates to football.
I’m much more interested in what Arsene thinks of the now all-conquering 3-4-3 system that teams are rushing to adopt. I want to know if he thinks his attacking football will be blunted without Hector Bellerin. I want to know how he is going to deal with the pace of Martial and Rashford.
Instead, all I hear are nonsense questions about whether Arsene will shake Mourinho’s hand after Saturday’s match. Is this really where sports journalism is in 2016?
I don’t care if they shake hands or not. I don’t care if they dislike eachother. The focus of every Arsenal fan – and every Manchester United fan – will be on getting three points on Saturday. We want to see our players rise to the big occasion and play the sort of football that made the 1990s and early 2000s such a fascinating period in the history of the Premier League.
I’m well aware that writing about this issue perpetuates it, and keeps the fires burning so to speak, but there is only so much of it I can stomach.
I don’t want to be weary by the time we finally reach match day, thoroughly sick of the round-the-clock listicles, throwbacks, pictures, and video replays of what Jose said in 2004. I want to be looking forward to a great game of football and a Sanchez hat-trick in front of the Stretford End.
So just remember this. The next time you go to click on an article entitled ‘You won’t believe what Jose Mourinho has said about Arsene now’ – think twice. Spend your clicks elsewhere. Help create a new narrative.