The Daily Mirror’s Arsenal Hypocrisy: A preliminary analysis
By: Anne and Bobby Pliers
I’d like to begin this article by taking a look at the overall performances of EPL clubs in the Champions League thus far, taking into account the overall difficulty of the groups into which EPL clubs have been drawn. We’ll start with the best (Arsenal and Chelsea), and work our way down to the most disappointing so far (ManU and ManC).
- 1. Marseille – 6
- 2. Arsenal – 4
- 3. Dortmund – 1
- 4. Olympiacos – 0
Arsenal was drawn into group F, a difficult group including Bundesliga Champions Dortmund, League 1 runners up Marseille, and Greek Champions Olympiacos. Following an away draw against German champions Dortmund and a home victory over Olympiacos, Arsenal’s 4 points currently have them in second place in the group.
- 1. Chelsea – 4
- 2. Leverkusen – 3
- 3. Valencia – 2
- 4. Genk – 1
Chelsea was drawn into Group E, which includes German runners up Leverkusen, La Liga 3rd place finishers Valencia, and Belgian champions Genk. Despite receiving what is arguably a slightly easier draw than Arsenal, Chelsea has still earned the same number of points: 4, following a home win over Leverkusen and an away draw against Valencia.
But now, moving on to the more disappointing performers: Manchester City and Manchester United.
- 1. Bayern Munich – 6
- 2. Napoli – 4
- 3. Man City – 1
- 4. Villarreal – 0
Manchester City was drawn into Group A, against German powerhouse (and 3rd place finishers) Bayern Munich, Serie A 3rd place Napoli, and La Liga 4th place Villarreal. Although Man City’s draw is comparable to Arsenal’s in terms of difficulty, Manchester City has not fared nearly as well. They are currently in 3rd place in the group, with only one point (following a home draw against Napoli and an away loss against Bayern Munich).
- 1. Basel – 4
- 2. Benfica – 4
- 3. Manchester United – 2
- 4. Otelul Galati – 0
Finally, ManU was drawn into Group C, against Swiss Champions Basel, Portuguese runners up Benfica, and Romanian champions Otelul Galati. Despite having what is clearly the easiest draw of any EPL club, ManU is still only in 3rd place with 2 points, following an away draw against Benfica and a home draw against Basel.
So, how has the press treated Arsenal’s superior performance in the Champions League up to this point? Just using the Mirror as an example, it appears that ManU is still getting a lot more credit, despite their inferior performance. For example, here is how Mirror reporter David McDonnell reported on ManU’s recent draw against Basel:
“Basle boss Thorsten Fink must hate the sight of Manchester United.
A member of the Bayern Munich side that lost the 1999 Champions League final to United in the blink of an eye by conceding two goals in added-time, Fink suffered fresh misery at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side last night.
Having stunned United to come from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 by plundering three second-half goals, all of them fully deserved, Fink’s enterprising Basel side were on the brink of causing a major upset and a remarkable victory at Old Trafford.
But from bitter personal experience, Fink knows more than anyone that giving up is simply not in United’s DNA. Ashley Young’s 90th-minute equaliser, 25 seconds from the end of normal time, was a savagely cruel reminder of that…
Alexander Frei stepped up to convert the penalty with a flourish, to leave United staring at an unthinkable defeat. But, as Fink will testify, United can never be written off, Young nodding in Nani’s cross at the far post to rescue Ferguson’s side from what would have been a humiliating and chastening defeat.”
But what about the implications of a “humiliating and chastening” draw against Basel at Old Trafford? Surely more was expected of the reigning EPL champions than that? And yet, McDonnell chose to spin the story as a stirring comeback, rather than the truth, which is that ManU has fallen well short of expectations in the CL thus far.
But moving on from that, let’s take a look at how the Mirror has covered one of the top performing EPL clubs in the CL thus far: Arsenal. This brings us around to the reporting of John Cross, a self-proclaimed “Gooner,” who wrote the Arsenal-Olympiacos match report, and who’s reporting Untold Media will be examining in much more detail later.
But in this instance, let’s just take a look at the spin that Cross put on Arsenal’s victory over Olympiacos:
“Arsene Wenger would not have been good company in the posh seats last night.
Wenger, banished to the directors’ box as he completed his UEFA touchline ban, was up and down like a yo-yo as Arsenal gave him another torturous evening.
Thankfully, keeper Wojciech Szczesny played another blinder to ensure Arsenal were the only English team to win in the Champions League this week.
It puts Arsenal firmly on track to qualify from Group F which is a good achievement considering their long list of injuries….
It was a let-off for Arsenal but Wenger will also know that such goodwill and fortune is unlikely to be offered at White Hart Lane on Sunday.”
So, Arsenal only won against Olympiacos as a result of “goodwill and fortune?” Funny, I was watching the match myself, and I was under the impression that Arsenal put in a fairly dominant performance against Olympiacos.
Sure, Cross is correct when he says that Arsenal showed some defensive lapses. However, we should also remember that Arsenal’s back line of Sagna, Mertesacker, Song, and Santos had hardly ever played together before this particular match.
Also, while there are many articles, across various media outlets, mentioning Arsenal’s “defensive weaknesses” on the night, these articles almost uniformly fail to mention the fact that Arsenal was threatening Olympiacos’ goal throughout the match, and could easily (and probably should) have scored more than two goals.
So, is this type of double standard consistent with the Mirror’s previous reporting on Arsenal? For that, I turn things over to Untold Media contributor Bobby Pliers, and his excellent analysis of some of the Mirror’s previous reporting:
“If ever we needed an illustration of how differently teams are reported in the Daily Mirror, these two articles sum up the game that is being waged in some sections of the media currently. Arsenal fans are often accused of being paranoid, and Arsenal accused of having a siege mentality. But there is something there, as these two articles prove. The first article is by David Maddock, and is titled:
In a nutshell, the article states that, despite the fact that Liverpool lost 1-0 at Stoke City, there is genuine hope because:
‘Liverpool dominated the game, created every single chance bar one, and should have won by a country mile.
They didn’t, not because they were scared of Stoke, but because their strikers took the afternoon off. Dubious penalty aside, they didn’t give the home side an opportunity worthy of the name. Basically, they didn’t give them a kick.
After watching Liverpool over the past decade or so play pragmatic, sometimes fearful football under three different managers, I can’t tell you how heartening this defeat was.
They lost, but on their own terms. They weren’t bullied by Stoke, cowed by them, or reduced to a shadow of a great club by simple tactics.’
However, how many times have Arsenal lost, having dominated a game, played our own way, etc, etc……….. When we lose, we are accused of being wasteful, playing tippy tappy football, or not changing our style to deal with the more robust teams in this league. Wenger is accused of having no plan B, the strikers are accused of not being good enough…
The article then goes on to talk about the future, and the rebuilding process that Dalglish is currently undertaking:
‘History tells us, you can’t overhaul a 20-plus points gap to become Champions in a single season. That sort of chasm must be bridged steadily, over several years.
But to do it at all, Liverpool must be true to their history and identity, and adopt the playing style of a team that believes it can be Champions…which means making Stoke fearful of you, and not vice-versa.’
So, Liverpool have time, and no mention that they have not won a trophy in 5 years (that’s right, just 1 behind ourselves – yet ours is a mantra repeated at every opportunity!)
We then move onto the Arsenal article, written by our good friend John Cross (who Untold Media will be examining more closely in the near future):
Cross’ article is more doom-mongering, I’m afraid, repeating the “Arsenal in crisis” line that the media started on back in the summer. The article starts by stating that tickets for the Bolton home game are now on general sale, which means anyone can buy them. This is new territory for Arsenal (according to Cross) and most worrying. Fans are not convinced by what they are seeing on the pitch, and are deciding to do other things on match days. Cross writes that:
‘But when you put prices up by 6.5 per cent, fans expect value for money and if you sell £60million worth of talent then shouldn’t you be bringing in a few more stellar names, too?’
The article then asks why Arsenal didn’t break the bank for Hazard or Goetze. Cross then has a pop at Wenger’s policy for buying young players (as this takes time for potential to be realized), and then sows some doubts for the future:
‘But it’s a long time to wait for the finished articles and an even bigger gamble on finishing fourth. They should have backed up the youngsters with more established players.
For all of the transfer scramble in the summer, Arsenal also missed the chance to do the most important deals of all.
Van Persie, Theo Walcott and Alex Song all have two years left on their contracts and, come next summer, will be in the same position as Nasri was this year.
That will mean they will not be in a hurry to sign now as they hold all of the aces and that is an increasing worry, especially if next summer’s transfer saga revolves around van Persie.
These are difficult times for Arsenal, never illustrated more clearly than their next Premier League home match against Bolton not being a sell-out.’
If all this wasn’t enough, Cross then asks questions of Stan Kroenke’s leadership of the club, drawing comparisons with Liverpool’s John W Henry (that old Liverpool comparison again).
Cross says that Kroenke isn’t vocal enough, and is taking a very distant charge of Arsenal. The article draws comparisons also with Abramovich, but fails to understand that Kroenke is not the Arsenal owner. He is just the majority shareholder, and therefore is in an entirely different position to both Henry and Abramovich.
This campaign shows no signs of abating. It will be interesting to see how it continues, should Arsenal go on a run of victories and good results in the next few months.”
Thank you for this insight, Bobby. And hopefully Arsenal will, in fact, continue on their current run of “victories and good results in the next few months.” If this occurs, it will provide us with a true measuring stick to judge the overall fairness of the media’s reporting on Arsenal.
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