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That most disgraceful profession

The pundits’ pundit by Walter Broeckx

We know them all. The modern oracles. The know-alls. We  know them as the ‘pundits.

What do these pundits actually do in football? They say how it should have been done. They see the mistakes. They see the flaws. Is there somewhere a goal? The pundits know “who did it”. Was it the right winger of the team, they have seen that he was 10 cm too much to the left which brought the attack to an  end and thus gave the opponents the ball and they scored. Was it the midfielder who had advanced too far and lost the ball? The pundits are nailing him to the pillory.

Was it the wing back who let his man go by, every right-minded pundit has seen it and will tap him on the fingers?

Was it the central defender who was beaten in the air by the attacker? He will be declared too small, not strong enough, too slow, poor positional play or whatever. The pundits know what went wrong.

Also on changing players the pundit knows much better than those incompetent managers. Why with a 1-0 lead the attacker was taken off and when they subsequently lose the pundit will put the finger on the wound and he will expose that incompetent manager. The tactics of the coach will always be wrong if they lose.

What should you do to become a pundit? The best thing is to have been a player. Preferably played for some teams in particular of course. Could Arsène Wenger, with his limited football career as a player, have become a pundit? Of course not, he is incapable for something like that.

He is to stupid according to the pundits. That what you’ve won in your career helps of course. Who would dare to argue with a former champion. Did he not, by becoming champion receive the ultimate certificate of competence? If you’ve become champion you know everything. It is a gift from the God’s as we all should be aware of.

Are the pundits neutral? No. Not at all. They try to give that impression, but they are not. I remember one game last season. Arsenal – Tottenham. When Tottenham in the final minutes unexpectedly grabbed a point. The pundits admitted frankly that they had been jumping full of joy for the late Tottenham goals.

And then we expect them to give a neutral analysis of games of Arsenal? Since that day I often miss parts of games shown on MOTD. After the interviews with the trainers, I switch away from the channel and switch to my own channel, which gives  the horrible football of my own country.

I don’t need  their colored “I know better’ explanation. Now the pundits opinion is more important than the players on the field and the pundits feel as if they have invented the game. Well they sometimes behave like that.

How nice it is if one of those pundits is called upon by his old team to help avoid relegation. And look, the man from on TV who knew everything fails and bakes nothing. Suddenly it seems not as simple as in the comfortable TV studio. On the field there are no 27 camera positions to use and analyse a phase.

No time to quietly look for errors. No, on the bench next to the field is only 1 point of view and he must make decisions immediately.

So congratulations on your career, my dear pundits. You knew your business on the field. I take my hat off for that. But as no journalist needs to tell me what to think of society, or tell me for which party I should vote, I don’t need any pundit to tell me that my team will never win if they buy nothing. No pundit has to tell me that my young players cannot win anything, or that our players are too small.

Today, most people are wise enough to form their own opinions, even about football.

So my dear pundits, find another job. Become a manager or something like that. There will be  soon, perhaps, a vacant job in one of your favourite clubs. With your knowledge and skills you will win in your first season the PL and the CL the year after. For my dearest pundits, what could go wrong?

You can now order MAKING THE ARSENAL – the daily diary of a Fleet Street journalist covering Arsenal – by visiting www.emiratesstadium.info

33 comments to That most disgraceful profession

  • Flint McCullough

    Good read, as always, Walter.

    I thoroughly agree with almost all of it but I have seen AW on Frech tv as a commentator’s assistant, which is more or less the same thing as a pundit.

    Sadly I don’t speak French so I don’t know if he suddenly trans morphs into an idiot or not, on those occasions. I suspect not.

  • Meat Heart

    This is absolutely ridiculous and self important. Pundits are part of the entertainment, characters that stay in football and are part of football. And people who like football in its entirety enjoy it as part of the package. You clearly have missed almost all points that there are to see and must be an absolute idiot to talk to in real life. I can almost feel the excruciation…

    Do something else, your an idiot.

  • Cape Gooner

    Thanks Walter. The pundits get up my nose! They seem to wrong about 50% of the time, which makes them totally useless, much like stock brokers. Doctors are much better; they are wrong 80% of the time so you at least know the odds are with you if you take the opposite position.

    Perhaps I should post this on the last thread. I am sure that I talk about penalties enough to qualify as a bore!

    The pundits on South African TV said that the Senderos incident was not a penalty as he kept his arms close to his body and made no attempt to play the ball with his arm/hand. The fact that the slow motion showed the ball cradled in his arms like a baby was neither here nor there. Even without my Arsenal bias, I think they got this one right. Walter?

    But what about the Skrtel on Watt incident? Watt pushed the ball past him and went to run around him. Skrtel stopped him with a strong right arm across the chest. The commentator said “clearly not a penalty”. To me, it was a foul for 100%. In fact, a professional foul worthy of a yellow card. What do think Walter?

  • Ayodeji

    Good writeup. Have been looking for an inteligent person who could write these about those stupid people who use to critize all the team players and the coach. And they no nothing about football. Just for them to see the ball behinde the net and shout goal. What a foolish people.

  • As much as I find punditry cynical, I sympathize with the lot of them for they have families to feed and roofs to keep above their heads. Denying them the opportunity to talk rubbish and to get paid as the family bread winner is a cruel thing to do.

    Perhaps it would be more useful to ask them to explore opportunities for adult education on http://www.direct.gov.uk. Some of them desperately need this as clearly, they’re not the sharpest tool in the shed.

  • I’m of the opinion that most journalists know more than I do about most teams – but when it comes to Arsenal they know far less than I know, and so their errors become painfully obvious.

    If you listen you hear the same platitudes over and over again – the “fox in the box” story went around for years and year without anyone thinking, “hang on this club scores more than anyone else”.

    Then we had two years of “Lightweight Denilson” – everyone copied the story without actually watching what the kid did on the pitch.

    And we had “50 Red Cards under Wenger – a disgrace” – in which every time we got a red so it was added to this imaginary count. And no one had the sense to say, “wait a tick – how many cards have Bolton had during this time?” – had they done so they would have realised we were mid-table in the red card chart.

    Or what about “no strength in depth”. Arsenal can’t win because the squad is too weak. That has gone on and on and on, until suddenly we have “Arsenal have a big problem keeping all these young players happy – if they are not playing each week they’ll want to leave…” That is the new story and we’ll hear it for months now. (Apart from Glen Hoddle who is still doing the bit about us not scoring enough goals).

    And there was the “English spine” – you can’t have a winning team unless you have an English spine to the team.

    And years and years of “Arsenal don’t have the money to spend” – and we still hear that even though Manchester U can’t pay the interest on their overdraft, Liverpool have to find £60m to pay the bank this year, Rangers in Scotland are being run by the bank, Hull’s auditors won’t sign off the accounts, Portsmouth are banned from signing anyone, and Manchester C, Tottenham, and Chelsea are utterly dependent upon the whim of an individual.

    The point is pundits have a general knowledge about football – and if they talk about Leicester City or Plymouth A I can’t contradict them. It is only when they stray into Arsenal Land that I can see they are talking utter bollocks (if you’ll excuse my French).

  • You should get a knighthood for this article Walter.

    I detest them. They’re very bad for football.

    Their analysis is always superficial.

  • LRV

    Walter, great piece. The art of punditry is such a disgrace to football sometimes, it almost beggars believe.

    Meat Heart: Someone must have done the world a serious injustice to saddle it with morons and buffoons such as you represent. Most sane people hate pesky little vermins who poke their noses where they are not wanted. Whenever a troll thinks, its thought is filled with crude, organic, macrobiotic garbage. And when it opens its mouth (God forbid), the most virulent, toxic vituperations gush out. Don’t you agree that such non-entities should be exiled? Thank you.

  • Tony, you forgot the following cliches:

    1. Arsenal have a soft underbelly.
    2. They don’t have the height in defense to deal with the long balls.
    3. Arsenal won’t challenge unless they buy a strong world class defensive midfielder, not withstanding that Song is actually one of the best in town at the moment.
    4. Arsenal are much weaker this season as they haven’t replaced Tuore and Adebayor.

  • Tim

    This is great post. These pundits can really be disappointing. The main problem is they are not neutral most of the time. They pick who to criticise while they find excuses for certain players or should I say they are afraid of them.

    I have noticed that foreign players are easily, and without pity, criticised than the locals. Take the dive by Edwardo and the attention they gave to it and compare the same with what they said about Taylor breaking his leg. They claimed that it was only a sorry accident, yet none of them could excuse a victim of such foul play from diving – it all plays on the mind doesn’t it?

    Now. Rooney dived a few days later against Arsenal to earn a Penalty, but they ALL DID NOT THINK THAT IT WAS A DIVE. LOL. The problem is, FA seems to pay attention to these pundits judgements and act most of the time based on what they say.

  • Paul C.

    The problem is that so many of the “pundits” are just plain stupid. You look at the Soccer Saturday group, with Charlie Nicholas and Le Tissier and led by the brilliant Jeff Stelling, and you realise what these guys can do when bright individuals are given the chance to express opinions. Then you check in on a Sunday match and they have invariably given the pundits seat to someone utterly useless like Jamie Redknapp, seemingly only because he will spout the usual boring platitudes and avoid even a hint of controversy (unless you feel that saying “Arsenal have no plan B” when we are up 6-1 is controversial).

    Pundits should be there to bring colour to a match, to break down tactics and discuss strategy (as Hansen and Lawrensen used to do quite brilliantly in their early “you dont win anything with kids” phase, before they were consumed in their own self-importance and became grotesque parodies of themselves). Comments like “he’ll be unhappy with that” should lead to automatic sackings. Comments like “there wasnt intent, he isnt that sort of player” should lead to public floggings. Knowing the rules of the tackle and of the game in general, as Walter explained on this blog recently, should be a basic requirement of the job (would a referee make a far better pundit than an ex-player?).

    To me the problem isnt with the pundits. They are merely guys trying to do a job. The problem is with the TV Companies who employ these idiots. But then the TV Companies merely respond to their market, and so perhaps we on this thread are in the minority, and that in fact the vast majority of football fans actually find these pundits interesting and stimulating.

    Or perhaps the vast football-watching public is merely too lazy, or bored into submission, to complain loudly enough about it.

    Either way, we are stuck with them.

  • Walter – I am sorry to dash your hopes so early on in the debate, but you can’t have an OBE, MBE or Knighthood, as you are (I believe) not a UK citizen.

    The Lord Wenger got an honorary OBE (or MBE I forget which) because he is foreign, and therefore not worthy of getting a straight honour.

    Sorry – its just the British way of seeing the rest of the world. As the ex-chairman of Tottenham once called everyone not born in the UK, “A bunch of Johnny Foreigner’s with no allegiance coming over here and taking our money.” (He was talking about Bergkamp at the time).

    Fortunately, there’s rather a large number of us now with a more enlightened attitude, and I’d vote for your knighthood any day.

    Arise Sir Walter.

  • Adam Smith

    Sir Walter(on yer bike) Raleigh, came to a sad end on this very day the 29th.October in 1618. ;)He was beheaded.(red carded)

    Anyway forget the knighthood and keep writing your interesting posts.

  • walter

    As I, Johnny Foreigner, can not watch all your channels I only can talk about BBC MOTD and the pundits in my country on the paying channels (as far as Arsenal is concerned). But you can tell how some pundits hold a grudge against Arsenal.
    Alan Hansen still has not yet digested the Anfield 89 game.
    Alan Shearer every time he was close to succes with Newcastle it was almost every time Arsenal who came in to denie him.
    Gary Lineker, well we all know where he played so no further explation needed.
    Alone at the load off nonsens they tell about refereeing issues is making me laughing out loud. So I know the rules because it’s my job (hobby) and it leaves me some times wondering: are there other rules in the UK then in my own also Fifa country rule book ? No it is so dependable on the clubs involved to influence their judgement.

    About the refereein questions I am going to answer in another comment in a minute or 2.

  • walter

    To Meat Heart, I would like to say that yes the pundits are becoming a part of the game. In my view a rather meaningless part but we can have different opinions on that.
    I think if you would examing MOTD that almost half of the time is spend on the pundits opinion and the other half on the games itself.
    If I look a football game I would like to see the ball moving and not the mouths telling rubbish (like on referee decisions).

    And then again, it just happened that I had nothing else to do that moment so I just wrote it down.

    And that you call me an idiot is something I really dont care about. In my country we have a strong “geuzen” tradition. That is the tradition in which we make a word that is meant to insult me/us, we turn it in to an honorary title.

    With the power that is given to me by the owner of this blog I salute you
    Yours sincerly

    Sir Idiot also known as Walter.

  • walter

    And now in answer of the refs view.

    The case Watt I shall translate what I wrote in my match report for the Benelux fans: “One of the first actions from Sanchez Watt was a dribble with should have brought him alone in front of goal but he was clearly wrestled off the ball with a clear foul from Skretel and brought to the ground. This was a clear penalty, but we are not West Ham so the ref waved play on.” I stick to this and hey… they missed out on this on MOTD yesterday.

    But the pundit didn’t mis the penalty appeal on the other side of the pitch. And here comes the ref in me. It was a penalty. He stuck out his arm and made himself bigger and thus prevented the ball going to goal (not say it would have been a goal). If the ref had blown I wouldn’t have crucified him on that.

    So yes I’m rather sure we got lucky on this but in the end of the day the ref didn’t give what should have been an penalty for both sides and no complaints because it only would have changed the score line if they both would have been converted.

    But if we would have been 3-1 up I don’t think Liverpool would have put in the same amount of energy at the end. But this is only guessing off course and my one, biased, opinion.

    Seen the ref miss some strong arms coming out, even the dutch reporter of the channel I was looking said that Kuyt was lucky not to get a red card for his elbow. In my country such incidents are red carded.

  • walter

    Now I look at it again on my screen, Sir Idiot really looks a nice name. 🙂

  • anaconda

    Darius Stone: 4. Arsenal are much weaker this season as they haven’t replaced Tuore and Adebayor.

    ***

    I don’t know whether you did it on purpose, but the mandatory misspelling of a players name is definitely part of their style. Although those that we call doomers do it more consistently.

  • don't believe the hype

    Well said Walter – pundits are a waste of space, their opinions are mostly hackneyed cliches, which the average fan could come up with themselves. It’s a rare one who has anything of worth to impart. But sadly most people get their opinions from them as I discovered in a recent conversation with some friends who rate Hansen and Rednapp as good pundits!

  • shotta-gunna

    What is even worse are the so-called “Arsenal bloggers” who simply echo and re-echo the tripe they heard from the pundit-ocracy? Most pundits (England and elsewhere) seem simply to echo the current prejudices and biases of their audience. The best pundits over the years are those consistently willing to take position contrary to conventional wisdom but increasingly the media which I am most familiar (American and English)now seem to be a mission in dumbing down their audience.
    Good piece Walter – I can’t believe that English is not your first language.

  • Marc

    I don’t have a problem with pundits. I have a problem with piss poor pundits, unfortunately they seem to dominate the half time airwaves. I don’t have a problem with someone who shows a little bit of favouritism due to an allegiance to a team they have played for but some of what you hear is ridiculous. A few weeks ago Phil Thompson declared that there is now a top 3 and Arsenal have been relegated to the group fighting for 4th (Villa, the Spud’s, Man City etc). It was clear at the time, and has become even clearer over the last few weeks that Liverpool have problems so serious that the glimpse of their new Italian player last night could be one of few because if he is any good they might have to sell him in the summer because they are desperate for the money. Jamie Redknapp last night proclaimed that Chelsea, ManU, Man City and Liverpool all have far greater financial muscle than Arsenal, which is why the Youth System is doing so well at Arsenal because without it we are screwed. Did anyone point out to him that Liverpool are broke and ManU sold their best player in the summer spending only a fraction of the money they received?

    I really wonder what it will take for the media to acknowledge Arsenal’s standing in the game and the amazing job that Wenger has done.

  • Lanz

    Nice one. So these guys exist everywhere? We do need global, concerted efforts against them. UN Security Council to the rescue?

  • Bobby Pliers

    Redknapp the younger knows Stately Home (Fook Hall) about anything. How Sky think that he can give an unbiased objective report on a game usually involving his Dad is beyond me. Souness surprises me because I truly believe that he is one pundit who isn’t afraid to be honest and usually is very complimentary of the job that Arsene Wenger is trying to do.

  • eduardo

    great article tony, but I’d expect nothing less.

    It is clear Redknaff, big nose thompson, Hansen and Lawerenson all hate Arsenal, as already pointed out alot of this stems from defeats they suffered at the hands of Arsenal, this is also Shearers problem.
    Le Tiss is outstanding and even handed on all he covers and should have Redknaffs job.

    The major problem now is that the EPL and FA do not run football in England, SKY does, they set the agenda, they decide which tackle is worthy of scrutiny and which incident deserves hour after hour of their attention and so influence the FA and EPL into taking action. What was their big focus yesterday – was it ManU fans going on the rampage at the CC game on Tuesday, of course not, it was not Millwall fans or Arsenal fans so thier big topic for debate was trying to get Toon fans to be outraged that their owner who has lost millions of his money on the club wants to generate income for the club by selling the rights to the name of the stadium and so toon fans will not be able to call it St James’ Park, as what its called ever helped Newcastle win a game. It is this drivel from SKY that is ruining the game.

  • walter

    Well shota gunna, I can swear on my childrens head that English is not my first language.

    And yes sometimes a pundit can say something intresting. I’m not gonna deny it. But I think it is something of a once in a season that I learn something from the pundits I see on tv.

  • walter

    I only now saw the first comment from Flint.
    And Flint I can assure you that AW does not turn into an idiot when he is the third commentator on french TV. For some reason all French national team football is always commentated by 2 reporters and sometimes have a third person with it, and this is the case as long as I follow football (some 40 years now).
    Now I do speak and understand French and Wenger is very much himself when he sits there. Always calm and never calls for ones head. Not even for Domenechs’ head and I think he is sometimes the only French man in not calling for his head.
    I always find it rather cool when he sits there and talks about football more in general and describes the problems for a manager during a game. He never says he should do this or that. He really is a gentleman in almost everything he does.
    If the French national team plays a game, I usually take a look to see if Wenger is there just to hear him talk af half time or after the game about football.
    A bit funny is that he now sometimes has a little English accent in his French. I really like his French accent when he speaks btw. 😉

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Another good article Walter.I have to agree with Marc about piss poor pundits.I have no problems with ex-players turned pundits who are not biased and give rather interesting insights and opinions based on their varied experiences , especially those who have played in the lower leagues or managed clubs .It is refreshing and eye-opening.What pisses me off are those who trawl the cesspool of gutter/garbage journalism [ie.tabloids & moronic blogs ],and proudly announce to all their’ brilliant ‘ deductions.LRV got it right ,but where do you exile them to ?In my country we have a wishy -washy pundit [a Spuds fan] who spews crap and ever so often gets it wrong and continues still despite having both feet in his mouth.I always bet against his predictions and end up guessing right.His score for Arsenal vs Spuds ? 2-2 ,and I am laughing in anticipation of an Arsenal thrashing of the enemy.

  • diceman1984

    I have one for you all……

    Steve Mcmahon, yes he is one of the so called top “pundits” on tv shows where I live.
    Now, I think you all remember how heartbreaking it must be losing to Arsenal on that faithful day when he clearly was telling his teammates there’s only “1” minute left.
    So it suited well for him to never give any credit to Arsenal. He, along with Alan Hansen in the past, stated clearly that we will not win anything with this young side. It’s not the first time a former liverpool player tried to outsmart himself.

    And he also said that Liverpool are serious contenders…..for what actually? Funniest goal of the season? I would think so. He too said in the past that a great rival of ours a couple seasons ago and last season Villa would beat us into the top 4. How stupid was he? A very naive point of view from an ex-player who after 20 years still holds that grudge against a better side.

    And so I stopped taking him and others seriously, when I watch them talk I go for my own sense humor. It’s so funny when they always got everything, especially about Arsenal FC, wrong.

  • Diaminedave

    Great article and as usual stops and makes you think.

    There are lots of different types of pundit out there in media land and I suspect that both as article writer and posters we are also now becoming part of the punditry landscape!!

  • simianwolverine

    ESPN in Asia has a wonderful combination. Steve McMahon (Ex-Pool) and Shebby Singh (Nicknamed Spuddy Singh by us Gooners). So whenever this two talks we never hear one thing decent about Arsenal. Before the season start they almost predicted Arsenal will be in the bottom half with numerous flaws. One match against Everton stopped all that. The Manchester matches have given them some weapon, lets see how many days they harp on that.

  • walter

    Well diaminedave, you have a valid point. With my article I infact did what the pundits do. In a moment I’m going to start to hate myself. 😉

    Well the big difference is that I don’t get paid for it.

  • Valentin

    When on French TV commenting France game Arsene Wenger try to stay respectful of Domenech but you can clearly sense that he does not rate him, does not like him and ore importantly disagree with both his tactic and his man management. Arsene Wenger try not critise manager publicly even if in private he will tell people what he really think. I travel with him once in a Eurostar train and our coach was quickly invaded by Arsenal supporters. Even some Spur fans came to ask questions to the great man. The funniest was Are you going to join Spurs as he had not yet sign a new contract with Arsenal at the time.
    The problem is SKY who clearly have their own agenda: try to create controversy by appealing to the most moronic aspect of its viewers. Controversy means that more people spend money.
    During ‘You’re on SkySports’ they were clearly trying to engineer some kind of Mike Ashley backlash but that did not fly as a lot of sensible Newcastle fans came and pour down on that idea. The guy has lost money on the club so he is not the great Satan making money from the club a la Hick and Gillet.
    Because of the Liverpool and Spurs mafia within the Murdoch owned mafia, Arsenal is often pillored for no good reason and Liverpool given a pass.
    For years, it was clear that Liverpool were living above their means. Anybody mentionning that was shot down. Last Saturday when Charlie George mentionned that Liverpool FC may be forced to sell Torres and Steven Gerrard if they drop out of the Champion league, Big Nose Thomson refuse to entertain that idea and got very angry. The problem is that the financial numbers bear that. RBS and Wachovia already tried to force Liverpool to accept Manchester Arab offer of £70 millions for Torres. Liverpool avoided that Doomsday scenario by promising to pay £62 millions of interest annually and the owners issuing a personnal guarantee of the capital.
    The other problem with pundits is that often they do not make any research before showing up. Their knowledge of footbal is the one from the era they played. They do not know the new rules and they have no idea of financial matter (if they had they would be on the beach drinking a cocktail rather than commenting on a cold night a championship game). Most do not even understand tactic and formation. The minimum they could do before commenting a game is reviewing the club. They know less about clubs that casual supporter of that club and that should not be the case.
    Remember a couple of season ago, when Henri Lansbury came in and Mark Lawrenson complained about another French kid coming in and his co-commentator had to tell him that Henri was English. Mark Lawrenson only answer was to joke about his name being French and that he got selected because his name had confused Arsene Wenger. Not only was that offensive to Arsene Wenger but he also showed a complete lack of knowledge of Arsenal promising young players.
    The same thing happen with Sanchez Watt, who was even refered by some badly informed newspapers as South American, with clearly the journalist not having even bother to check his details on Arsenal Web site.
    Mind you with the Sun being caught a couple of week ago by a old story resurfacing in NewsNows due the Web Site updating its structure. That show the level of research and application done by the great British writers.
    Regarding the Carling Cup game, Skrtel committed an onbstruction and when committed in the penalty box obstructions are punished by a penalty. That should have been a penalty.
    Kuyt deserved a red card, yet after the game nobody mention it as if it was normal behaviour. If Song had committed the same act he would have quartered and shown numerous time on TV. Just enough time for him to get a restrospective red card.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Diceman , we are on the same wavelength .I usually ignore our pundits’ comments and only look out for some new snippets of information .In the movie ‘Fever Pitch ‘,there is mention of ‘the Micheal Thomas moment’which occurs ever rarely in ones’ life . But my moment had come a few seconds earlier
    when a clearly panicked Steve McMahon was signalling 1 minute to his teammates -I knew then that we would win.I had never seen a more rattled team in my life.