By Tony Attwood
Ten reasons why I remain sweet and serene in relation to Arsenal and don’t want Wenger to leave was published this morning.
And so the other side of the coin. The ten things that make me really, really, totally flaming mad and red faced about football.
1: The personal view leading to the “therefore it is clear and obvious”
Stating a personal view, or a belief, without any clear evidence that can be countered by other clear evidence, doesn’t then naturally lead to conclusions – but that is what people do. Bloggers do it, journalists do it, pundits do it. For goodness sake guys, this is what dictators, rabble rousers and maniacs have done across the ages. Do you really want to follow in their footsteps?
Try this one.
“It is clear that Arsenal have been going backwards over the past five years. Bearing this in mind there can’t be any doubt that it is time for Wenger to go.”
I think I learned not to confuse fact, supposition and wishful thinking in a science class when I was 11 years old. What happened to everyone else’s education?
It is not clear that Arsenal have been going backwards because no incontrovertible evidence has been put forwards to this effect. I can put forward some fairly persuasive evidence to the contrary but ultimately it remains a matter of judgement not fact. Therefore anything that follows is supposition, not a matter on which there can be no doubt.
2: The seeming ignorance of the concept of evidence based reporting, and the genuine belief that opinions and fact are interchangeable and of equal merit.
It is quite clear that the Caucasian race – the white folk – are aliens from another planet and should therefore be exterminated.
The tragedy is that of course this argument has been used seriously against races and religious creeds. It is dangerous, and needs to be countered.
I don’t know if debate has always been like this, or whether people are no longer taught the difference between fact and opinion in school or at university, but that seems to be where we are. When I venture into the world of comments on this site (which I try not to do too much since I know I have all the chance I need to put forward my views in articles) it is mostly to point out that an opinion is being cast as a fact.
I don’t mind opinions, as long as people make it clear that this is there opinions and don’t try and draw conclusions from the opinion that are then presented as fact.
3: Ignoring the evidence that is out there.
Take the most obvious – that alone among the refereeing bodies in European football, PGMO is closely allied to the League it operates in, rather than being separate. It is also a highly secretive body.
Plus the fact that the organisation employs a limited number of referees so that clubs can often get the same ref six or more times a season.
That is a set of facts and I can present evidence to back that up. Of themselves the facts shouldn’t cause panic or dismay, but they allow us to ask highly reasonable questions such as,
- Why is PGMO, alone among European refereeing organisations, so close to the League it serves?
- Why does it have so few referees?
- Why does it adopt a mode of refereeing that seems different from the rest of Europe?
- Why does it not engage in debate as it once suggested it would do?
- Why does it put out statistics about the accuracy levels of the refs in the PL which seem extraordinarily high, and above the levels in other countries, and then when challenged fail to justify them?
- Why does it pay its referees £50,000 hush money in return for a guarantee that they won’t comment on their work after they retire?
And yet it is very rare for the media to ask such questions, and it is left instead to an independent blog like Untold to ask. No wonder we get over 6 million page views in a year.
4: The assertion that Arsenal is not making progress.
Life is complex, and so are analyses, so saying that because Arsenal won a couple of doubles and had an unbeaten season in the late 20th early 21st century, is simple.
But in all analyses and comparisons you have to compare like with like. I can tell you two things that have changed enormously since those triumphs.
One is that before we had one club that was obviously more affluent than Arsenal – Man U with its fortunes earned through entering worldwide marketing in the 1950s, at a time Arsenal were forgetting how to win anything. Now there are others – Man C and Chelsea for example.
The other point is the stadium. The payments are still continuing on the bank debt – although they are easier to pay because we have more money from the second round of sponsorship deals. But there is no way our sponsorship deals will ever come up to the level of Man U, any more than the input of money will ever meet that of the owners of Man C (Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan and the People’s Republic of China, in case you have forgotten).
To have stayed in touch with Man C, Man U and Chelsea is huge progress, because the ground rules have changed.
5: Yet it remains debatable whether Wenger ever learns from his mistakes.
That was from an article in the Guardian by Paul Wilson “Arsenal fans wanting Arsène Wenger out is no surprise with club treading water”
“It remains debatable” – well yes I suppose it does, but it is not a very good debate, because quite clearly Arsenal have been successful in paying off much of the stadium debt (something several papers predicted at the start of building might be very difficult and could lead Arsenal into a financial graveyard, when the deal was announced). And quite clearly we have won the FA Cup twice in the last two years.
And we have brought in players of the type we would not be able to buy before.
It is debatable but the debate is sterile. More interesting is how much we have closed the gap on the other clubs that launched themselves towards the top of the league after Arsenal via untold wealth – Chelsea and Man City, and how we are doing vis a vis the old enemy Man U.
The fact is that whether any manager learns from his mistakes is debatable. I am not sure it is a very good debate but it is a debate.
A better debate would be, why have the papers that suggested Arsenal might struggle to pay their debts not gone back and analysed why they were so wrong, and perhaps apologised for scare mongering.
6: To stand still in this business is to go backwards, and in the important aspects of competition – ie, not the FA Cup – Arsenal are standing still.
Some problem, same answer – and actually it comes from the same article. Arsenal managed to stand still in trophy terms while paying off the stadium debt and are now moving forwards again. But removing the FA Cup from calculations is silly. Ask Man U fans if they would like to have won the FA Cup in the last two years. Or Tottenham, or Chelsea, or Man C.
Making up rules about what you suddenly don’t include in order to make Arsenal look bad is just silly. In the past two seasons there were six domestic trophies on offer. League, League Cup, FA Cup. Arsenal won two, Chelsea two, Man City two.
So we have gone backwards by building the best ground in the country and winning the FA Cup twice running?
That is so ludicrous in terms of fact and logic I don’t know how to answer it any further.
7. Arsenal are not getting anywhere.
OK, then nor were Tottenham for the last 20 years, nor are Man U now. I might be wrong but since 2010 I think Man U have won two trophies. Two trophies in five years. Yes they were both League titles, and that is jolly good – better than Arsenal if you see the League that way, but if that counts double, let’s do this one. In the last two seasons Man U have won zero. Arsenal have won two. Liverpool have won one trophy since 2006 – they League Cup but they are endlessly talked up.
So we are not talking about standing still, we are talking about going down hill. Liverpool were the dominant force until 1990 and then it all slowed down. They still won things, but slowly it has slowed down.
That should tell people something. No club stays at the top for ever. Liverpool’s run was remarkable, just like Arsenal in the 1930s (our run only interrupted by the war). The issue then is what happens next? How long do clubs take to recover when something gets in the way?
With Liverpool the answer is … we don’t know, we are still waiting. With Chelsea, we don’t know. But what Arsenal has done and what Liverpool and Chelsea utterly failed to do – the first with their enviable trophy record, the latter with their billions of pounds – is sustain a presence near the top throughout the rebuilding. Ask a Liverpool fan about decline, and take a look at their league position. The years of being 6th, 7th and 8th.
Staying in the top four is worth a monument – a trophy is not enough.
8: A simple event becomes an earthquake.
Earthquakes change the world. So do volcanic eruptions. So do solar flares hitting the earth. But losing a match doesn’t. Paul Merson said Wenger should go if Arsenal failed to beat Hull. That is so stupid I don’t know where to begin.
9: Changing times and dates of matches.
I can’t actually read what I am supposed to be doing this weekend, I’ve crossed football matches and dances out of my diary so often. All they have to do is show every league game live on TV and every FA Cup match from the third round onwards, and pay the clubs the money they get. Then we’d know in advance when the games are on and can make arrangements.
10: Changing the subject.
My final bleat; consider this. One of the people who regularly do me the great honour of offering me an article to publish on Untold, spends ages researching and writing, and sends it in. I publish it, and within 15 minutes someone is starting a comment under it about something quite different.
I’ve even had people who I’ve asked not to do this, writing to me and saying, “Why shouldn’t we change the subject if we want?”
I don’t think I can even bring myself to answer that. It must be time for a glass of Merlot.
The Untold Books
The latest Untold book is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with a Foreword by Bob Wilson, available both as a paperback and as a Kindle book from Amazon. Details of this and our previous and forthcoming titles can be found at Arsenal Books on this site.
- 10 March 1992: 700th game for David O’Leary. Arsenal 2 Oldham 1 – but only 22,096 turned up. Merson and Wright scored.
- 10 March 1993: Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 2. League cup semi final 2nd leg. Cup match 13 of Arsenal’s cup double season. Linighan and Wright scored, 28584 in attendance.
- 10 March 2001: Arsenal 3 Blackburn 0, FA Cup 6th round. Wiltord, Adams and Pires scored – all within the first 36 minutes.