Anyone who has read any my previous rants on Untold Arsenal may know how much I hate common wisdom and clichés, especially illogical ones. But boy, football pundits and fans love clichés. They can’t have enough of them. Somebody, usually somebody (considered to be but not necessarily) important, says something about the game and the next thing you know, it is being repeated like impeachable fact all over the mainstream media and the Internet. Mark Holmes of Teamtalk.com is one of the very few people in the media who usually takes a step back and questions the orthodoxy. If you have the time, check out his Monday Moan articles. I don’t always agree with him (he is a Stoke City fan) but he is intellectually honest and is never timid about going against illogical populism. Most of the rest of the football media, unfortunately, are lazy, mediocre and dishonest hacks.
At the peak of our injury crisis this season, well-meaning Gooners were asking, out of frustration, why we have so many injury cases. Some were coming up with hypotheses on the causes. Walter wrote several pieces on the topic and his final conclusion ended where I have always been on the issue: we get so many injuries because we get kicked a lot due to poor to no protection from the referees. Even cases of relapse occurred because the injuries happened in the first place. Walter, an unpaid writer for a mere fans’ site did a comprehensive and data backed investigation. Our traditional media on the other hand were going with their guts and using innuendoes and stereotypes.
Arsene Wenger was asked about the injuries and he said that the club would investigate the causes. The media blew up and Arsenal fans nearly burned their keyboards with chants of “told you so, even Wenger is now going to investigate the causes”. I would laugh at the naivety being shown if not because the matter is not a funny one. So, Arsene Wenger, who revolutionised diets of Arsenal and brought many innovations that elongated the careers of players like Tony Adams needs to be prodded at press conferences to “investigate” the cause of a problem that he has been having over 5 years? Why not just call him a clueless moron while at it?
What Arsene did is called throwing a bone which UrbanDictionary.com described as: To be rid of unending attention seeker. The media weren’t interested in the reason why Arsenal have lots of injuries; they were just harassing the Arsenal manager based on the latest concerns of Arsenal fans. If they were really interested in knowing the causes, they’d do what Walter did.
The same thing happened a few days ago when Mertesacker was asked if he thought our heavy losses to our rivals caused us to lose the league. First of all, how was he supposed to answer?
“Nah, they are not that vital in the in the final analysis”? He says that and he’d be crucified. Arsenal fans would ask for his head and the club would be mocked for not taking the losses seriously.
When public office holders are asked questions about failings of their departments, they never say that their system is great (even if they are) and what happened is just an anomaly. If they say this, the outrage merchants, who never saw anything wrong with the said system before the problem surfaced, would be up in arms asking for “heads to roll”, for “resignations to be tendered” and other pitchfork wielding stuff like that.
When facing the public after things have gone wrong, representatives of major organisations would give the types of responses from Per and Wenger. They would just throw the media a bone. You hear stuff like: “we take full responsibility for what has happened and we’ll a have a review of our system and make all the necessary adjustments”. You see, the public love to hear this even if no one ever asks again about the promised reviews and changes once the outrage has died down. Case in point, when was the last time that anyone talked about the cause(s) of Arsenal injuries since Arsene threw them that “investigation” bone?
Some, if not many, of our fans seem to be unaware of this tactic from high profile individuals. Mertesacker’s comment: “The early away games killed us this year. Hopefully we can learn from that” is now being cited as EXPLICIT verdict on why we have lost the league. It isn’t. When one of Liverpool or Man City win the league, would anyone be talking about them being beaten home and away by Chelsea who are only likely to come 3rd?
Below is the top 4 mini league:
Played Win Draw Lose Points GD
Chelsea 5 1 0 16 11
Man City 2 1 3 7 1
Liverpool 2 0 4 6 -1
Arsenal 1 2 3 5 -11
Like Mertesacker, I agree that our position here is poor and we must ensure that we do better away to our rivals in future. Conceding 17 goals in 3 games is embarrassing and every effort should be made to ensure this never happen again. I also agree that the points that we lost in this games are PART of the reasons why we lost the league. Where I differ on this issue is in the conclusion that this is the MAJOR reason why we lost the league.
Just before the 2013/14 season kicked off, I wrote a piece titled: “How Arsenal Can Win The League” and in there I projected that if we win all our games against the bottom half team, home and away, we’d get 60 points. If we beat all the next 5 teams at home and draw them away, we’d have another 20 points. That’s 80 points. Then whatever we can get against the remaining top 5 teams might just be enough to get us across the line.
We have done very well against the bottom 10 teams and if not for some questionable officiating (e.g. Aston Villa at home and WBA and Stoke away) and injuries (Swansea at home and Stoke and Everton away), we might have done even better.
We lost points, net of my projections, to:
Aston Villa at home, 3 points – (officiating)
WBA away, 2 points – (officiating)
Everton at home, 2 points – (I blame no one for this)
Everton away, 1 point – (injuries)
Man United away, 1 point – (injuries and sickness)
Man United at home, 2 points – (I blame no one for this other than timidity and fear of losing)
Swansea at home, 2 points – (injuries)
Now, other than the scandalous nature of our losses to the top 3, I don’t really see what the hullaballoo is all about. Was anyone thinking that we were really going to beat all these teams away? I am not saying that it is impossible; I just think it is an unrealistic expectation. I have always recorded zero for Arsenal in these games and any point gained would have been a bonus point in my book. I am more upset about our home draws to Chelsea and Man City where we lost 4 points than the big losses away to them but ironically I am not hearing many complaints about the former. Why can’t the complainants just concede that they are upset about our embarrassing away losses rather than making them the major reason why we lost the league?
Looking at the net points that we dropped and the points deficit that we have against the eventual champions, we can see that with just 8 more points, we would have been alright. Seven could have done it but we need 8 due to our comparatively low goals difference. In my opinion, it is much easier to make up those 8 points from any of the combinations from the list above than from beating the top 3 away from home. It is for this reason that I believe that the MAJOR reason why we lost the league is because of the points that we lost to lower teams.
Again, which is easier for this Arsenal team based on our form this season: beating Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool away (9 net points) or beating Aston Villa, Everton and Swansea at home (7 net points) and drawing Man United or Everton away (1 net point) to make the 8 point deficit? If you agree that it is the latter, then shouldn’t those lost points be the MAIN reason why we lost the league?
If in a mathematics GCSE examination, a student lost 13 marks on ratio & proportion (D/C grades), simplifying expressions and index laws (E-B grades) and also lost 9 marks on transforming graphs (A* grade) and vectors (A* grade). If the student ultimately failed to get her desired A grade in the exam by 8 marks, could we say that the student mainly got a B grade because of the higher grade questions she missed or because of the far easier to get lower grade questions she missed?
I rest my case!
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal