By Tony Attwood
I do take pleasure in the fact that over the years Untold Arsenal has uncovered a number of issues in football which, had it not been for us, would probably have remained undisclosed, at least for a while. Walter’s work on refereeing is a perfect example: a major step forward in the analysis of football.
I’m also quite pleased with this summer’s work, not only pulling together and exposing some of the make believe and fantasy tales of the media, but also the background work on why the media is as it is, using Dr Gray’s exploration of how newspapers got to be like they are, and the psychological work of Professor Stefan Stieglitz’ work on the psychology of rumour, and Jacqui Taylor’s work on the need for instant comment.
The newspapers have tuned into the basic human reactions that these academics have noted which and which Professor Stieglitz summarised with the simple rule: ““If people get new information that is in contrast to what they believe then they tend to neglect this new information for as long as possible.”
From all this one observation shines through: that once a media style and approach is rolling it just keeps rolling like a snowball going downhill, picking up everything in its path.
By way of example, consider this headline from the Independent last weekend.
Everything you need to know about the 2016 Community Shield
As headlines go it wasn’t very snappy or exciting; every newspaper is currently running “Everything you need to know” headlines. The stories are generally short, and utterly lacking in interest. But this one took us on a particularly interesting route. This is how it went, from the very start.
“The last – and only – occasion when Leicester City won the Community Shield was in 1971, 45 years ago. Double winners Arsenal were unable to attend due to a lazily planned pre-season schedule meaning FA Cup runners-up Liverpool would face Second Division champions Leicester instead.”
I kid you not, that is the opening paragraph. A community shield story that had nothing to do with Arsenal, and was played in 2016 opens (opens, mark you) with a piece about Arsenal 45 years ago accusing Arsenal of being lazy in its planning.
“Everything you need to know” however is not only wrong in the sense that I can’t see how you need to know about Arsenal in 1971 (with of course zero evidence to back up the claim of “lazy planning”, but also because there are a few things worth knowing about the Community Shield.
One could for example talk about who has won it the most of these games (Man U – 17 wins, Arsenal 13, Liverpool 10, Everton 8).
Or one could ask “why did it change its name from the Charity Shield?” That’s quite interesting, as is the answer, for in an absolutely damning ruling in 2002, the Charity Commission found that the Football Association failed to meet its legal obligations under charity law, by failing to specify what money from ticket sales went to charity, and in delaying (sometimes by inordinate amounts of time) payments to the charities nominated. Normally organisations that cheat on charities are forced to wind up – the FA got off with a warning and the competition was renamed the Community Shield. Arsenal were the first winners of the renamed Community Shield with a 1–0 victory over Liverpool.
But it is from such writing as that in the example from the Independent that the bloggettas take their lead, as with the story running today on the Daily Cannon with the headline: Arsenal fail to strike a deal over another player – report.
This is in fact a story about Debuchy not going to Galatasaray, a club that never said they were going to take him in the first place. Thus the old game: cook up a rumour, then blame Arsenal for not being able to see things through. “Galatasaray are the latest club to reportedly pull out of signing Mathieu Debuchy,” is the second headline, creating a negative out of non-existence.
It is rather like Donald Trump. If you heard yesterday’s speech you will know what I mean. He said, that “Hillary Clinton created Isis with Obama” and then repeated the accusation against the President five times. (Of course I am not comparing the seriousness of what Trump is doing with what little boys in attics do with bloggettas, but the style and approach is the same).
Of course all websites and newspapers write headlines to attract readership, but in both football and politics this has now gone to levels not seen before. Take this one
Breaking: Arsenal’s £21million target undergoes medical and signs five-year contract
This comes from www.fastonetwo.com and is followed by
“Arsenal target Jese Rodriguez has left Real Madrid to join Paris Saint-Germain in France. The 23-year-old was linked with a possible move to Arsenal or Liverpool according to reports in England and Italy.”
Of course one or two of the reports are about players coming in (allegedly) such as Fresh Football’s Deal Close: Arsenal Expect To Announce£20million Signing Before Friday which tells us “Arsenal will try to push through a quick deal before the opening Premier League game with Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi topping the wanted list, Jonny Evans of West Brom is also a surprise target.”
I am not sure that Evans is much of a surprise given that all the papers and bloggettas have been having that story running for weeks and weeks.
But mostly, the headlines are just there to mislead. “Agent confirms Arsene Wenger has reached an agreement for transfer of attacking midfielder” takes us to “Arsenal attacking midfielder Kelechi Nwakali will leave the club on loan, agent Allwell Nwakali has confirmed.”
This far into the transfer window the papers are getting desperate, with the Daily Star now quoting O Jogo (which translates as The Game) whose banner is “Jornal diário desportivo que segue toda a atualidade desportiva com independência e rigor jornalístico” (which is to say “Daily sports newspaper that follows all sports today with independence and journalistic rigour”) to the effect that Islam Slimani, an Algerian forward who plays for Sporting CP “wants to join a top Premier League team this summer.”
Thus there is no thought that the story is true, and if it were true, that the player wants to go to Arsenal, or that even if he does and his club want to sell him, Arsenal want him.
We are now in fact at the “Five Steps From Reality” boundary – the measure of how likely a transfer rumour is to be true. These five steps are
- Arsenal want the player
- The player wants to or is willing to move
- The player’s current club is willing to talk
- A price can be agreed
- The player passes a medical
When none of those conditions is met we are indeed Five Steps from Reality.
Elsewhere just to finish off the fun, “Arsenal have set their sights on Robert Lewandowski and Antoine Griezmann, according to reports.” That is in both the Express and the Sun.
Anyway, let’s end with Football Whispers, which I mentioned the other day – supposedly giving a algorithm to let us know even more accurately than the Five Steps, how likely a transfer is to happen.
A certain amount of credulity in the site has been removed by the fact that they are showing that Arsenal has a grand total of one transfer this summer so far. Thus we may be cautious about today’s rankings out of five.
|Chart position||Player||Club||Whisperisation factoid||Last week|
|3||R Mahrez||Leicester City||3.6||4.4|
|4||J Evans||West Bromwich||3.6||3.2|
|5||A Griezmann||Atletico Madrid||3.3||1.8|
|6||K Benzema||Real Madrid||3.1||2.7|
|8||M Icardi||Inter Milan||2.2||3.4|
|10||J Rodriguez||Real Madrid||1.8||2.6|
Dropping out from last week, Draxla and Morata. But do remember: they just make it all up.
- Arsenal Ultimate Fan Experience: executive box for a PL match and pitch-side access beforehand.
- Tiny worries: how things might not be working out perfectly for Tottenham
- Arsenal 2016/17 – how will the season pan out for Arsenal, twitter and the media
Two Charity Shield Anniversaries (for the full list of today’s events see the home page)
- 11 August 1979: Arsenal lost 3-1 to Liverpool in Charity Shield. The crowd of 92,000 was Arsenal’s highest ever for a charity shield game. It was also Arsenal’s first appearance in the Shield since 12 October 1953.
- 11 August 2002: 23 years to the day after Arsenal played Liverpool in the Charity Shield, Gilberto Silva played his first competitive match for Arsenal after the usual pre-season tour against v Liverpool in Community Shield. Gilberto scored the only goal. For context see here.