Part I: Introduction
I’ve decided to go back and revisit the very first Untold Media article that was published on Untold, which Tony headlined The Sun goes bananas (even by their own sub-basement standards). If you look at the link, you’ll notice that this particular article is unique from any of my other Untold Media articles, in the sense that it doesn’t include any analysis whatsoever. To the contrary, all I did was quote two articles from the Sun, in full, and say that I found them “interesting,” without specifying why they were “interesting.”
Looking back over the season’s Untold Media coverage, I decided that this was a wrong that I needed to correct. However, I do want to say at the outset that this is the most difficult article that I’ve ever written, probably on any subject, and I’m not sure how well I pulled it off. But at the same time, I can assure you that, whatever I’ve come up with here, it’s much less strange than the content I’m trying to analyse.
In this article, we will be revisiting the second match of the season: Arsenal’s 0-2 defeat against Liverpool, which occurred on 20 August, 2011. This match immediately followed our 0-0 draw against Newcastle (13 August, 2011), and immediately preceded our 8-2 annihilation against Man U at Old Trafford (28 August, 2011).
However, we will not be re-examining the facts as we already know them. Rather, we will be asking questions about what might have happened in the match that we don’t already know about. And specifically, we will be addressing the possibility that Arsenal players are being specifically targeted for injury.
(*As an interesting side note, Mike Riley of PGMOL infamy attended this match personally, lest mine eyes deceive me.)
Our specific basis for asking these questions will be some extremely “strange” (to put it in the most charitable way) statements that appeared in the Sun’s Arsenal-Liverpool match report, which we will be examining in the context of the surrounding circumstances.
My decision to return to this match report was based on Bacary Sagna’s recent allegations suggesting that his leg might have been broken deliberately during our recent draw against Norwich. And because I don’t believe that Sagna would have made such a serious allegation without authorization from Arsenal, I took his comment to mean that the situation inside the club might be quite serious as far as this issue is concerned.
However, before we get to the Sun’s article, I want to take a look at the circumstances of Sagna’s injury, along with his specific comments:
“Sagna collapsed in the first half of Arsenal’s 3-3 Premier League draw with Norwich shortly after Johnson trod on his leg, the same one he broke earlier in the season.
‘I think he did it on purpose,’ the 29-year-old told the sports daily L’Equipe on Sunday. ‘He stepped on my leg. Play continues, I get back on my feet. And when I tried to control the ball, I felt a crack, just like the first time at Tottenham.
‘He stepped right where the plate was. I think the plate pressured [the bone]. It’s a neat break, just above the plate.’”
Watching this injury in real time, it would never appear to be a deliberate attempt to break someone’s leg. To the contrary, it looks like a completely innocuous event, and you don’t even see the contact with Sagna’s leg unless you watch it in slow motion. Sagna gets up, and as play restarts, he appears to collapse for no reason.
However, what Sagna appears to me to be saying is that, while there was no deliberate force used that would suggest an intent to injure, there was a deliberate placement of the stamp, in such a way that it could do serious injury while simultaneously appearing innocuous.
After the scandals caused by the leg breaks on Eduardo and Ramsey, it only makes sense that persons who might be interested in breaking the legs of Arsenal players would attempt to find ways to do so surreptitiously. In my opinion, with sufficient pre-planning, it would certainly be possible to deliberately injure Arsenal players in this manner on a consistent basis, without the public even realizing that it was occurring.
One other thing I would like to mention is that, as the season has progressed, I’ve noticed an increasing number of incidents in which Arsenal players are somehow injured “off camera.” In these incidents, we are simply told that the player is injured, but there is no attempt made to explain how the injury occurred. The most recent example of this would be Arteta’s injury against Wigan. In that case, the only “information” we received about the injury was the shot of Arteta hobbling off the pitch. Why no attempt to explain?
It should also be remembered that, immediately following the Arteta injury, our concentration broke down and we conceded two goals within minutes. The only goals in the match. Also, the Wigan match was the first match after the FA refused to punish Ballotelli for his leg-breaker challenge on Song. Which I seem to recall that most of us interpreted at the time as sending a message to Arsenal players that they were completely unprotected from injury on the pitch.
But what would be the point of sending such a message, if there was no accompanying threat to back it up?
Part II: What did the Sun’s Stephen Howard know about the Liverpool match that Arsenal fans didn’t?
As we return to examine the Liverpool match, for some reason, the following paragraph from the Daily Mirror’s match report seemed to me to fit perfectly as an introduction to this segment:
“In a sound-deadened room next to Arsenal’s media theatre, a small square of a space that might double for a padded cell, it was put to Arsene Wenger that he was stubborn.
It was put to him that the more people tell him who he needs to buy and why he needs to buy them, the more he refuses to heed their pleas and demands.
For the first time in a troubling day, Wenger allowed a flicker of a smile to play across his lips.
Until then, he had been close to monosyllabic, echoing the mood of his new captain Robin van Persie, who marched past journalists after the match, refusing to speak.”
In his Arsenal-Liverpool match report, the Sun’s Stephen Howard seems to be under the impression that something very bad happened to Arsenal during this match. Moreover, his match report appears to be much less of a “match report” than it is an attempt to use whatever happened in the Liverpool match as a basis to threaten Arsenal with even worse if Arsene Wenger doesn’t “get that chequebook out..”
(Of course, all of this is based on my own personal interpretation of Howard’s words. And it’s certainly possible that he had no intention whatsoever of threatening Arsenal or Arsene Wenger with anything at all. If he was intending to threaten them, I’m sure that it was all hyperbolic, and that there is no possibility whatsoever that he was attempting to literally demand any financial or other remuneration for himself or anyone else. And at no point anywhere in this article do I intend to accuse or even give the impression that any threat against Arsenal was meant literally).
However, based on my own interpretation of Howard’s words, I would be lying to you if I said that I saw the following as anything other than a blatant and overt threat:
“AND you thought this was as bad as it could get for Arsenal.
“Well, it can turn even uglier if Arsene Wenger continues with his destructive, stubborn ‘I know best’ routine. This time next week Arsenal could be propping up the Premier League and out of the Champions League following trips to Udinese and Old Trafford.
“And Le Prof will have no one to blame but himself. Stubbornness is not a bad quality when things are going your way. When they’re not, it’s one of the most destructive forces around.”
The above is the opening to Howard’s article. And he seems to finish the above statement in his conclusion:
“So what now for Wenger and a team as the Gunners face the most pivotal week in the Frenchman’s 14 years at the club?
“Get that chequebook out, it’s not your personal property, Arsene.”
Aside from the above, Howard doesn’t seem very interested in anyone understanding the contents of his article. For example, while he makes clear that Arsenal will suffer negative consequences if Wenger refuses to spend, on the subject of what those specific negative consequences might be, his article contains nothing more than a series of vague insinuations. However, those insinuations do seem to have something of a common theme, as I will attempt to demonstrate below.
In Howard’s match report, his first reference to the actual match is to say that:
Arsene “has run out of excuses. The latest of a series of injuries, this time to Laurent Koscielny, means Wenger HAS to bring in a centre-half before Sunday’s trip to United.”
So, it would appear that here we have the answer to what Howard is referring to when he tells Arsene to get Arsenal’s “chequebook” out: “Wenger HAS to bring in a centre-half before Sunday’s trip to United.”
However, I find it interesting that the first actual match event that Howard references in his Arsenal-Liverpool match report is the injury to Laurent Koscielny, and that his purpose in doing so is not to describe the events of the match, but rather to use Koscielny’s injury as a basis for demanding that “Wenger HAS to bring in a centre-half before Sunday’s trip to United.”
The reason I find this interesting is because, just in general, it’s been obvious for quite some time now that there is someone out there who has quite a motive for wanting Arsenal to spend money in the transfer market. And with the above reference, Howard links this particular “series of injuries” to that motive. So, before we move on, let’s take a closer look at the “series of injuries” that Howard is referring to, and see if there are any patterns:
Specifically, on the Monday before the Liverpool match, Arsenal lost backup defender Armand Traore to injury during a reserve-team victory over Manchester United. The Tuesday after that, we lost both Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou during our Champion’s League match against Udinese (Dojourou was injured after he was brought on as a substitute for the injured Gibbs). During the Liverpool match, both Laurent Koscielny and backup defender Carl Jenkinson were injured. And finally, to top it all off, the Wednesday after Howard’s article was published, we also lost Thomas Vermaelen in the 2nd leg against Udinese.
So, in just over a week, 6 Arsenal defenders were injured in the 4 matches leading up to our match against ManU at Old Trafford. 2 of these injuries occurred during the Liverpool match. And the question this raises is, while I’m certainly not averse to the concept of bad luck, what kind of “bad luck” would it take for Arsenal’s entire defence, with the exceptions of Miquel and Sagna, to be injured in a single 9-day period?
And my question in response to the above is: For whom would it be good luck? Specifically, who would benefit if Arsenal’s entire back line was injured just in time for Arsenal’s first match of the season against ManU, and before the close of the Summer transfer window? Well… How about anyone who might have an interest in pressuring Arsenal to “splash big cash” in the transfer market before the close of the Summer window?
For now, let’s return to Howard’s statement that:
“The latest of a series of injuries, this time to Laurent Koscielny, means Wenger HAS to bring in a centre-half before Sunday’s trip to United.”
Specifically, let’s take a look at the circumstances of the injury to Koscielny during the Liverpool match. Having reviewed Koscielny’s injury on Arsenal Player, what strikes me most about it is how similar the circumstances are to the circumstances of the allegedly deliberate injury to Sagna that I discussed above.
The following is how Sky Sports reported the injury to Koscielny as occurring:
“Koscielny was taken off after going down with…back spasms… The centre-back was running with the ball innocuously when he suddenly went to ground in clear pain. Liverpool striker Andy Carroll had been penalised for a push to the back of Koscielny minutes earlier but the incident seemed to have no effect on the Frenchman at the time.”
However, based on my own review of the video of Koscielny’s injury, I would have to say that the above report is deliberately misleading. Because while the report claims that Carroll pushed Koscielny “minutes earlier,” the reality is that the push by Carroll occurred at 12:20. and Koscielny showed injury 25 seconds later, at 12:45 (Carroll pushed Koscielny on the upper back at a downward angle that forced him to bend over at the waist).
Also, Koscielny was not “running along innocuously,” but rather went down as soon as he tried to break into a run following the push. Just as in the incident with Sagna, Carroll’s push on Koscielny appeared to be innocuous, and was barely even noticeable in real time. However, as soon as play restarted, Koscielny appeared to collapse for no reason. (I can’t find a video link, but the incident can be reviewed on Arsenal Player).
But why would the above news report choose to mislead us about these facts? It would certainly be possible to report the true facts, and still claim that the injury wasn’t deliberate. In my opinion, the above report almost gives the impression that they have something to hide.
PART 2 of this article follows shortly.
- England’s problem is not coaching it is boredom
- Arsenal in Nigeria. What’s going on?
- How to avoid refs making mistakes. Use payments by results
- Arsenal players at the Euros