By Tony Attwood
If you occasionally read my ramblings on Untold you might know that I get just a little fed up with what journalists say about Arsenal, Arsenal management, Arsenal players, and Arsenal fans.
Everyone can have an opinion of course, but when there is nothing but opinion and not a single back up fact or analysis in sight, it becomes more than tedious. And I start to wonder why journalists do this. Why knock Arsenal and Arsenal players and Arsenal management and Arsenal fans over and over and over again, all the time?
Why go on and on and on and on and… well, you know, on the same subject. Of course you could say that to me about why I write so much about the press, but at least I will have the decency to tell you – it is because there is evidence that they, along with radio and TV, define how football is seen by millions who are not as lucky as I am to have a season ticket, and indeed a front row seat, to watch all Arsenal home games.
Take this in today’s Guardian. It is by Owen Gibson, the Guardian’s chief sports correspondent and it was written in the aftermath of the France Romania game…
Giroud, in his final league game of the season against Aston Villa, was barracked and booed by the Emirates crowd yet scored a hat-trick. He scored in the victory over Bayern Munich yet ended the season with Arsène Wenger desperately crossing his fingers that Jamie Vardy says yes to a move.
Is there the slightest shred of evidence that Arsène Wenger desperately crossing his fingers that Jamie Vardy says yes to a move? If there is, I have never seen nor heard it. I have indications that there are several new players being lined up, but “desperately crossing his fingers…” is not much of a way of running at £345m business. It suggests gross incompetence, and if that is the view, let’s have some evidence.
It is in fact denigrating to the man who in the last couple of years brought through Iwobi, Coquelin and Bellerin, and who secured the services in recent years of Alexis and Ozil, and who managed to pluck Elneny from his former club at what now seems the most ludicrously cheap price. It is in fact insulting, and an apology would not go amiss.
But why would the top dog in Guardian sport write like this? We came second and scored just three goals fewer than the champions. If such a result has you desperately crossing fingers, then it suggests you are not much of a strategist and have your faith in old ritualistic gestures.
Now I was at that game against Villa, of course, and I can tell you from my seat at the front of the Upper East I could hear no barracking at all. None. Now the Guardian’s review of that game was written not by Owen Gibson but by David Hytner, who said in passing, “Olivier Giroud was barracked by sections of the home crowd”.
I didn’t hear or see any of that but if it were true then at least Hyter said “sections of the home crowd”. What sections and how big they were we are not told. This has now transmuted into “ was barracked and booed by the Emirates crowd”. Not a section, but the whole crowd.
What I noticed about that game was the relief at Giroud’s first goal, and then nothing but shouting, dancing and excitement as Newcastle started their demolition of Tottenham, which of course many were following on their phones. Believe me, even in the refined quarters of the upper East, it was mayhem. I was having to shout to my neighbours to make myself heard. Yes, there were the odd quiet moments in the first half, but I heard no booing.
“Sections of the crowd” can of course be half a dozen, or maybe the 100 or so people who have turned up with Wegner out banners. The fraction of one percent of the crowd – not the 10% that the Independent invented in its review of the match with the Wenger Out protest.
So why make this stuff up? Why change the report of the game by the man who was there, and twist it into something else?
At least the Guardian admits the Giroud did score 24 goals last season, so I suppose we should give the Guardian’s chief sports correspondent a pat on the back for that reality amidst his strange fantasy world.
To be fair there is even a grudging acceptance in the article of the value of Giroud…
With Giroud, who has scored seven goals in his past seven games for his country, it is as if the normal order is inverted. Deschamps possesses so many lightning-quick, fleet-footed attacking players that it is the old-fashioned striker who provides something different. For all his talents, and leaving aside the fact that his absence over the convoluted Mathieu Valbuena sex tape affair had little to do with football, Benzema arguably offers more of the same, whereas Giroud is able to give his team-mates someone to play off.
Now there is a lot of strange writing there. Benzema could get up to five years in jail over accusations that he encouraged Valbuena of Lyon to pay blackmailers. To reduce the case to a “convoluted sex tape affair” is to do justice to no one and nothing. To say it has little to do with football is only right in one technical sense. In terms of who represents a country it has everything to do with football. Where do you draw the line with people representing a nation? Could an extortioner, a thief, a blackmailer, a con artist… well I suppose in an era when the Guardian like other newspapers gets all excited by the world cup, refuses to blame the FA for financing Fifa with tax payers money (a significant amount of the FA’s cash being a government grant), while hardly covering the latest outrageous allegations about the new incumbent, yes I suppose that is what you expect.
There are moments of grudging acknowledgement of Giroud in the report, such as
Perhaps his finest quality, alongside his eye for goal, is simply his propensity to keep going. As the second half wore on and France started to live dangerously it was Giroud who continued to plough a lonely furrow and lead the line, finally getting his reward.
At the end Giroud is perceived as a man who “bitterly divides opinion” but there is no sense of this in the hatchet job on Giroud the player. The only thing that is bitter is the writer, who to be fair, mentions the seven goals in seven but doesn’t expand on that point. Most countries would love a player who could score seven in seven.
The linking of Giroud with the wild and unsubstantiated allegations about the crowd’s actions in the Villa game, when if there were to be a criticism of the crowd en masse it would be that when Newcastle were 2-1 up and Arsenal 1-0 up there was near silence in the crowd as we all clung to our seats unable to believe that it would happen again.
What we should also have realised is that “it happened again” is also a good way to portray how journalists generally write about football. They take an entrenched idea, and sweeping aside all evidence run it again and again and again.
Here are Giroud’s figures – and do remember, having the league’s top scorer in the team most of the time does not guarantee coming top of the league.
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Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
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