Recently Arsene Wenger called for the media to be held accountable for what they say on television and write up in newspapers/articles. One can imagine his frustration, considering how some of them get away with saying pretty much anything they like with no logic or evidence to back their claims.
Prior to the Manchester United game, there was a Sky reporter who incessantly questioned Wenger about Ospina and why he played him ahead of Cech. In one of his questions, he asked,
“Do you accept that when you look at your squad in the summer and you think you only need to strengthen in one area, which is the goalkeeper, and when it comes to a competition in the Champions League that you want to improve upon, that you don’t use the guy that you think improves your squad, that the fans will be frustrated and angry. Do you understand that?”.
To this Wenger responded,
“No, not at all”.
Wenger’s response was backed with stats, unlike the reporter, who had clearly not done much research on Ospina. He had the most number of clean sheets (8) last season, post January, barring Mignolet (9) and had the best saves /goal ratio (3.18), bar none, which is why Arsene Wenger showed faith in playing Ospina.
Arsenal’s recent downfall has been lack of consistency throughout the course of the season, primarily due to injuries, which generally results in one half of the season where they underperform and another half where they are extraordinary. This has happened over the last two seasons, which is probably why Arsene Wenger is rotating his squad to minimize injuries.
Now, was Ospina the sole reason why Arsenal lost against Olympiakos? Absolutely not. Ospina committed 1 error which lead to a goal, while Arsenal conceded 3 that night. Clearly there were other people who did not do their jobs. Yet, Ospina was made the scapegoat. This is what is described as “Sensationalism”.
Not too long ago, Harry Rednapp accused Mesut Ozil of “nicking a living” and that he wasn’t worth “two bob“. Similar accusations have been leveled at him by other pundits, accusing him of not being worth £42m.
Again, stats indicate otherwise. Mesut Ozil has created the most number of chances (87) in the calendar year 2015 in the EPL. In the 2014/15 season, he created more key passes/game (3.1) than any other player in the EPL, including Fabregas, Silva and Hazard. If that is not worth £42 million, then what is?
Similar accusations have been made of Cazorla and Coquelin. Gary Neville has been harping on for some time now about how Arsenal cannot win the league with both of them in midfield and branding Arsene Wenger as “arrogant” for persisting with them.
Neville called for buying a Vieira-esque strong midfielder, for Arsenal to stand any chance of winning the league. Yet, stats tell a totally different story. Cazorla and Coquelin combined, not only provide ample defensive cover, but also ensure they provide enough drive/creativity going forward.
Arsenal have the best defensive record in the EPL, since Coquelin and Cazorla have been paired together (since January 2015). Also, Santi Cazorla along with Mesut Ozil have created the most number of chances in the EPL this season, after Dmitri Payet.
Keeping these stats in mind, it would make for much better viewing, if Neville highlighted how and why a Toure or a Vieira-esque midfielder can have more of any impact over people like Cazorla and Coquelin. I can always highlight a Xavi or a Busquets and say how Barcelona/Spain won titles without a big strong midfielder in the team. As a pundit, you are expected to back your theory with some level of extensive analysis, otherwise there’s no difference between a pundit and some guy voicing his opinion on Twitter.
Just to conclude, I don’t mind criticism of Players/Managers. They earn a lot of money and deserve to be held accountable. However, the criticism should not be entirely baseless. Pundits and journalists are also well paid and must be accountable for what kind of information they propagate. There is an increasing tendency by the media to go by perception and/or personal bias and not look into underlying facts.
Michael Owen being a prime example. His dislike of Arsenal is quite apparent. For the last 3 seasons he has been saying Arsenal will finish outside the top 4 and every season he is proven wrong. Yet, he continues sharing his expert advice as a football pundit. Talk about “nicking a living“!
This kind of lazy/uncompetitive journalism also ends up sending the wrong message to the fans. A lot of vile abuses that are hurled at players on social media are a result of fans reading/viewing inaccurate assessments by misinformed and biased journalists/pundits. I had shown in one of my previous articles how Giroud had one of the best conversion rates last season and yet he was touted as a miserable failure by the media, which incited a lot of fans to abuse him on Twitter.
Then you have some celebrity fans like Piers Morgan, who just add fuel to the fire, continually criticizing Arsene Wenger, while having no prior knowledge/experience of how to manage a football team. While it may be difficult to regulate articles/content published by the media, I at least hope fans exercise a certain amount of caution while digesting all the content that is thrown at them by the media.