There is nothing new about the media being negatively biased against Arsenal in their reporting of everything that the club does.
If we perform well, we get reluctant praise through gritted teeth, with compulsory caveat about us slipping soon. If we fail to win, especially from a winning position, it is always reported as a kind of calamity.
Jose Mourhino’s almighty Chelsea got dumped out of the FA cup at home from 2 goals up by a third tier team and the Manchester Billionaires also went out 2-0 at home to a 2nd tier team but apart from the well deserved praises that both giant killing teams got, the two most tipped teams to win the Premiership got away with little media criticism.
Neither Mourhino nor Pellegrini got any serious stick for losing to such lowly oppositions. The football press spent all their energy on praising Bradford City (most especially) and Middlesbrough for their feats.
On the other hand, I recall vividly the amount of stick that Arsenal and (more vociferously) Arsene Wenger got for losing 1-0 to Blackburn at the Emirates and via penalties, after a 1-1 draw, to Bradford City in the League cup. I think back to these and I cannot help but wonder how Jose Mourhino got away with it.
While Bradford might get praised to high heavens (and deservedly so), I just can’t see how Arsene Wenger would have received virtually no media blowback for capitulating a 2 goal lead to 2 goal deficit at home to a League 1 team. All hell would have broken loose. The mockery would have been widespread – led or encouraged, sadly, by our own aaa. BTsport would be producing their next pre-season advert using the humiliating footage right now. And so on, and so on.
The English football media have a clear negative bias against Arsenal and their hypocrisy is best epitomised by the coverage of the 4th place battle of this season. This season, the fight for the CL places has been described using positive adjectives. It is “interesting”, it is “competitive”, it is “important”, and achieving it has been described as “vital” while failure to achieve it has been described as “disastrous”. If I just woke up from a coma, I would think they are talking about something else and not the much derided 4th place trophy.
I know you might be wondering: “but what did you expect, the 1st place is already settled”. You would be right except this has been going on even when it was a 2 horse race before Manchester City’s inexplicable implosion.
In the past when it was Arsenal against teams like Tottenham, Everton, Newcastle etc with the Gunners always securing the position, the achievement was ridiculed. Ironically, the other contenders were usually hyped and we got told that pipping us to the CL place would be great for them. As soon as we secure the position though, the story always changed. We get mocked for celebrating a hard fought objective for which we were still unfancied in the last game of the season.
I recall McManaman at Newcastle saying at the beginning of the last game of the 2012/13 season that Tottenham would beat us to the CL place only for him to whine about our players celebrating after they’ve proved him wrong. It is one thing to complain about a team celebrating an achievement that you expect them to BUT how could anyone moan about celebration against a team that had just proven them wrong by achieving that which they said they couldn’t?
This season things have been different. The media have been reporting the fight for the Champions’ League places differently and it easy to see why.
Manchester United came from being champions in 2012/13 season to finishing 7th. They did not build a new stadium. They did not have a mass exodus of players of any kind. They had virtually the same team (+ Juan Mata & Marouane Fellaini). They were still the same financial juggernaut as they were the season before. Nonetheless, the champions dropped 6 places, ended the season trophyless and failed to qualify for any of the European competitions.
What is most interesting about the Man United crisis of last season is that it was caused by the singular most prescribed cause of action for Arsenal: manager replacement. “Wenger Out” is almost a trademarked term invented by the aaa and is frequently used whenever we fail to win (rival fans use it to mock Gooners when we win, exposing the fickleness of many Arsenal fans).
The media latched unto this meme and ran with it. Terms like “he is past it” are frequently used and before the last season FA Cup win, many were certain that Wenger will never win a trophy again. The campaign to have the manager replaced is not subtle and while the hacks may try to blame our delinquent fans, there is no doubt that they were goaded on and given platforms by the media.
Man United replaced Alex Ferguson with David Moyes, a safe choice considering the latter consistently finished around 5th to 7th in the Premiership with a team with considerably less resources. I am not going to bore you with how that ended but one must wonder how quickly things could have fallen apart for us if the Arsenal board had replaced our faithful manager as was being widely prescribed by the whiny faction of our fans and their media enablers.
There is little doubt that football fans are treated like idiots by the media but that is because far too many are stupid crowd following, cliché spouting lemmings. They take their cues from the media and run with it. With Manchester United and Liverpool fighting to get a CL place, all of a sudden it becomes important again. I wonder what they will say if either of Man United or Liverpool get the 4th place at the expense of the other and their players celebrate. Would they be mocked like Arsenal were in 2013?
At the time of writing, Manchester City just lost 2-1 against Crystal Palace to sit in 4th with 7-8 points separating them and the trio of Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton. Arsenal in 2nd are separated from 7th placed Southampton by 10 points.
While our position is fairly secure, anything can still happen in the remaining games. There could still be lots of drama as the season closes starting from next weekend when 3rd and 4th face off in a derby and battle royale for the 4th place ‘trophy’. A ‘trophy’ that was once derided by the media and rival fans (especially those of Man United) when Arsenal were the only ones consistently fighting for and winning it but which is now being seen by the same Manchester United fans as Arsenal fans do i.e. as an important achievement and one that must be consistently attained for finance purposes but more importantly, for top player recruitment.
It is interesting that as soon as securing 4th became the number one priority of Manchester United and Liverpool, it suddenly becomes important to the media. If they’ll only give credit to the team and manager who have made this achievement a routine now that they’ve come to the realisation that it is indeed a vital one.
I hope that the battle for 4th really goes to the wire and not settled until the last day of the season. Let’s see how the players of whichever team that secures it walk off the pitch and how the media report it should they do what normal people do after last gasp escapes or triumphs.