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Deliberate injuries that unsettle players. Part 2 of our investigation.

By Anne

This article continues from the earlier piece: Sagna claims his leg was broken deliberately.  You can  read part one here

The first article which focusses on events at the start of the 2011/12 season concluded with the thought that in the case of injuries to Koscielny and  Sagna, opposition player actions which appeared to be innocuous turned out to have horrific consequences.   And yet, rather than investigate this news reports choose to mislead us about these facts.

Now we continue with the thought that the Untold Ref Review documented events as occurring within the first 10 minutes of the match….

  • 7 minutes: “‘Frimpong delays the restart”
  • 9 minutes: “Ref has a word with Arshavin about delaying the restart”
  • 10 minutes: “Theo has a moan at the ref, who correctly tells him to calm down”

To me, it seems highly unusual for our players to be attempting to delay the restart of the match within the first ten minutes. It raises the question of why they might have been doing it, and suggests to me that something was occurring that they were concerned about. However, following the injury to Koscielny, these complaints to the referee ceased. Also, the quality of Arsenal’s performance dropped.

An example of the change in mood can be found in the Guardian’s “as it happened” report:

“20 min: Arsenal’s strong early start has come to a juddering halt…

23 min: It’s all Liverpool at the moment, unsurprisingly so given the shock of the loss of Koscielny.”

For another specific example, “Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey were subdued, early mistakes seeming to sap their confidence, while Andrei Arshavin showed only glimpses of his former excellence.”

My personal interpretation of the above would be that it was likely something other than “early mistakes” that caused our players to lose their confidence, and perhaps something more akin to an “early injury.” Specifically, if the players had realized that the ref wasn’t going to be protecting them from injury, this would be one possible explanation for why they played a much less open match than they normally would have, and attacked with much more caution.

In his match report, Howard appears to reference this same “lack of confidence” in Arsenal players, although he chooses to do so in a mocking manner. Also, he appears to be attempting to blame the players’ “lack of confidence” on a “mental block” that apparently prevents Arsene Wenger from realizing that he needs to start spending money in the transfer market:

“The mental block that seems to have immobilised Wenger …has been translated into a total lack of confidence among a set of players.

“The Gunners have now won just two league games in 13.

“Andrey Arshavin hasn’t kicked a ball in months while Theo Walcott can hardly have played worse than he did against Liverpool.

“These are two players you don’t need in a crisis.”

Howard’s reference to a “crisis” here is interesting in the larger context of all of the “Arsenal in crisis” talk that was going on in the media generally at the time. Because in addition to the talk of a general “crisis” at Arsenal, there was also a great deal of talk that specifically referred to an “injury crisis,” which, to me, seems most plausible as the reason for “a total lack of confidence” amongst Arsenal players.

Interestingly, Howard implies that it was this same “lack of confidence” in Arsenal’s players that was responsible for the “collapse” at the end of last season, and the fact that Arsenal “have now won just two league games in 13.” Of course, Howard is not to be trusted on this subject.

However, it is interesting to consider Arsenal’s performances in conjunction with the possibility that there might be certain matches in which Arsenal players are being targeted for injuries, but in ways that are deliberately hidden from the viewing public. If this was occurring, for example, it would certainly explain certain under performances by Arsenal that seemed inexplicable at the time.

However, Howard seems intent on blaming Arsene Wenger for these injury problems. He continues that:

“Jenkinson, through no fault of his own, should have never been in a position where he is asked to perform for the first team. The same goes for Ignasi Miquel and the other two 18-year-olds on the bench.”

While I would certainly agree that this is the case, what exactly was Arsene Wenger supposed to do that would have prevented the decimation of his entire back line, and avoided the need to call on these young players? How could Arsene Wenger, just by spending money in the transfer market, prevent Arsenal players from being injured?

Just in general, one of the most curious aspects of Howard’s match report, in my opinion, is his treatment of Aaron Ramsey. And the reason for that is because, while Ramsey was not injured during the Liverpool match, Howard’s report actually highlights Ramsey more than any other Arsenal player, and also makes references that appear to be insinuations about Ramsey being injured.

For example, the match report is accompanied by a large photograph of Luis Suarez and Aaron Ramsey at the moment when Ramsey’s own goal (off the chest from a Miquel clearance) goes into the net.

The photo is captioned: “WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU RAM … Suarez celebrates after Ramsey’s freak own goal.”

Howard’s next reference to Ramsey, which comes much later in the body of the article,  is the following statement (emphasis Howard’s):

“As for Aaron Ramsey, he looked shot to bits by full time. Yes, Arsenal have been unlucky with injuries.

“Then, again, Arsenal players are ALWAYS injured. It makes you seriously question their injury prevention and treatment programme.”

I would like to repeat at this point that Aaron Ramsey was not, as far as I know, injured during the Liverpool match. So, what is Howard doing referring to him as looking “shot to bits?” It’s an extremely ugly reference, in my opinion, and I’m not sure why someone would make a reference to an injury like that when it hasn’t occurred.

With regard to the second part of Howard’s statement, the above is not the first time that Howard uses this “it’s unlucky,” but “then, again,” type of phrasing. In my opinion, this is just a backhanded way of saying that something is “not unlucky” (i.e. deliberate). So, to me, when Howard says that “Arsenal have been unlucky with injuries,” but “then, again, Arsenal players are ALWAYS injured,” what he’s actually saying is that injuries to Arsenal players aren’t unlucky at all.

And the impact of the above statement becomes even more significant when you consider it in conjunction with the statement that follows:

“It makes you seriously question their injury prevention and treatment programme.”

The aspect of this statement that concerns me the most is Howard’s reference to Arsenal’s questionable “injury prevention” programme. However, from there, I’ll let all of you draw your own conclusions.

In the same manner that injuries to Arsenal players would be consistent with a motive to pressure Arsenal to spend money in the transfer market before the close of the Summer transfer window, it could also serve as a possible motive for  the suspensions of Gervinho and Song (following the Newcastle match), and Frimpong (following the Liverpool match). And the reason for that is because these suspensions also play a role in depleting Arsenal’s squad during this crucial period.

In his match report, Howard seems to suggest as much as well:

“There is nothing unlucky about [Arsenal players’] continuing indiscipline. You would have thought the penny might have dropped after the suspensions of Gervinho and Alex Song from the league opener at Newcastle.”

I personally interpret Howard’s statement that there is “nothing unlucky” about the sendings off of Song and Gervinho as intended to mean that they are occurring for a specific reason. And while it’s not entirely clear to me what Howard is getting at in this segment of the article, I would personally interpret these statements in conjunction with my personal belief that the opposing sides in these matches were likely targeting Arsenal players for injury, and that the referee was not providing protection from the same.

For example, the suspensions of both Gervinho and Song came as a result of deliberate fouls on Joey Barton, and based on what I know already, I wouldn’t consider either foul to be undeserved. However, it’s certainly possible that Barton’s conduct in the match was even worse than we know about.  You would have to consider the role of the referee in the above scenario as well. Because if the confrontational situation did, in fact, arise because the referee was not adequately protecting Arsenal players, then the referee would be selectively punishing them with sendings off.

And in fact, the above would be consistent with Kenny Dalglish’s tactics in the Liverpool match. Because Dalglish kept Suarez on the bench, and waited until Frimpong had been sent off before sending on Suarez and Meireles and attempting to score goals. Dalglish’s decision to start Suarez on the bench would suggest that he expected the sending off to occur. Also, the point when Frimpong was ejected from the match was also the point when Arsenal lost control of the match.

If, while he was on, Frimpong had been providing the Arsenal players with some measure of protection that the referee was not, this would explain why Arsenal’s performance fell apart once he was off.

In my attempts to learn more about the impact of the Frimpong sending off, I found the following  comments on the subject of the players’ morale afterwards:

“Arsenal completely deflated after Frimpong’s sending off, and aren’t causing Liverpool any problems at all…Up until Frimpong’s dismissal, the match was evenly distributed between the two teams, but after Frimpong went off Arsenal were deflated.”

I also found the following interesting::

“A goal down, a man down, and with absolutely no belief in a comeback, Arsenal conceded a second when defenders insanely allowed Lucas space to run at a retreating back line.”

However, if our defenders were retreating from Lucas as he approached the goal, this would suggest to me that they might have been wary of approaching him for some reason. This is interesting in conjunction with a separate Howard article that makes reference to Arsenal being forced to “wave the white flag” against Liverpool.

Finally, the  injury to Carl Jenkinson occurred after Frimpong was sent off:

“Carl Jenkinson suffered a calf injury in the 83rd minute, but had to play on because Arsenal had used all their substitutes.”

Having reviewed the video, Jenkinson’s injury was another of those mysterious “off camera” injuries, in which the player is shown limping off injured, but no attempt is made to explain how the injury occurred. Moreover, most of the reports on this match don’t even mention that Jenkinson was injured in the first place. But why would they hide it?

And if they’re hiding that, what else might they be hiding?

Returning to Howard’s article, the most interesting aspect of the section about the suspensions of Gervinho and Song is the fact that Howard opines that, in response to these suspensions “[y]ou would have thought the penny might have dropped.” This appears to me to refer to money changing hands.

Although I could quite easily be wrong, in the context of Howard’s article, it seems that the most logical way to interpret the above statement would be as a reference to Arsenal spending in the transfer market, and as an implication that, as a result of Arsenal’s failure to do so:

“Emmanuel Frimpong still became the 88th player to be sent off in Wenger’s time at the club. It can’t all be down to bad luck and youthful enthusiasm. In fact, the potential leg-breaker on Lucas in the 70th minute was a red card in itself.”

But what would have inspired Frimpong to make such a challenge on Lucas, if it was not down to “bad luck” or “youthful enthusiasm?” From there, Howard continues to say that:

“Down to 10 men again, Arsenal were rocking some time before Miquel’s attempted clearance hit Ramsey on the chest and rebounded into the net. Yes, it was unfortunate.

Then, again, this sort of thing is ALWAYS happening to Arsenal.”

This is interesting because it’s phrased in the exact same manner as Howard’s earlier reference to Ramsey:

“As for Aaron Ramsey, he looked shot to bits by full time. Yes, Arsenal have been unlucky with injuries.

“Then, again, Arsenal players are ALWAYS injured. It makes you seriously question their injury prevention and treatment programme.”

Clearly, with his emphasis on the word “always,” Howard is intending to convey some sort of specific message with these portions of the match report. But what? Howard follows this second reference with the statement that:

“As for Liverpool, there was only going to be one winner once Kenny Dalglish’s side cottoned on to just how poor Arsenal were.

“The big difference was the Reds boss could summon Raul Meireles and Luis Suarez, who scored the late second, from the bench. 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.”

At least in part, this statement appears to refer to the sending off of Emmanuel Frimpong, which was the moment that Dalglish sent in Suarez and Meireles. According to Howard, Dalglish made this substitution decision because he had “cottoned on to just how poor Arsenal were.” But in what sense would the sending off of Frimpong make Arsenal “poor?”

Just for some context on the impact this had on the match as a whole, the following is an excerpt from the BBC’s match report:

“Arsenal…held their own until impressive Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off with 20 minutes left.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish reacted by introducing Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles in what proved to be the decisive move, as the pair were involved in both goals.”

Perhaps this was the moment when Arsenal was forced to wave “the white flag,” as referenced in Howard’s separate article that I cited above. But why?

Steven Howard sure is being mysterious in this match report, isn’t he? But what could this be telling us about the Liverpool match in general?

Conclusions…

Certainly the events above must cause us to look back both at the number of sendings off Arsenal have had, and the number of injuries Arsenal have had, and ask, is it all just coincidence? Was every sending off justified?  Does it all even out in the end?  We might recall the huge headlines of August 2003 in every paper when Arsenal under Wenger recorded their 50th red card.  No other club’s red cards were recorded or highlighted in this way, there was no table of reds to compare one team with another.  It was always, “Wenger sees red”, and a horror story.

What is also true is that a sudden burst of injuries to players in one position is not a novelty for Arsenal.  In 2005/6 for example every Arsenal player who played left back was injured one after another: Cole, Clichy, Cygan, Lauren, and finally even Gilbert (a player whose ability can be seen by the fact that he then moved on to Peterborough, Yeovil and Shamrock Rovers).  Arsenal ended up playing the right footed midfielder Flamini at left back, for the want of anyone else.

As I say, maybe it is all just coincidence, these injuries, these sendings off.  But even so, it is rather strange.

 

90 comments to Deliberate injuries that unsettle players. Part 2 of our investigation.

  • Anne

    Just realized that I didn’t include a link to the actual article:

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/football/3764571/Arsenal-0-Liverpool-2.html

    Steven Howard is a twisted fuck, isn’t he?

    But on that subject, one thing I have to say, for anyone who is about to lambast me as a “conspiracy theorist…” In your critique, could you please include your own interpretation of exactly what Steven Howard WAS trying to say in this article, if contrary to my own interpretation?

    Cheers, thanks.

  • Mayz

    .

    Too much time on you hands!! Oik approved!
  • Anne

    Also, one additional clarification. When Howard said:

    “As for Aaron Ramsey, he looked shot to bits by full time. Yes, Arsenal have been unlucky with injuries.

    Then, again, Arsenal players are ALWAYS injured. It makes you seriously question their injury prevention and treatment programme.”

    He actually had ALWAYS in bold face as well as all caps. I had it like that when I submitted the article, but I don’t know how to change it now.

    But considering that it changes Howard’s emphasis significantly, I would really appreciate it if the boldface could be added in the actual article. In both instances when Howard said “ALWAYS” in all caps. Thanks.

  • mjc

    Do I smell “fat & orange”?!

    Also, if my memeory serves me correctly, Freddie Ljungberg also filled in at left-back during that crazy period in the 05/06 season….

  • Aussie Jack

    I don`t trust referees in the modern game, there`s a saying in rugby circles that “they are all guilty until proven innocent” I subscribe to that.
    The question is what can be done to make the game cleaner and safer. The introduction of modern technology (without going into details) is a start and modifications to the punishments rules to give referees options, like the `sin bin` in rugby.
    With the massive amounts of money involved the game is open to all sorts of crime and corruption, that`s a fact we have to live with, hopefully we won`t all become so paranoid we cease to enjoy the game.

  • ak47

    twisted fuck? 🙂 to put it mildly.

    he’s just another pawn mis directing to help the powers promote and upkeep the current system of society. a failing system that relies on money. will we ever get a theory that helps but doesnt need money to make it work? doubt it.

    anyone with a fair mind who watches the majority of afc matches whilst trying to squeeze in as many others for comparison can see there’s something very sinister about the protection we get and the absurd reffin.

    no honest person saw joey Barton ricky?! really?
    why cant he be punished after?
    ballotelli-song
    the list goes on and on and on and….

    just hope with more experience and robust players coming in along with a more direct style we can limit the situations that make it easy for the opponents to injure if they want to.
    ultimately it comes down to the corrupt refs.
    their was a time when we took it without a peep. but since song, jack and a few others said no more, we now get influential cards easily. another chess move.

  • ziggy

    Doesn’t seem like Howard was still lambasting AW and Arsenal after we caught and overtook Spuds. I wonder why?

  • Anne

    @ak47:

    With “more experience and robust players coming in?” Could you clarify that?

    Sorry, you just sounded like Steven Howard for a second 🙂

  • Anne – sorry about “Always” – the formatting does get a bit lost as it moves from the submitted text through the blog program – I have corrected it now.

  • Marg

    I am a big fan of this site. As Arsenal fans we are by nature a paranoid bunch but Anne c’mon……whats are you smoking?
    whether we like certain journalists or not lets be honest we were in Crisis around this period. Too many young players were having to be thrown in at the deep end.

    of course we’re going to be “deflated” and “lose control” and give Liverpool the upper hand – we’ve only got 10 men! Frimpong was NOT unlucky to be sent off. I said to my mate after 10 minutes of that game that he was going to get sent off. He was in headless chicken mode. Classic case of talent but no experience. And how can you say Dalglish “expected the sending off to occur” pre match?

  • ak47

    lol did i! wow

    i think the more experienced players are more wise to the tactics used to rile. plus players like the ox tho still young you can see he will develop quite a physique. maybe their mentality to physical strength development will be passed onto others in the team.
    until the refs give us a fair crack i think we’l need players like podolski to be able to combat rotational fouling.

  • ak47

    my mind is still a bit sleepy

  • Sav from Australia

    @Anne
    Another really thought provoking article. Do you think this Howard fellow is a spokesperson for other hidden forces, tasked with sending Arsenal a message through the media?

    I always wonder if the Arsenal players, coaches, etc, are aware of the extent of the conspiracy against them. Surely the ones who have been around for a while would have realised it, even if there was no formal discussion.

    If you are Arsene Wenger and his team, what is your game plan? What is the best way to deal with these season long attacks?

  • Finsbury

    Mic
    Freddy also left the club with a fractured hip or something like that.
    Wasn’t picked up at west ham but when he moved stateside.

    The most prominent victim of an attack was not the Welsh Captain but Cesc F Word against Birmingham. Although it wasn’t even called a foul. If any can suggest to me how the ref missed that one whilst staring straight at the foul I’m all ears.

  • Finsbury

    Sorry that was meant to spell MJC

  • SouthernGunner

    Think we need to coin a new phrase:

    Anti-Football Football.

    Something that seems to be fairly unique and accepted in this country more than others. It’s be interesting to see the number of serious injuries per season in each different country, to find out which leagues are the cleanest and which are the dirtiest.

    A lot of teams in the Premier League are getting very good at playing this way. It’s a cowardly way of clubs trying to avoide relegation. Bolton (under Sam Allerdyce), Birmingham, Stoke, Portsmouth (under ‘Arry), at times almost seem to deliberately set themselves up to harm the opposition, especially if they’re facing a good footballing side. It’s cowards tactics. This is in stark contrast to good, proper defensive displays, where challenges are won cleanly and fairly. Or sticking to good football (like Wigan did to secure their survival in recent months).

    Another thing that sickening is how certain journalists and pundits seem to think it almost funny when legs get broken (regardless of what club the player is from), sweeping them under the carpet, or almost making out that the those injured were at fault.

    Guess it’s not just racism that needs kicking out of football, violent assaults disguised as professional tackles need to as well.

  • PeteGooner

    Anne – I think I read you are from America? And the blog owner from Denmark is it? Perhaps something has been lost in translation here

    “Shot to pieces” is an English term that generally means ones confidence has gone, or can also be used as someone being really tired – like an Athlete over exerting himself. This is what Howard was saying there.

    It’s like I said yesterday (but comment was ignored) I do not believe there is an injuring conspiracy against Arsenal. What we have is a stye of play that makes the opposition effectively chase shadows for hugh patches of a match. Occassionally some of these players lose their heads and in a moment of insanity end up injuring a player by late tackle. Nothing more sinister than British football thuggery.

  • bob

    PeteGooner,
    “British football thuggery” breaks the rules, is not chronically practiced by all English sides, is not countenanced by many UEFA referees, and, when selectively unpunished IS a SINISTER pattern. Your “nothing more sinister than British football thuggery” has normalized a disgusting anti-football brand of football and is part of the problem — you seem to be calloused to leg-breaking as a possible intention and that perception is why many fans do not expect or demand (god forbid) anything better. What a terrible turn of phrase – one that erases the criminality that masquerades as normal “British spine”.

  • bob

    Southern Gooner,
    “Guess it’s not just racism that needs kicking out of football, violent assaults disguised as professional tackles need to as well.” Exactly! And it should be treated as a criminal assault, let alone an occasion for a red card and multi-game suspension. There are notorious and designated – and ref protected – hitmen in the Excremental Protection League that should be flushed into relegation if not custody.

  • bob

    Anne, All,
    In early August of 2009, two jornos, Matthew Syed (of Murdoch’s London Times) and Martin Samuel (the anointed one) of the Daily Mail had an exclusive interview with Arsene Wenger. In this interview, Arsene affirmed the philosophy and practice of a different model of football (from more revenue sharing and a sustainable model against the billionaire takeover model) from that favored by the status quo. I have pointed to this last year to absolutely no comment from anyone. I bring it up again now, in this context, to suggest that a reason WHY AFC/AW are targeted and warned as you describe has A LOT to do with what AW/AFC then (and hopefully now!) have stood for – openly, brazenly, articulately AGAINST THE GRAIN of all that’s opposed here on UA about football. I think you and everyone should read (or re-read) this very meaningful interview which, if you listen to the questions, SHOCKS the interviewers. To me, this interview, and subsequent public statements (subtle, direct, indirect) by AW on football as it OUGHT TO BE have made AW/AFC and our players a CHRONIC target of threats and recriminations. For any who might be curious, I think it’s well worth another look:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1206377/ARSENE-WENGER-INTERVIEW-The-transcript-Martin-Samuels-fascinating-meeting-Arsenal-manager–I.html
    (And please, Jacobite Gunner and Phoenix Gunner, for different reasons, give the interview – nothwithstanding that it’s in the Daily Mail and Ruppie Times – a chance to dent your analytical radar screens.)

  • bob

    p.s. and note the courage of AW to march into the lion’s dens, and tell their appointed media hitmen to fuck off (with great articulation and diplomatic aplomb).

  • PeteGooner

    @Bob
    You’ve totally misunderstood my post.
    I totally agree that bad tackes and thuggery in the English game are a cancer to football. There is no place for it and it needs to be stamped out.

    My point was that this does not mean there are people higher up instructing players to injure certain other players.

    It’s just players losing their temper and doing rash tackles. Happens at all clubs, it just seems to happen to us more because of our style of play invites tackles. Some are unfortunate injuries, others a evil tackles from players who are scum and some that lose their temper for a split second.

    This does not mean that there is an overlord saying – injure all arsenal players so they spend some money.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Some very interesting points in here. I have wondered for some time if our players are targetted by some. For instance, the first leg break on Bac at WHL, – a completely obvious attempt to take him out of the game went virtually unreported. It seemed to start when Riley let Utd end the run of the Invincibles, by the only means that Utd team could get near us at the time, by kicking us off the pitch. Retaliation means red cards for us. Then the Fergie gimp managers started copying this, even to the point where Phil Brown, a new comer desperate to join Fergies Friends was reduced to lying about Cesc. Where is Mr Brown now BTW?
    Funny how the media, pundits and above all regard even discussing such possibilities as some ultra form of blasphemy. The amount of players we get injured, the amount of red cards we have had over the years for what was really quite understandable retaliation at times is worthy of biscussion at the very least, shame some are not prepared to debate this. Guess we will only really know what has happened when Wenger writes his book

  • PeteGooner

    In addition to the above. The lack of protcection from referees doesn’t help us, but that’s an entirely different arguement. I very much doubt the two are related.

    In my opinion this blog does great work on a variety of issues. But this particular issue is fanciful and seems to me like it’s making excuses why Arsenal don’t win anything.

  • Lanz

    Pete, please believe it, managers actually ask that some player be injured as part of their game plan. Maybe not as a general conspiracy but they certainly do. Sagna is a professional footballer and must know what he was talking about. Try and investigate on your own.

  • Shard

    OK.. You know I am pretty open to all ‘conspiracy theories’, but I have a few questions. Though you said you aren’t convinced yourself, but you do think it fitting to ask these questions and suggest the things you do, based on the evidence..

    Mainly, I want to know, what you think the role of the media is. Including this twisted fuck Howard, and Martin Samuel with his ‘rictus grin’ statement. Who are they talking to?

    Are they trying to influence the masses, the Arsenal fans, into a certain way of thinking? Or are they aiming some messages at Arsenal themselves? Your theory would suggest the latter, although by no means do they have to be mutually exclusive.

    If it is aimed at sending Arsenal a message, why through the media? Is the use of the media another threat (saying we control the people’s thinking?) or is it to play safe (not leave any evidence)

    I’m still trying to process all this, so not yet sure what I think of it. I would at the very least say, there’s no harm in looking further into it. I am going to look at these issues (and others) from next season.

  • Shard

    Whether Arsenal players are being injured ‘deliberately’ or not, what is clear is that there is much leeway for players that do injure or make reckless and dangerous tackles against Arsenal. I trace this whole ‘Arsenal don’t like it up them’ (As an aside, does that mean ManU and Chelsea like it up them?) to one Sam Allardyce and his merry men at Bolton. They became the mythical ‘Bogey Team’ of this bunch of pretty passing, piss-taking, foreigners when he (the Fat one) quite clearly sent out his players to injure Arsenal players. We had 2 players leave on stretchers that game, and God knows how many reckless challenges. Some like Davies made a career out of doing just that, using his elbows to good effect.

    We already know the referees don’t call it like it is, and going back to the previous part of this article. Yes. I definitely took the non punishment of Balotelli’s assault on Song as a statement that it is ok to kick, or injure Arsenal players. We will be lenient towards you. Go for it. That alone is an incentive from above. There need not be some cloak and dagger toting crony to go to specific players and tell them to specifically target Arsenal players.

    As for the specifics, make no mistake, there will be plenty of managers who are willing to tell their players to win ‘at all costs’. Break legs, dive, provoke players. They can well provide ‘specifics’. There are plenty of euphemisms for injuring a player. ‘Get stuck in’, ‘leave your foot in there’, ‘let him know he’s in a game’, ‘it’s a man’s game’. All of these are in some part (sadly) entrenched in English football because all these ex-players propagate it in the media. Which is also what would make a specifically targeted attack (if it were happening) more difficult to spot. Especially if the cameras are intending to hide it as well.

  • Lanz

    @Bob. Thanks for that link!

  • critic

    I sincerely think u r overanalysing.

  • Arsenal1Again

    There have been phantom injuries over the season. Two seasons ago Wenger was even implying the unjury of Fabregas was a mystery and implied it was in his mind.

    We have Walcott for seasons missing large parts of the campaign but with the signing and threat of Oxlade-Chamberlain, no more injuries. Van Persie was another who was gone regularly until internationals came along of contracts were dure renewal. Rosicky being out so long was badly missed. His link up with Hleb, Fabregas and Eduardo was a good working formula, it was very potent .. then Rosicky was out the picture and they adapted pretty well, was in the driving seat in February in the league and then wham, Eduardo was also out the picture. The team nose dived then.

    Sure, injuries unsettle the team, but I also see an attitude that persisted for seasons at Arseanl, almost like players like Van Persie setting an example for Walcott to emulate, then the Rosicky injury encouraging the attitude further. Arshavin started to adopted it, Van Persie still had it, Diaby is milking it to this day, Walcott looked like a complete carbon copy of Van Persies attitude. Fabregas during his last season had the attitude big time, this season Santos and Jenkinson.

    The ONLY player that surprises me is Wilshere. He is actually a very strong player and not easily injured, but he has been out for a whole season in a similar fashion to Ramsey the season earlier.

    I come from the Terry Neill era when players like we have today would have no career. I’m sure injuries are there but I’m equally sure it’s so cosy at Arsenal and too easy to collect a pay check for little more than 60 mins a day doing remedial activities at the training ground. This thought is persitent in my mind, I’ve seen it for a long time. There’s definitely something wrong with the medical team at the club. The ultimate responsibilty for it falls on Wenger because it all comes down to what he tolerates.

    Sometimes I feel Wenger’s laxity is little more than an incentive to encourage players to resign their contract deals.

    Take Van Persie today. He has said more than once that he ‘owes’ the club for standing by him during his injuries, Other players like Diaby and Walcott know they won’t get the same understanding at other clubs and I think Van Persie knows it too.

    I feel sorry for whatever club gives a very lucrative 4 year deal to Van Persie, his attitude over the years compels me to think like this. Walcott’s career would be go the way of Pennant’s if he leaves and thus we have a ‘new’ Walcott emerging because of this realisation and because of the threat of Oxlade-Chamberlain.

    The key to Arsenal winning things is the mental strength of players and a change in attitude from Wenger who should be managing injury recovery times better than he is.

    Does it surprise anybody that Wenger signs players we know are already injury prone? Mertesacker, Arteta more recently. One of them was even signed without a medical. It just adds more weight to my thinking that his softness towards injured players is a means to make these players like it at Arseanl.

    I’m not disliking any player at Arsenal – I clearly see the problem to be Wenger’s attitude and continual encouragement of these “injuries”.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    There is a civil lawsuit winding its way through the Canadian courts right now (Moore v Bertuzzi). It is about an ice hockey player assaulting and effectively ending the career of another during a game. The player was penalized and suspended for a long period but what is open to question is who was also responsible. Were the coach and team responsible, too? Did the coach give specific or general instructions to the player to illegally assault the victim?

  • GoingGoingGooner

    @Arsenal1Again

    As someone who has suffered his fair share of sporting injuries over the last 35 years, unless you have seen a player dogging it in re-hab and practice, it is, I would suggest, unfair to tag him|her with a label as a malingerer. Sometimes they are injured full stop.

  • Anne

    @Marg:

    Thank you for posting the inevitable “paranoia” comment and diagnosing me as mentally ill based on my interpretation of Howard’s article.

    The reason that we had “too many young players” being thrown into the deep end was because of the number of injuries we had. How could we be effectively without a back line before the third match of the season?

  • Anne

    @Marg:

    I say that Dalglish expected an Arsenal sending off pre-match based on the fact that he started Suarez on the bench, and then, the moment Frimpong was sent off, he made this double substitution of Suarez and Meireles, as if he had been planning it all along.

    You must admit that Howard’s phrasing that Dalglish sent on Suarez and Meireles because he had “cottoned on to just how poor Arsenal were” is quite strange.

    It might sound weird, or paranoid, but if you look at the way Howard was phrasing things in this article, it’s not normal for him. It’s not the way he writes when he’s addressing the general public.

    You can call me whatever you want, but Howard was intending to convey SOME sort of message with this article. That I have no doubt of.

  • Anne

    @Sav:

    I’m glad that you enjoyed the article and that you don’t think I’m insane 🙂

    I would have to say that this particular message was directed at Arsene Wenger. As to whether it was actually intended as a personal statement to him, I have no idea. I really don’t know what the hell Howard was thinking publishing something like this.

    If you look at my Sun goes bananas article, where I quoted both this article and the Sun’s Arsenal-Newcastle match report, you’ll see that there’s something of a pattern here, in the sense that both articles seem to be threatening messages directed at Arsene:

    http://blog.emiratesstadium.info/archives/14090

    And look again at how Howard began the article:

    “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.”

    How could you interpret that as anything other than a threat?

    And I certainly think that Howard is conveying this message on behalf of someone else. I also think that Arsenal is aware that they are being targeted in this way. If this kind of thing is said in public, think what must be said behind closed doors. As to what to do about it, I’m not sure.

  • Anne

    @PeteGooner:

    “‘Shot to pieces’ is an English term that generally means ones confidence has gone, or can also be used as someone being really tired – like an Athlete over exerting himself. This is what Howard was saying there.”

    I’m familiar with that use of the phrase “shot to pieces.” However, that meaning does not make sense in the context that Howard used the phrase “shot to bits.” He was clearly talking about injuries here:

    “As for Aaron Ramsey, he looked shot to bits by full time. Yes, Arsenal have been unlucky with injuries.

    “Then, again, Arsenal players are ALWAYS injured. It makes you seriously question their injury prevention and treatment programme.”

    In my opinion, Howard used a colloquial phrase that has a double meaning, so that he could convey one, more threatening meaning, while still having plausible deniability about what he was actually saying.

    To interpret it as Ramsey looking as if he had lost confidence just doesn’t make sense in conjunction with the accompanying comments about injuries.

  • Anne

    @PeteGooner:

    If he’s saying that Ramsey looked like he had lost confidence, then it would have to mean that he had lost his confidence for some reason related to injuries. That’s a plausible interpretation.

  • Anne

    @bob:

    I think that’s a great link and excellent points as well.

  • Anne

    @PeteGooner:

    “This does not mean that there is an overlord saying – injure all arsenal players so they spend some money.”

    I did not say that there was an overlord saying inure all arsenal players so they spend some money.

    There are a lot of people out there who are telling Arsenal to spend some money for a lot of different purported reasons. But whatever the reason given, the common “solution” is the same. Arsenal needs to spend money in the transfer market. And often on the exact same players.

    Do you really think that this commonality would exist against such a broad spectrum if there wasn’t some sort of common source behind it? I’m not saying it’s an “overlord.” But it’s someone. Or more likely multiple “someones” with some common interests.

  • Anne

    @Mandy:

    “Funny how the media, pundits and above all regard even discussing such possibilities as some ultra form of blasphemy. The amount of players we get injured, the amount of red cards we have had over the years for what was really quite understandable retaliation at times is worthy of biscussion at the very least, shame some are not prepared to debate this.”

    Thank you. I completely agree.

  • Anne

    @PeteGooner:

    I think that you just showed your cards with the following comment:

    “But this particular issue is fanciful and seems to me like it’s making excuses why Arsenal don’t win anything.”

    You’re problem is with this particular “issue” as opposed to my particular article. I fully agree that this article is highly speculative in a lot of ways. I’m attempting to read meaning into some extremely vague statements.

    And while I fully and 100% stand behind my reading of Howard’s article, I can certainly understand why many people would think that I’m reading way too much into it.

    However, your problem is apparently with discussing deliberate injuries to Arsenal players as an “issue.” Whatever you might think of my article, there is certainly enough evidence to make this an issue that is at least worthy of discussion.

  • bob

    Anne,
    As you know, Howard’s threat was esconced within the well-documented (hereabouts by Untold Media) All-Out Media Campaign to remove Arsene from a de-stabilized club. People can write it off as one incident by forgetting (willfully or not) the incendiary atmosphere that was stoked by the media’s bloodhounds literally week after week. We can name the names, for any doubters, and did name the names. And Howard is one of them. I feel you’ve picked up on another layer – indeed level – of threat. Indeed, veiled as it is. Metaphorically speaking, it’s something like handing a sword to the proverbial Japanese warrior whose time is deemed to have come, and inviting them to complete the expected deed.

    So far, to my eyes, Howard may well be immersed/esconced in that attack, albeit with a sharper verbal dagger. A more pointed message within the overall message – Spend or Resign.

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    “Are they trying to influence the masses, the Arsenal fans, into a certain way of thinking? Or are they aiming some messages at Arsenal themselves? Your theory would suggest the latter, although by no means do they have to be mutually exclusive.”

    Ok, you just answered your own question with the second part of that statement.

    “If it is aimed at sending Arsenal a message, why through the media? Is the use of the media another threat (saying we control the people’s thinking?) or is it to play safe (not leave any evidence).”

    I’m not sure if the intent is really to send Arsenal a “message,” in the sense of actually wanting to tell them something. I see it more as an inside joke type of deal amongst journalists, with the dual purpose of rubbing it in Arsenal’s face that they can say these sorts of things in full view of the public, but without the public being aware of what’s going on or even what’s being said.

    It was this sort of smugness that made me feel that I had to write this article. I knew that I would be made fun of for reading things into this article that most people wouldn’t see. But I wanted to let them know that some people do see it. And I wanted to call them out on it, for whatever it’s worth.

    Another example of this sort of thing would be the other article in my Sun Goes Bananas article that I linked to above. Look at these phrases that Steve Brenner used in his Arsenal-Newcastle match report:

    Arsene Wenger quote:

    “I understand every criticism and I accept every criticism but I try to do the best for my club, I take everything else on board but not necessarily listen to everything.

    “If I listen I don’t necessarily believe everything.”

    Brenner’s response:

    “Fair enough but something most gooners are shouting for should be smacking Wenger right between the eyes though.

    He needs to spend. Or he may be spent.”

    Also from the same article:

    “If the Frenchman is starting to show signs of wear and tear after a nightmare start to the season, fast forward seven days and he could be the wrinkliest swinger in town.”

    I understand the twisted inside joke Brenner is making with these statements. Do you?

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    “There are plenty of euphemisms for injuring a player. ‘Get stuck in’, ‘leave your foot in there’, ‘let him know he’s in a game’, ‘it’s a man’s game’. All of these are in some part (sadly) entrenched in English football because all these ex-players propagate it in the media. Which is also what would make a specifically targeted attack (if it were happening) more difficult to spot. Especially if the cameras are intending to hide it as well.”

    This is an excellent point. Thank you for your responses. Extremely thought-provoking as always.

  • Anne

    @Lanz:

    Good point about Sagna. Thanks for your response.

  • bob

    Anne,
    I’ve not seen any sign since Arsene’s interview of August 2009 of him stepping away from his alternative model of football. He sticks it in their face and, interestingly, they do print it. To me that’s like a wanted poster in the post office. So, at the start of the new season, with blood in the water (x-Cesc and Na$ri leaving and AFC without Plan B), the sharks circle for the proverbial kill (Arsene Out). Perhaps Howard’s warning is part of a psychological warfare game played out on Arsene/AFC to remove him.

    I think that over this season, several press conferences have returned to the same themes that he struck in the 2009 interview. It would be worth someone’s time to pull these bits and pieces together, as they would add up to a manifesto of continued defiance of those who wish AFC ill – and most UA readers would agree this is not fanciful. Look at the bullshit suspensions he gets over minutiae; as compared say to people like Mourinho, who says amazing shit and doesn’t seem to serve any suspension time (I think).

    Historically, I think the dirtiest dead was the Invincibles Triumph. Second or third to that I would offer is Arsene’s mission statement in their own so-called press. Again the link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1206377/ARSENE-WENGER-INTERVIEW-The-transcript-Martin-Samuels-fascinating-meeting-Arsenal-manager–I.html

    And, to Lanz and Anne, thank you for having read it and validated that it at least matters. From one Cassandra to another, over and out… 🙂

  • Phoenix Gunner

    @bob, great article, thanks for the link. I am a huge fan of Wenger. Always have been. He is a very, very sharp guy with remarkable discipline and loyalty. I have worlds of time for Wenger.

    @PeteGooner… welcome to that vague uneasiness that something very weird is happening to once-sensible fans around you (almost mass hysteria, or something)…

    Saying Ramsey is “shot to pieces” just means he is tired, in plain English. And it certainly works in the context of injuries because Ramsey played too much in the absence of injured players. (Please note, before I hear “well, you have neglected to consider…”, this is a completely separate point to what may have caused those injuries.) Turning “the penny would have dropped by now” into something bribery-connotated is frankly nothing short of laughable. Bob, can a man of your clear intelligence not see this?! I’m sorry to be brutal, and doubtless I will be hauled over the coals, but it really is laughable. What a stretch!

    “If he’s saying that Ramsey looked like he had lost confidence, then it would have to mean that he had lost his confidence for some reason related to injuries.” — No, it really wouldn’t “have” to mean that at all. It *could* mean he had lost his confidence because he was having a bad hair day, for all we know. We just can’t authoritatively place such a meaning like that. I really, really wish the author would stop forcing square pegs into round holes. It’s like the sound of someone chewing metal… the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I think comprehension skills are falling a little short.

    Has anyone here ever read some of the other Arsenal blogs on the internet? Many write much like this Sun journo. It’s called sensationalism. It’s designed to provoke, irritate, frustrate, anger. The language matches appropriately – vicious, threatening, etc. This is what the dim fair-weather Arsenal fans want to read – this is what sells papers. Much like these provocative articles will pull up UA’s hit count, as bob (or perhaps Gringo, I forget) pointed out proudly yesterday – it may well do so… but at what cost?

    (Another note – I realise that somewhat paradoxically I am part of the problem here, by causing friction which leads to debate, and comments etc – a necessary evil to expressing disappointment, I feel).

    @Anne – your comment of “I fully agree that this article is highly speculative in many ways” is very relieving to read – I just wish the whole article had a bit more of the same epistemological humility.

  • Anne

    @Critic:

    “I sincerely think u r overanalysing.”

    Fair enough. But the bottom line is that, if you don’t read into it, Howard’s article makes no sense at all. With all his uses of boldface, and all caps, he’s clearly trying to say SOMETHING.

    It might sound like nonsense to us, but it’s not just nonsense to him. The reason I analyzed the article in such depth was because I wanted to show what Howard’s words meant to him, in contrast to what they would initially appear to mean to us.

    If you disagree with that analysis, fine. But I don’t think that I’m over-analyzing. Because analyzing is the only way to read meaning into the article at all.

  • bob

    p.s. Oh, and did anyone catch (I’ve been away, so sorry if so) when AW said when asked about how he would rate this season? He said close to this: perhaps my best. The meaning of the Great Turnaround in the context of this shadow war is a well-deserved Up Thine! It’s time for AW to get UA’s Courage Under Fire Award for 2011/2012. And ditto for Barcary Sagna, the best fullback in the EPL.

  • Anne

    @Arsenal1again:

    I can see some of your points about injuries being related to players’ attitudes. Particularly where Cesc is concerned, for example. However, I think that your comment is turning this into an issue that is much to black and white. For example, a broken leg is a real injury, and takes time to recover from, regardless of the player’s attitude.

    But speaking of the players’ attitudes, how do you think it would affect your attitude if, every time you walked onto the pitch, you were under threat of a broken leg? I mean, just thinking about the pain would seem to something that would distract you, and forget about the career implications.

  • bob

    Phoenix Gunner,
    I appreciate your contestations because they force people like me into deeper counter-arguments instead of being a ditto-head.

    That said, epistemologically speaking, would you deny/reject that between August-October there was a concerted media effort by high to low profile elements (in the late NOTW, the Sun, Guardian football dept, Mirror, Daily Mail, Sky, BBC) to take down Arsene Wenger?, and/or to destabilize AFC? Let’s start there.

    And, in any case, whatever Anne and others may feel about this interpretation, my reading of what Howard has done is that whatever he may or may not be doing, it is part and parcel of that media campaign. Arsene Wenger is a threat to their modus operandi and they want him the fuck off their premises.

  • nicky

    @Anne,
    Three words in the article I’ve never seen before “injury prevention programme”.
    As one who has long believed that Arsenal’s longterm injury list, year by year, is totally unacceptable, I wonder if there is something lacking in the Club’s “prevention” policy.
    It would be interesting to learn exactly what the combined medicos and coaches have devised to prevent injuries, Whatever has been done to date, it isn’t working.

  • bob

    p.s. to Phoenix Gunner:
    Sensationalism? yes – but to that extent. That was not business as usual. This was feverish. A blitzkrieg.

  • Anne

    @Arsenal1again:

    Just to follow up on my previous point, I don’t know what I would do if I was about to play a match, and someone threatened to break my leg if I played to my full potential. And I knew that there was a serious possibility of the threat being carried out.

    Would I play to my full potential anyway, and take the risk? Or would I cave into fear and throw the match? Maybe even subconsciously as opposed to consciously?

    I’d like to think that I would be the hero and play to win anyway. But I’ve never had my morals tested under circumstances like that. And I have to say, I really don’t know what I would do. Do any of you?

  • bob

    ^to that extent? (question mark)

  • Anne

    @GoingGoingGooner:

    Thanks for mentioning that Canadian ice hockey case. It raises some interesting questions, and it’s also highly relevant to what we’re discussing. I notice that, in that case, the player that caused the injury actually suffered some consequences.

    Also, I agree with your response to Arsenal1Again.

  • bob

    Anne,
    yeah, I think Bertuzzi did get a suspension. And speaking as a lawyer, do you see his attack as criminal?

  • Anne

    @bob:

    “I feel you’ve picked up on another layer – indeed level – of threat. Indeed, veiled as it is.”

    I’m really glad that you see this, and that you agree with me on this subject. I’ve been noticing that they do this sort of thing for awhile now (although this article and the Brenner article that I also cited would certainly be the most extreme examples I’ve found), but without knowing how to actually describe it in a way that would cause it to make sense to anybody.

    Speaking of tests of people’s morals, the honest reason that I didn’t analyze this article at the beginning of the season, when I first drew attention to it, was because I was afraid of sounding insane based on how I had interpreted it. Even though I was fairly confident in my interpretation. That’s what I meant when I said:

    “Looking back over the season’s Untold Media coverage, I decided that this was a wrong that I needed to correct.”

  • Anne

    @bob:

    I think that “psychological warfare” would be a good way of describing this, actually. That would relate to what I said to Shard about:

    “the dual purpose of rubbing it in Arsenal’s face that they can say these sorts of things in full view of the public, but without the public being aware of what’s going on or even what’s being said.”

    By the way, I’ll get to the rest of your comments. Going in order here 🙂

  • Phoenix Gunner

    Bob, agree that Wenger is considered threatening to most of the football power structures that exist. In fact, he *is* threatening to them. That’s the main reason I respect him so much – he says what others are thinking, and he says it in style.

    I do not deny any concerted media efforts to de-stabilise him. I have been shocked by the hatred for Wenger out there, in the media and amongst Arsenal “fans” who can’t hack not being number one. The media is a vicious animal and it almost certainly has core controlling interests – perhaps even core controlling interests with financial interests in competing clubs. None of this would slightly surprise me, unfortunately, and I welcome the investigative process. (Again, please note, this is a far cry from authoritatively posing a concerted effort by other clubs/managers/FA/refs/media to “get” Wenger).

    And perhaps Howard simply has a very personal hatred of Wenger/Arsenal, and is too unprofessional to hide it from his work. Perhaps he relished in our poor form and couldn’t resist gloating. So he’s a schmuck, and I wouldn’t read or analyse his work.

    I don’t disagree that the media would have a great field day if Wenger finally fell on his sword (Anne – I realise I’m using colourful expressions here, but I assure you it’s not in the hopes that Wenger goes out and buys us a new DM). They also had a field day when 9/11 happened. As long as readers have schadenfreude/morbid curiosity, this will persist.

    There are a lot of rotten things in the football world. I recognise that. That’s why I peruse UA – in the dream that they expose something legally/statistically undeniable. They often give me good food for thought, and if I don’t usually comment, it’s because I have no major concerns with the presentation of a theory.

    But should splendid something be exposed – let’s say DogFace does something beautiful with the Ref Review data, which I for one am looking forward to – to get the message out, it would realistically need to be noticed by the mainstream media (e.g. BBC, who have noticed UA before as I recall). Now, if I were a BBC publisher, and found the ref reviews, I would think – ‘OK, great stuff… let’s just make sure the source is reasonably credible… huh… what’s all this stuff about “penny dropping” = bribery… ok, never mind, the source is dubious.’

    This is why, in my opinion, ultimately, it DOES matter how these theories are presented.

  • Phoenix Gunner

    OK, I would detract the “I wouldn’t read or analyse his work” – doubtless it will be pointed out that failure to analyse this kind of thing will lead to permanent ignorance etc…

  • Phoenix Gunner

    In reality, if I think a journalist is trying to provoke me, I will try to avoid giving them the satisfaction, and will instead not even read their stuff.

  • Phoenix Gunner

    OK, I have to think before I type – if I think a journo is ONLY trying to provoke me, then I will deliberately avoid their stuff. Life’s too short for the stress.

    I do however make a point of reading counter-opposing viewpoints, provided they are informative/unemotional rather than provocative.

  • Anne

    @Phoenix gunner:

    “Welcome to that vague uneasiness that something very weird is happening to once-sensible fans around you (almost mass hysteria, or something)… ”

    Mass hysteria? Yes, I’m completely insane for suggesting that Arsenal players are being deliberately targeted for injury. Glad we cleared that up.

    “Saying Ramsey is ‘shot to pieces’ just means he is tired, in plain English. And it certainly works in the context of injuries because Ramsey played too much in the absence of injured players.”

    Just to clarify the particulars, he said Ramsey looked “shot to bits” not “shot to pieces.” “Shot to bits” is also used as a euphemism for a player who has been injured, is it not? Considering that Howard immediately followed this statement with statements about Arsenal injuries, which meaning is most logical in the context?

    Even if you think that this is not the most logical interpretation, it is hardly “forcing square pegs into round holes.” It’s one possible meaning of the phrase Howard used.

    Also, how do you interpret Howard’s statement that:

    “Yes, Arsenal have been unlucky with injuries.

    Then, again, Arsenal players are ALWAYS injured.”

    Wouldn’t the use of “unlucky,” followed by “then again” seem to suggest that maybe it is not “unlucky” after all? That is how it reads to me, based on my general understanding of the English language.

    “Turning ‘the penny would have dropped by now’ into something bribery-connotated is frankly nothing short of laughable.”

    Point duly noted. Howard actually said:

    “Yet there is nothing unlucky about their continuing indiscipline. You would have thought the penny might have dropped after the suspensions of Gervinho and Alex Song from the league opener at Newcastle.”

    I actually didn’t say that this statement was “bribery-connotated.” I said that it appeared “to refer to money changing hands,” and considering that the only other statements Howard made about money in the article related to Arsenal spending money in the transfer market, it would seem to me to refer to that.

    What do you think it means?

    I’m going to continue my response in a separate comment because this is getting too long.

  • bob

    Phoenix Gunner,
    We definitely share a lot of common ground, albeit up to this point. I take issue with how you frame the residue as “a far cry” from “authoritatively posing a concerted effort by other clubs/managers/FA/refs/media to “get” Wenger.”

    Well, just how “far” is this far cry?

    Imo, the space between our putative financial interests and the on-the-ground operatives you list is occupied by intermediaries such as – and, I’d argue, most essentially – the PGMOL.

    This said, would you deny that Micky R – whose Ascension/ Appointment was made (as you know) directly on the limbs of our being kicked off the pitch at Old Toilet – may well have at least the means and/or the motive and/or opportunity to influence/or act in tandem with a certain set of senior refs to tilt a pitch against Arsenal’s interests? especially when doing so might serve other highly favored interests?

  • Anne

    @Phoenix Gunner:

    “It’s designed to provoke, irritate, frustrate, anger. The language matches appropriately – vicious, threatening, etc.”

    I’m glad that we agree on at least this much.

    “I realise that somewhat paradoxically I am part of the problem here, by causing friction which leads to debate, and comments etc – a necessary evil to expressing disappointment, I feel”

    So, generating debate on the subject of the reasons that Arsenal players are so often injured is your idea of a “necessary evil?”

    Whereas Howard’s use of “vicious, threatening” language directed at Arsenal and Arsene Wenger is normal media behavior and not “evil” at all?

    “@Anne – your comment of ‘I fully agree that this article is highly speculative in many ways’ is very relieving to read – I just wish the whole article had a bit more of the same epistemological humility.”

    I generally consider our readership to be responsible adults of above average intelligence. I trust them to recognize that an article is speculative without my needing to spell it out in advance.

    I didn’t write the article with “humility” because I think my interpretation of Howard’s statements is correct. However, I also didn’t write the article in a manner that was intended to mislead anybody into accepting my conclusions. I left all the questions open.

    Obviously, you were able to recognize from the article that it contained a lot of speculation. I imagine that our other readers were as well.

  • Phoenix Gunner

    @Anne,

    *ALMOST* mass hysteria – see, that is the difference between saying something absolutely, and not saying something absolutely, that you fail to grasp… I did not call you insane at any stage. Any besides, you have hardly merely argued that “Arsenal players are being deliberately targeted for injury”. Your arguments have been explosively larger than that point. I would never have objected if you had stopped there. Surely as a student/practician of law you appreciate the important nuances of language?!

    Shot to pieces, shot to bits, no difference whatsoever. Both mean he is tired. Yes, both could mean he is tired due to having been injured recently. I don’t think that’s what it means, however. Even if it does, it’s a bit of a moot point. I’m just saying, that language isn’t violent in itself.

    Yes, I agree with your interpretation of those Howard phrases. I don’t think he’s a particularly good journalist, frankly. I think he is merely doing the tired old “Arsenal don’t know how to rest their players, poor training” etc, and I think it’s probably a simple case of over-reading into it.

    OK, you didn’t say it was bribery-connotated – but to take that extremely common phrase to have a hidden meaning of either kind is still just… silly, for me (and I really do think, bordering on hysterical). I think it means what it says – “you think he would have realised by now” – he’s simply trying to keep his style colloquial in line with the probable average reader.

  • bob

    p.s. in a real sense, I hypothesize that the PGMOL is a conveyor belt between anti-Wenger higher-ups and its on-call set of referees [such as, for one example, the chronic adjudicator of our pitch fate, Mike “The Dean” Dean]?

  • Anne

    @bob:

    I’m glad to hear that Arsene rates this season as one of his best. I agree, and I’m extremely proud of both Arsene and our players for their performance this season.

    Trophies be damned 🙂 Despite the CL trophy, if I was a Chelsea fan, I would be ashamed of that trophy because of the way it was won (talking specifically about Benfica here). But I’m proud of Arsenal.

  • Anne

    @Phoenix Gunner:

    “I think it means what it says – “you think he would have realised by now” – he’s simply trying to keep his style colloquial in line with the probable average reader.”

    “You think he would have realized” what by now?

  • bjtgooner

    Anne, a facinating second article. I did notice that at the season start the AAA and parts of the media including both press and tv all seemed to be singing from the same song sheet. They conducted a major effort to undermine Wenger, destabalise the club and demoralise the team.

    The continuous severe fouls (or thuggery) suffered by our players would also fit into the scheme of demoralising the players. One could consider these multiple fouls to be resultant from the desire of the opposition teams to win at all costs, however, the pattern of repetitive fouling on our players would suggest a much more organised campaign. It would appear someone, aided by the PGMOL and press had (and probably still has) it in for Wenger and Arsenal.

  • Anne

    @Nicky:

    “Three words in the article I’ve never seen before “injury prevention programme”.

    As one who has long believed that Arsenal’s longterm injury list, year by year, is totally unacceptable, I wonder if there is something lacking in the Club’s “prevention” policy.”

    Yes, Howard seems to be wondering the same thing. My question is, what did he mean by it? Because his article doesn’t say anything at all about “what the combined medicos and coaches have devised to prevent injuries.”

    And I’m not saying that that necessarily means that Howard meant anything nefarious. Just that he deliberately left the meaning of the statement open to interpretation.

  • Phoenix Gunner

    @bob – yes, I think the ref world stinks too, and needs to be over-hauled to a transparent system (which at the core would be video reffing). And the reason it won’t be over-hauled is because of corruption, probably starting at Blatter and working its way down. It’s very sad, and I have considered ceasing to be a football fan due to the obvious abuse of power.

    And yes, Wenger (hopefully) almost certainly won’t play ball with any of that. And it will probably cost us in some circles (particularly reffing).

    “Too far” is tying all the parts (refs, FA, opposing clubs – let’s remember, Arsenal aren’t even one of the Big Two anymore, so surely they have bigger things to worry about – media) together without any evidence. Simple as that.

    I think I have made plain my view that we are the unpopular kid in class and we are getting kicked while we are down from many angles. A large part due to Wenger’s refusal to conform. But is there a teacher telling the other kids to kick us? I doubt it. There doesn’t have to be. They’ll do it on their own.

    That said, I don’t object to a different opinion on that (I don’t agree, but don’t object). I merely object to the presentation of the opinion, if done in the manner of these articles.

  • Anne

    @bjtgooner:

    Glad you found the article thought-provoking. That was the idea. I agree with your comment completely, and really don’t have anything to add. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Phoenix Gunner

    @Anne,

    “So, generating debate on the subject of the reasons that Arsenal players are so often injured is your idea of a “necessary evil?”” – I think you have misunderstood me on this. I am saying that I do not wish to encourage UA to publish its own form of (in my opinion) sensationalist articles, and realise that by commenting myself, I am probably encouraging just that.

    Again, your articles do a good deal more than generate debate on why Arsenal players are injured so often. I haven’t seen much attention to any reasons other than targeting. I don’t think that’s the primary focus of your articles as you keep claiming.

    OK, I understand what you are saying re: your readership can make their own minds up – but leaving a question open is one thing – presenting the information in a leading manner (“the most logical interpretation is”… etc) is another. Your work has authority just by virtue of being posted here. It is part of the site’s culture. Ultimately, I don’t blame you – you’ve obviously worked hard and mean well – but I think it’s uncautious of the editors here.

  • bob

    Phoenix Gunner,
    I find this statement of yours, far off base:
    “let’s remember,” you say, “Arsenal aren’t even one of the Big Two anymore, so surely they have bigger things to worry about – media”

    Well, No. As you well know and applauded the article I linked to which lays it bare, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal are the threat of a good example – that is, the threat of a good Counter-Example. A third place finish (The Great Turnaround) helps us to maintain our threat. A second place finish (in any season)would Trumpet our threat, and be a clear-cut Victory of the model. Do you think that the Mancunians and their financial and media minions actually don’t see/feel this?

    PG, to wit: I think that at the start of last season, there was a serious, concerted and organized attempt(s) – that were echoed and reverbed in the media – to drive us into relegation, split the fan base, pressure Arsene to resign, get the board to dump him in a panic move, deny us future CL success, make us a pariah with respect to future signings, make us shameful to our own players, etc. Such is the perceived and actual threat (as you note) of Arsene Wenger’s counter-model.

    The book is yet to be written on this (so far) failed campaign; but to say on automatic pilot that there are no worries on high (or in the media) about where we finish is, imo, a complete misreading of the football landscape (and of the lengths that its powers will go, in a coordinated way to maintain their grip).

  • Phoenix Gunner

    @bob, fair point, though I didn’t say “no worries”. In any case, I don’t find that key to my actual argument concerning credibility. I feel like my debate with you is almost tertiary to my point surrounding not the subject matter of investigation but the premature publication of “results”. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not argue over a topic which I am mostly in agreement with you (based on what I have read) and ultimately is one of only theories (hence my entire complaint) . It’s not particularly value adding.

  • bob

    Phoenix Gunner,
    I have a last thing to say (for now) as well:
    I wouldn’t say “ultimately [it] is one of theories” but one of which of the theories is better. Which of them accounts for more of the available evidence to date than another. And in the absence of the smoking gun, it’s not hard to sit back and demand that only a smoking gun (in whatever form) is an acceptable standard of truth. As we see, we’re dealing with intentionally concealed data here, and there’s not enough to “settle” the debate.

    Anne has put a microscope on a text and finds something out of the ordinary. You claim that it’s media business as usual. And of course we must dueling with our hypotheses in the interim. But Anne’s right to say that it’s the questions we ask that turn up possible evidence that will not be turned up unless the question is asked.

    She interrogates Howard’s text and finds a palpable disturbance in the force; you interrogate her method and find that it’s what’s disturbing the force, and claim she has turned up nothing. This is an old debate about methods.

    For my tuppence, she’s turned up something real – a potential – that’s well worth keeping in play. To you, she’s overstated her tentative findings by not being humble in her style of assertion, and you turn your back on the reality of that potential. (A potential is something real, in my epistemology.)

    Then with your eye on what a supposedly neutral arbiter would think about the ref reviews – the BBC in your example – you ask Tony to reconsider running Anne’s piece which might embarrass us and lose us a chance to get BBC backing. With my eye on the BBC, I see no neutral arbiter in them, or out there; but regard them as part of the problem, having shown documented anti-Arsenal bias at various junctures – and in the critical de-stabilizing beginnings – of this remarkable season.

    I can see your concern for the politics of appearances and do find merit in it. I also concur with Anne’s concern in trumpeting a potential fire where there’s been smoke, and that is well worth calling attention to – even loud attention.

    I hate sounding like there’s a golden mean, and that I’m invoking it, but I do find that it’s worth keeping both concerns in play; this because the aim of bringing about positive change and fair results on the pitch is what I think we, as Arsenal fans and truth-seekers all actually want.

    As for our debate, which are “tertiary” in Your “results,” for the moment, are there’s no coordination of the slings and arrows that come Arsenal’s way, until absolutely proven. That’s as much an act of faith as the opposing theories that say they are coordinated and intentional.

  • ARSENAL 13

    nice article….

    Last season NewCastle game, Diabys sending off.

    After reading your article, now i see a clear pattern. I hope you are not correct………I cant stand the thought of the future of our young guns being crushed by the weight of media, finace combo.

  • Shard

    @Phoenix Gunner

    I find your points quite fair to be honest, and worries about Untold’s legitimacy being compromised are also not baseless. BUT..The whole point of a site like Untold is (or should be) to be able to say whatever you THINK. The idea is to think. Who cares what the BBC will say. Their MOTD and some of their articles say where they belong anyway. It’s a case of do you say what you THINK might POSSIBLY be occurring and risk alienating the masses (most of whom either don’t care or are not intelligent enough to think for themselves anyway), or do you wait and keep plugging away in the hope that some august institution will take up the good fight? I was hoping for the latter, but as of now I think it’s useless to wait for someone in the media to step up. They are all businesses first and foremost and the EPL is their (and others’) cash cow. They will not move against it in any form. Not even for a big one time scoop. Not when they can regularly claim EXCLUSIVE along with every other paper for something as inane as a transfer, and continue making use of the privileges the clubs offer them. What incentive do they have to look deeper at anything?

    Anne might be totally off track on this issue. Yet there is nothing wrong in bringing it up. I said I had a feeling Chelsea would win the CL after they somehow overturned Napoli in the second leg. And I also felt AVB’s sacking (or even hiring for that amount of money in the first place) had something to do with it. That IS a ‘conspiracy theory’. What’s wrong with that? The only reason fans like us have to resort to conspiracy theories is in an attempt to make sense of something that is just insane. The media coverage of Arsenal and Arsene personally, were unprecedented in sport according to me. The referee nonsense has been going on for years and despite giving them the benefit of doubt for the longest time, I have no option but to reach the conclusion that it makes more sense that they act according to a script. The confusion over the rules of football is created and cultivated by the media, the FA, the Premier League, the PGMOL, and UEFA and FIFA where no one knows what the rule actually is, or who the enforcing authority should be. Who pays whom to do what is unregulated, with virtually every issue arbitrarily handled on a case by case basis.

    As for the ‘injury prevention programme’.. Like nicky.. I have never heard this phrase used in football. Have you? (Honest question) It is odd, and what exactly do you do to prevent injuries? Although Arsenal do seem to have a lot more injuries than other clubs, I partly feel that is also down to Arsenal being a club that actually cares about its players. Rosicky, Vermaelen, Walcott, even Wilshere all had very ‘rare’, genetic injuries. Is that unfortunate? is there something wrong in Arsenal’s medical or training process, or are these conditions RARE because they are RARELY reported by clubs? Maybe most o these issues are masked by drugs (legal or illegal) at the cost of players’ long term health. It doesn’t matter much anyway if you can just move the player on after a few years at whatever financial loss.

    Following Merson’s claims, Arsene Wenger has challenged anyone to come out and say that he has ever told someone to get an injection without consenting to it or being told what was in it.Contrast that with Owen Hargreaves and his contention about ManU forcing him to play when he couldn’t even run in warm up, and if I recall also using some experimental treatment on him. Is that also part of the ‘injury prevention programme’? It might lead to one of your players missing a drugs test, and one not going to the World Cup, but it might be worthwhile. Again..Another conspiracy theory for you to chew over. 🙂

  • anatra

    @Anne Nice one! I’ve been thinking about this since the “famous” Newcastle game a year or two back. By punishing our players with nonexisting fouls they all seemed to drop their confidence. It had been obvious for a while even before that game but at the moment Dowd gave that silly penalty on Rosicky (?) it was like they all exhaled whatever stamina they had left.
    You are also right about the thing with our defenders backing away from Lucas. If you don’t feel you can trust the ref to be fair I would certainly back off as well. Eboue comes to mind. That strange penalty against him in a game (I can’t recall against what team) when he was accused of pushing the opponent player in the back. He fell like dead wood and of course they got a penalty.
    If these things continue to happen, you don’t feel protected by the ref and you get freak calls against you, it would be strange NOT to loose your confidence.

  • bob

    Shard, Anne, Phoenix Gunner, All,
    So, here’s a thought about the game behind the game:
    To cull two statements from our commentary, I find these reasons why “coincidence” appears to be football reality:

    (1) “virtually every issue arbitrarily handled on a case by case basis” (from Shard, above)
    (2) “we’re dealing with intentionally concealed data here, and there’s not enough to “settle” the debate” (from bob, above)

    So, imo, in the current context of EPL refshite, for people to demand smoking gun evidence and absolute certainty as PROOF is: either (A) “ignorance” (that is, an ignorance learned through habit and repetition, instilled by inept schooling and a bent mass media); or (B) “mendacity” (that is, a knowing strategy to demand absolute proof when you [those who demand such proof] are party to witholding/concealing that evidence from public inquiry.

    To end this, here’s two more relevancies to chew on.
    (1) First from Chuck D, who knows how to ask a sports question:
    “What is game? Who is game?
    Where’s the game in life behind the game behind the game…?”
    (2) Second from the good book, which prescribes that we’d do very well, thank you, to heed: “the evidence of things unseen”

  • bob

    p.s. Oh, and lest I forget: as the Good Lord said (after having created Don Fungus): Let there be light. (Amen, y’all.) 🙂

  • gar

    have to say alot of this talk of ref protected hitmen and coaches orders reminds me of the so called ‘bounty hunting’ scandal in the NFL that many of our freinds accross the atlantic will be familiar with. I feel there are direct comparisons to be drawn within the EPL as if a sport such as american football with what, to a cornishman at least, seems to have a much, much tighter regulating body can have a cash incentive given to certain players for DELIBERATELY injuring a fellow professional in an unholy ‘bonus’ scheme operating under the radar for so long there simply must be some form of it within football. Why else would the Bartons and Davies of the league be able to earn a living as a football ‘player’

  • Phoenix Gunner

    Not that you have explicitly said I have, Bob, but to be clear – I haven’t demanded a smoking gun – just, as you rightly say, that the assertiveness of the message matches the strength of the evidence. Whilst I certainly think it’s a reasonable request, it seems it is more important for me than for the community here and this will obviously be a point which I stand alone on (though firm in my convictions). I am but one user and I’m sure I won’t be missed.

    I don’t agree that it requires equal faith to judge that Arsenal is generally bullied by most parties in football, as opposed recognising to a central force that is orchestrating everything wih remarkable levels of detail, particularly (and I note this is something you have not ever touched on, Bob) with the goal of getting us to spend our cash in the transfer market. I agree that both require certain levels of faith but do not agree that they are equally far from a starting point of zero.

    Shard, if the site’s aim is merely free-thinking, then fine. I had thought given the large areas on club history and a quantitative analysis of refereeing bias that the site was also attempting to establish a level of credibility. If that is a secondary goal, so be it. I don’t see why (if the writing is considered and measured) they need to mutually exclusive, but apparently they do.

    If there is no ultimate objective to get the message out, given that the level of suspicion is so high that there is absolutely no trusted channel, then I have clearly misunderstood the point of inquiry here. When you do have your “smoking gun” one day, it will be a bittersweet experience, for you will have no-one to tell other than the people that didn’t need convincing, and you can only turn your back on football quietly.

    As an aside, I believe Arsenal’s injury prevention programme is referring to the club’s method of monitoring players as they approach the “red zone” in terms of over-playing. I don’t know all the methods incorporated, but I understand AFC have two statisticians involved in the measurement process. Certainly, it’s not going to stop intentional leg breaks, but it might help alleviate repetitive stress injuries. I’m not an expert by any means.

  • bob

    Phoenix Gunner, Anne,
    I haven’t explicitly (yet) endorsed (for whatever my endorsement is worth) the linkage of a “let’s injure them” decision to a “spend in the transfer market” threat. The reason that it IS plausible to me is wrapped up in my stated view that AW/AFC have represented the THREAT – especially with even a SECOND PLACE FINISH – of standing as a good counter-example to the EPL/PGMOL/FA status quo. This, again, is evinced in the 2009 landmark (imo) interview that (as I repeatedly cite above) AW gave in the lions’ den to the top reporter-stenographers of the Times of London (Murdoch) and Daily Mirror. Those words – a manifesto – constitute a broadside against the status quo.

    So, in this context, I can see (as a working hypothesis) that a decision had been taken (at some stage, even over time) to threaten AFC with continual (actual or threatened) injuries in order to pressure (by UNCARDED attacks as well as veiled media hints) to (A) either adopt the preferred massive expenditures in the transfer market (the basis of the zillionaire owner model vs. the sustainability model) or (B) to step down in some state of disgrace (hounded out by the media and a co-opted part of the fanbase).

    Yes, PG, I can see (would hypothesize) this threat as being real, and as part and parcel of an undeclared but de facto shadow war as I’ve described it above. As you won’t hypothesize this, you are left with your attribution of an unorganized, widespread hatred for all things Arsenal, presumable stemming from the original sin of going Invincible ( — until Riley, yes on someone’s puppet strings, intervened, and let them kick us to bits, uncarded, and to the rabid delight of the brainwashed-to-witting rabble at Old Toilet in the most incredible display I’ve seen to date – on a football pitch – of mass cynicism in action).

  • bob

    gar,
    The difference is that the commissioner of the NFL, to its/his credit, is now taking now serious punitive actions against this bounty-hunting, now that it’s undeniably surfaced to public attention. He’s even doing so against a vociferous minority of the fanbase and some players. We’ll have to see how far it gets. But the bounty-hunting never was an open public secret; as Anne’s hypothesis suggests may well exist (through this past season) in some not low-level sectors of EPL/PGMOL.

  • Notoverthehill

    Anne, keep up the good work!

    Journalists and sports editors have to sell newspapers, right? You have pointed in the right direct in a past article regarding the sport editor of that Murdoch “newspaper”. I would suggest less emphasis on the reporter, and more on the slant of the story. If I may be so bold?

    A very well-known footballer in days gone bye, was considered an export at “hacking”. Kicking the opponent’s shin to great effect! When ever a new player entered the field of play, the old pro in the opposing side would ensure that the newcomer was dumped into the terraces, at the first opportunity. A badly bruised leg muscle, a sead nerve would show who was who and what was what.

    The laws of the game are exercised by the match officialsand ALL participants in the EPL have a copy of the rules of the game. The game has changed dramatically and completely different from the 20’s to the 80’s in the last century. Players like Gary Neville are encouraged to “rough up” and “shake up” any player who thinks he can play football within the laws of the game! Tony Adam was no different and let the opponent know he was in for a bruising encounter.

    IF the leader of the PFA does not monitor his members and sanction his members when abusing the laws of the game, then cheats prosper. IF the leader of the LMA does not reprimand the Spurs manager for impugning some unknown mangers of tax evasion, like Rednapp, thus bringing the LMA into disrepute. IF the EPL leadership cannot unilaterally abrogate these two bodies and any existing agreements, then charlatans win.

  • Notoverthehill

    MEA CULPA!!!

    Remember to check before sending. “expert at hacking”, we did export the game and hacking it is true!

    “a dead nerve” and not “a sead nerve”!!

  • bob

    Anne,
    Not to call a time out, but rather a celebratory pause to put an exclamation point on the bold spirit of your close textual reading. For that I re-offer this – with due thanks to rantetta’s archival passions and ageless historical memory – and for the sake of (ahem) Stoking our collective visual literacy:

    Behold, the seminal EPL crime scene, a pre-calculated injury to the spirit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM747L9Wf8M

    Surely retroactive wanted posters ought to be put out for the evident perpetrators in this movie.

    Oh, and kudos to Frank Rizzo, who has exposed UA readers to the “succulent lamb” label: a super turn of phrase that’s been affixed to bent Scottish sports “journalism”, noting how it has fed off duly-protected Rangers.