Speaking to the Totally Football Podcast German journalist and well-respected author Rafael Honigstein revealed several secrets about the Arsenal dressing room. He spoke about Per Mertesacker’s latest interview, in which the German defender revealed the extent of his injury history and his stage-fright before matches, and told us that he has been working on Per Mertesacker’s autobiography.
Honigstein has written and spoken about “the German players” in the Arsenal locker room many times in the past. In one particularly hard-edged article, he revealed that these German players often wondered what exactly Arsene Wenger did to earn his paycheck, saying that these players thought that Wenger’s methods were outdated and that he often didn’t prepare the players well. In that same article, he said that ahead of one match Wenger drew a wolf on the board and told his players to play like wolves. They won the match and afterward the players were howling in the dressing room. That article has since been taken down and I asked Honigstein why on twitter. His response is that the Red Bull site where the article was published removes articles after a time.
Given Honigstein’s close relationship with Per Mertesacker I have to wonder if the German Giant isn’t the “mole” who revealed both the dressing room bust up a few weeks ago and the stuff before that Honigstein put in his article about the players questioning Wenger’s methods. If you remember in the “bust up” article one player started crying when he said that his kids were asking him why Arsenal sucked. Mertesacker has two children and mentioned them getting stick at school as one of his motivating factors for retirement in his interview with Der Spiegel. Obviously, this is all conjecture and I’m sure you will reject my argument on that basis which is fair enough. But until I get further information I’m saying that Mertesacker is the mole in my mind. Or at least one of the moles.
But the most explosive claim he made in the podcast was that Alexis Sanchez was lazy and hated. And this isn’t conjecture, this is a direct quote from Honigstein:
“It’s been under-reported just how badly the whole Arsenal dressing room hated Alexis Sanchez. They really felt that he was just playing up to the camera doing all these things like ‘Oh I’m trying but nobody else is! What am I doing here?
Arsenal would put up stats inside the dressing room last year after every game showing the amount of kilometres run, the passing, and Sanchez would regularly come out with the lowest mileage run of any player in the team by a big distance. The players would just go absolutely bananas at him playing to the camera and making all these moves like ‘Oh, they’re just not worthy of me! What am I doing here?”
I have to admit that I was one of the writers who fell into the Alexis trap. I saw him waving his teammates to press and thought “this guy is really unsupported by his teammates” and I saw him “tracking back” to tackle and thought “this guy really cares about the team”. But as it turns out, Alexis was just virtue signalling. Toward the end you could tell things were toxic but I persisted with my belief that the team failed Alexis and not the other way around.
I was wrong. I get things wrong sometimes.