In defence of Paul Merson – he’s not as “anti-Arsenal” as one may think…
I don’t have this view to be a contrarian, or to go against the grain for the hell of it.
But then I don’t really like it when other Gooners mock Merson for just expressing his views and fulfilling his role as a pundit.
Yes, some things he has said over the years have been charged, or even hyped fanbases up in some cases. But this is part of his appeal as a pundit, and really as an Arsenal legend, should gain more favour from the fans.
If anything, it’s this video which made me comment here. Now, this is nothing against AFTV, since I find their content enjoyable, engaging, and fun, and Robbie Lyle warrants immense credit in developing what is the world’s most known online football fan channel. But the points made in the video, in my view at least, are unwarranted.
Yes, “the Merse” is an Arsenal legend. Prior to the Wenger era, the Graham era was arguably the most successful in the club’s history. Merson was pivotal in the 1989 and 1991 title wins, and also the FA/League Cup double (which was the first in history) in 1993. He scored a goal in the League Cup final and also contributed to the 1994 Cup-Winners Cup win. He rediscovered his form after his well-publicised drug issues and found a new groove albeit briefly when Arsene Wenger came in 1996.
So for the contributions he has made, I don’t see why he warrants this disrespect from our own fans.
Fans should respect players who have contributed much to the clubs, bar highly egregious conduct or comments. I just don’t think what Merson has said warrants this conduct.
The Merse has often said that he followed Chelsea as a boy. So what? Not every Arsenal legend was a Gooner as a kid. Tony Adams said he watched West Ham as a boy. Ian Wright said he saw Millwall, as it was his local club. I doubt Henry was a Gooner whilst growing up in the Paris suburbs, and the same can be said possibly of Vieira.
Wenger himself is a legend of the club, but as a young man in the Alsace and Lorraine region of France probably didn’t give Arsenal much thought. The same is true of other clubs – Sir Kenny Dalglish wasn’t a Liverpool fan as a youngster. But it doesn’t mean that due to his affiliations with Liverpool, he doesn’t want the best for the club, and has not been a major part of his life for decades.
Why can’t the same be true of Merson? He couldn’t help who he followed as a child, and there is no contradiction in this and being an Arsenal legend.
Arsenal’s unbeaten run/Liverpool
Merson came under some fire because he said, during Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten run from August to December, that whilst Arsenal had done well, there were several games which flattered to deceive.
During this run, Arsenal had some games in which they won, but was lucky to do so:
- West Ham
- Leicester City
This games showed a similar pattern – in that Arsenal were more clinical when it mattered and were fortunate not to concede more via weak defending and being imbalanced in the midfield.
Merson also went to say that the team would get a hiding against a top team, for this reason alone.
And this is what happened at Anfield recently….
Looking deeper at Merson’s comments, he was right.
Going unbeaten for a long time, at any level, is a good thing and should be commended.
However, the defence continues to be suspect and was exposed heavily in the 5-1 Anfield defeat.
Even the recent 4-1 win at home over Fulham had some defensive woes in it.
So “the Merse” has done little wrong and is just citing facts. This is reflected in this edition of “The Debate” on Sky Sports:
Merson’s trademark as a pundit is his capacity to say it as it is. He has next to no filter on what he says and tries to be as frank and honest as possible in his views. Surely these are appropriate points for any pundit to have?
In the past, he has said that Spurs haven’t really had success under Pochettino since they haven’t won anything under him. He also said that Aston Villa (a club that he played for) is bigger than Newcastle United and that the Manchester United players post-Mourinho sacking are “pathetic” for playing well.
Some may contest these points, but the common theme is that he is at Sky Sports for the aforecited reasons – he’s frank, blunt, and says it as it is. It’s not personal against any club, but then Sky like all media is in it for the money, and he brings revenue. He also gets much engagement online, which is critical in social media.
It may be unreasonable to ask, but fans should perhaps lessen their subjective feelings, and see things a bit more objectively. If anything, complaining just feeds the narrative and encourages more inflammatory comments from pundits.
It’s the nature of the beast, and the beast won’t change any time soon.
So instead of fretting, it may be time to just relax and take punditry with a pinch of salt. I know this may be reaching a bit – but then I think the Merse’s heart is in the right place. It’s more a case of how he says things, more than what is said.
What do you make of these comments? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image credit SkySports