Piers Morgan on Arsenal, Wenger, Twitter Power and Why He Loves Zlatan

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Piers Morgan on Arsenal, Wenger, Twitter Power and Why He Loves Zlatan
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Gun control and Arsenal football club—two subjects to spark Internet war in an empty chat room, and both defining domains of the media megalodon known as Piers Morgan.

This being Bleacher Report, we'll set the guns aside and focus on the Gunners.

A fan since childhood, and now the club's premier provocateur to an audience of just shy of four million followers on Twitter, Morgan's Arsenal yearning runs deep. He's just your regular heartfelt fan in a pub, he'll tell you, but he's also one of the only fans with the power to influence the club in the boardroom (more on that later).

Morgan was in New York, and in typically ebullient mood, when we spoke on the phone this week. And he was only too happy to talk football.

"I've been an Arsenal fan from the age of five or six," he says. "I was there for the double-winning team in 1971 and Charlie George was my absolute hero. I remember standing on the terraces at Highbury and being completely in awe of him.

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Charlie George in his Arsenal heyday

"Of course the funny thing about all of this is my dad is a lifelong Spurs fan."

Much has changed since then—both for Arsenal and that impressionable young boy on the North Bank. The Gunners have up-sized to the super-slick Emirates, the days of rock-'n'-roll footballers like Charlie George sinking pints are long gone and Morgan, indisputably, has risen to become one of the world's most influential media personalities.

Along the way he was offered a plum job by the football club he loves. A dream vocation you'd think, but when Arsenal came head-hunting, pitching Morgan a managing director role during his years editing the Mirror, he turned them down. He didn't want to blur the lines between work and play, he says, and with that we get straight into the business of Arsenal winning the title.

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"They're top of the league, so of course they can win it," Morgan says. "But if they don't sign a quality striker in January the answer has to be no. If we'd have signed (Luis) Suarez or (Wayne) Rooney in the summer my answer would be different. Or if we'd kept (Robin) Van Persie.

"That was always my argument against selling Van Persie (a player Morgan almost exclusively refers to as 'Van Pursestrings' on Twitter these days). You just can't sell your best players. It sends a message to everybody at the club that you don't have the ambition to succeed. It's a self-defeating tactic and it's wrong. Arsene Wenger had to wake up and, eventually, the pressure people like myself put on him prompted the signing of Mesut Ozil."

That pressure, in Morgan's case, was applied largely through Twitter—a social tool he has devoured as voraciously as anybody you can think of. When Time Magazine published a formula to calculate the value of Twitter handles earlier this month, Morgan's came out at over $4 million.

That's the power of 3.8 million followers. 

"I like the direct contact of Twitter," Morgan says. "I host a nightly show for CNN and the Life Stories interviews in the UK. Twitter is a great way of hosting ongoing debate. You can ask questions, prompt analysis, even book guests.

"It's a useful tool. I always give my opinion and I'm never afraid to share a view on something. When it comes to football I really don't think I'm outspoken at all. I listen to fans at the stadium and they're all saying the same things I am, or worse. I'm just a fan in the pub, having a chat. It's a bit of fun really, not to be taken too seriously."

Only a chat in a pub doesn't usually end with thousands of people you don't know calling you an idiot—as regularly happens when Morgan gets passionate about Arsenal on Twitter. 

For all the insults thrown at him, however, Morgan continues to be listened to on football. His outspoken views are regularly quoted in articles, and he's been used as a pundit by Fox Soccer in their Premier League coverage. He's not averse to doing more in the future, either—starting with lining up two of the world's most enigmatic footballers for interviews.

"Mario Balotelli would be a great subject," he says. "And I'd love to interview Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He's got that blend of talent with supreme arrogance and self-confidence that all my favorite sports stars do.

"The cricketer Kevin Pietersen has it, Charlie George had it and both Balotelli and Ibrahimovic have it."

You might say Morgan has it too. He's a man at the very top of his game who isn't afraid to flaunt the benefits and say what he thinks. As his Twitter bio reads—a quote from the movie Mad Max—"One day you're the cock of the walk, the next a feather duster." 

If these are the "cock of the walk" days for Morgan, then they're not going away anytime soon. His fourth book, complete with the understated title, Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God, and George Clooney, is out on Gallery Books in the U.S., and there's nobody better at selling a story than the man himself.

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"I've been working at CNN, visited 200 countries and had access to the most rich, famous and influential people on the planet," he says. "I've interviewed everyone from the Dalai Lama, to George Clooney, President Clinton and beyond.

"In this book you'll get some shameless name-dropping. You'll find out what it's really like hosting a TV show—how everything works and what happens behind the scenes—and you'll get under the skin of these people. There are plenty of big ups and downs along the way."

It can't be a bad life being Piers Morgan and getting to write about it. But while his media career appears to move in the way he wants it to these days, Morgan can forever rely on Arsenal's fortunes to keep him guessing. Can't he?

"I still have a season ticket, but I sit in the posh seats these days," he says.

But is that where his influence ends—with champagne and cheese plates to console every painful anticlimax? Or is Morgan's stock truly the stuff of breaking Wenger's famously fierce resolve?

He'd have you believe he helped bring Mesut Ozil to the Emirates. If Morgan is as powerful as he thinks he is, the Gunners will perform a similar coup in January. And he'll claim he won them the title.

Is Morgan the media's answer to Jose Mourinho? Only Twitter can decide.

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