The Strange World of Adrian Durham: Better than Wenger

This first appeared on SportsLobster three days ago.

Like many people, I find Adrian Durham extremely annoying. He has all the insight of a pub bore, and the smugness of a man of genius who the world refuses to recognise. Somehow, his infuriating nature has drawn in listeners and readers, and he’s ended up presenting a show on TalkSport and writing a weekly column for the Daily Mail.

The main body of this week’s column is taken up with the professional provocateur insisting that he would do a better job as Arsenal manager than Arsene Wenger. The argument focuses solely on transfer matters, with no mention of tactics or player development – it’s not clear that Durham is aware these things exist, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

His real beef is with Arsene Wenger’s actions in the transfer market over recent years.

The infuriating thing is that, as always, Durham has latched onto a decent argument, but rather than developed it properly, has mixed his common sense arguments in with an equal amount of absolute crap.
For instance, Durham begins this week’s column by arguing that Arsene Wenger should have been “using his years of experience to get involved in the market ahead of his top-four rivals”.
Wenger isn’t that much more experienced that Manuel Pellegrini, while Jose Mourinho knows a thing or two about selecting and signing top class talent. Seriously, what advantage are Wenger’s “years of experience” meant to give him in this context? Other than a slightly better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of his own squad I’m not sure what the case is meant to be.

A few of the many people who have a better sense of basic logic than Adrian Durham.
A few of the many people who have a better sense of basic logic than Adrian Durham.

Unsurprisingly to anyone who’s seen Durham’s twitter feed, his genius plan for exploiting the transfer market involves being as attention-grabbingly disruptive as possible – talking publically about his desire to sign Gareth Bale and threatening to resign if the board don’t give him money to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, and activate Fellaini’s release clause (£23.5m).

The problem with this is that Wenger has become such an unpopular figure that everything he does is seen as wrong. If Wenger had spent the summer talking about his desire to sign Gareth Bale, he’d  have been mocked for aiming for a target he was never going to get. In fact, Durham’s brilliant plan for disrupting Gareth Bale isn’t that much different from what Arsenal have been doing with Luis Suarez. And given that Spurs would never sell Bale to Arsenal anyway, it would just push up his price, meaning Arsenal’s rivals would have £5m or so more to spend on strengthening their squad.
In fact, activating Fellaini’s release clause may have convinced Manchester United to do the same, and with a shorter move to a better club managed by a boss he knew, Fellaini would probably have chosen Manchester United.
Even if Arsenal have as much money in the coffers as Durham is blindly assuming they have, and that a switching to a short-termist approach is the right call (both of which may be true) it’s possible that Durham’s approach would be worse than doing literally nothing.

Durham also reveals that he “certainly wouldn’t have sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United”, comparing him to Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert, who “somehow stopped Christian Benteke signing for Premier League rivals this summer”.
The key to Lambert ‘somehow’ keeping Benteke is a thing called contract law. As of this summer, Benteke was contracted for three more years, van Persie had one remaining when he moved. This means – for the hard of thinking like Durham – that he had pledged control of his future to the club until 2016. Until that point, Aston Villa held the control of Benteke’s future. van Persie, by contrast, by only having one year left on his contract, would have had the freedom to make his own choices in a year’s time.
Given the circumstances, it’s pretty impressive that Arsenal managed to get £24 million for him.

That’s not to say that I consider Wenger infallible.
He’s made some very poor signings in search of a bargain, Arsenal haven’t had a proper defensive midfielder for years, and they would have benefited form getting the team together for the start of pre-season, or at least the start of the season proper. But Durham’s approach is to combine the things that literally everyone else is thinking, so don’t count as insights, with ludicrous solutions.

I know I really should just ignore him, but it infuriates me that a man as heavily uninsightful is paid so heavily for his crap.

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