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October 2016
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How the media twisted Arsenal v Swansea and Liverpool v Man U

By Tony Attwood

Most people who watch Premier League matches do so on TV – and the TV companies make much of this.  Back in the early part of the 21st century Man U v Arsenal games were hyped as the “most watched on the planet” and Sky spoke of global audience of 1 billion.

Of course the numbers are fantasy and the fact that the talk of Liverpool! v Mourinho U being the biggest game on the planet with an audience of 900m in the Telegraph doesn’t mean numbers are down.  They are all made up anyway.

But because the majority of people watching the PL watch via TV, how the media presents the games is important, and clearly has a huge impact on how newspapers, blogs and bloggettas then report the game and how those not at the match feel the game has gone.

This struck me with the Swansea match, for having watched it in the Ems, last night (having got utterly bored with Liverpool and Man U) I turn the live game off and watched the recording of the game which Sky show for Saturday matches at 10pm that evening.

What struck me in watching the hour long showing was that there was only one off side event shown, and no commentary on the fact that there were a lot of offsides.  Indeed I wished I counted them.  There was also considerable booing as offside after offside was waved – and I wasn’t really sure all of them were right.

Of course the TV companies would argue that offsides are boring so why show them – I would argue, because it was an inherent part of the game and there were so many of them.  It is Swansea’s new tactic.  And Swansea through using them, are boring.

So as far as I can see anyone who used that TV programme as a way of getting a feel for the game would be thoroughly misled.

I thought of this again as I turned back to the Monday night game – played on Monday night because it involved two teams that have in the past year have proved themselves (again) not to be good enough to be in the Champions League.   A strange recipe for the biggest game on the planet.  Presumably bigger than the Champs League final then.

But watching the opening, and then the end I had a real déjà vu experience, and realised that I too had been wound up by the hype.  I was watching this in the expectation of excitement, but I know full well (because I know a little of football history and stats – especially the stats that the media like to hide) that much of the time games between these two are games with only one or two goals in them.

The media made much at the end (by way of excuse) that you had to go back to Mediaeval times to fine the last 0-0 between these two, but failed to mention that four of the last nine games involving them have ended up with neither side getting more than one goal.  Now with this result it is five out of ten.

Here’s the list

Date Match Score Competition
01 Sep 2013 Liverpool v Manchester United 1-0 Premier League
25 Sep 2013 Manchester United v Liverpool 1-0 League Cup
16 Mar 2014 Manchester United v Liverpool 0-3 Premier League
14 Dec 2014 Manchester United v Liverpool 3-0 Premier League
22 Mar 2015 Liverpool v Manchester United 1-2 Premier League
12 Sep 2015 Manchester United v Liverpool 3-1 Premier League
17 Jan 2016 Liverpool v Manchester United 0-1 Premier League
10 Mar 2016 Liverpool v Manchester United 2-0 UEFA Europa League
17 Mar 2016 Manchester United v Liverpool 1-1 UEFA Europa League
17 Oct 2016 Liverpool v Manchester United 0-0 Premier League

Want a prediction for this match?  Only one goal.

The game did have another interesting stat – in terms of possession Mourinho United had the lowest percentage (35% possession) in a PL game since 2003.   Quite possibly earlier – we only have statistics from 2003.

There were four shots on target in the entire game, again making this probably the most boring PL game in a number of years.  Mourinho said after, “How many shots on target did Liverpool have on target today? Two. Two shots on target with 65% of possession, you have to be critical of Liverpool. It is their problem, not our problem.”  Actually they had three.  Man U had one.  I think that is both team’s problem – and Sky’s.

Of course part of the problem for the TV companies was that their build up of this being the biggest game on the planet since the Neanderthals took on the Proto Humans in a game of inter-species integration, they were forced to ignore Mourinho’s recent bad form…
  • Lost to Man City
  • Lost to Watford
  • Won against Leicester
  • Drew with Stoke
  • Drew with Liverpool
They also chose to ignore Man U’s goal scoring, which currently runs at just 68% of that of Arsenal and Manchester City.  But hey, who needs reality when you have infinite hype?

Even Sky’s website had a problem of what to say and eventually came up with

  • De Gea makes two fine saves
  • Zlatan misses best Man Utd chance

The Sun called it a “drab night at Anfield” while the BBC called it a “a goalless and uneventful stalemate on a disappointing night at Anfield.”

Of course Mourinho is always the great fantasist (he probably he still thinks he did nothing wrong vis a vis Eva Carneiro) and some of the papers lap this up as in “Mourinho hails Man Utd players for controlled performance: We were always comfortable” (Daily Express).

In the end it took the New York Times to tell it as it is:

An Anticipated Meeting Between Manchester United and Liverpool Falls Flat

 How true.

Here’s the league table

49 comments to How the media twisted Arsenal v Swansea and Liverpool v Man U

  • dws

    risky mentioning the champions league since arsenal having been proving for the last 20 years they are not good enough for it.

    probably best if you sticking to booing your own team and making banners rather than trying to offer an insight into something you clearly don’t understand.

  • finsbury

    Aunty Bleeb that kind old dear has tried to dress this turd up with bells and whistles:

    “Vintage Mourinho”

    Otherwise known as

    “Sh*t on a stick”, still the most accurate and concise description of a football manager who can spends half a billion for that. Whilst keeping the best footballer at the football club off the football pitch.

    Actually funny when you think about it.

  • Robido

    I too wanted to see what they made of those offsides perhaps the ref review may shed some light on it. There were a lot of important decisions. I thought most were right. The chap next to me thought they were nearly all wrong. It was a rollercoaster 20min but we had so much threat and should have scored a couple (a tactic to entice park the bus sides out of their half?).

    I recall the Barca goal that so riled us and roused the indignation of the crowd. Obvious offside but it wasn’t, thankfully we didn’t know that.

  • nicky

    I also watched part of last night’s so-called epic encounter. Too little though to form an opinion.
    My dear wife (for the last 68years) had commandeered the remote in order to watch her soap (for which I was thankful).
    I have to admit that last evening, the cobbled streets of Corrie had a clear edge over the green grass of Anfield.
    I never thought I would ever say that! 😉

  • Robert

    Gotta hand it to the Moaning One. He’s continued Van G’s work and, in the space of 8 matches, turned Man U into one of the most boring teams to watch. George Best would’ve been converted to a full back and sold for a pittance by him.

    Interestingly, the media are giving him much less slack these days.

  • Leon

    During the live match transmission the offsides were shown in slow motion replay and were all (as far as I can remember ) correct. Most of our good breakaways from defense ended this way.
    I suppose it’s a good defensive tactic, but it can get a bit tiresome.
    I don’t know why it was edited out of Sky’s recording. Is this the hour long edit? If so something has to go.

  • Manchester Airport good one. I used to like Mourihno but the guy just doesn’t want to take responsibility on anything, it always someone else’s fault. Blaming Liverpool for the draw when he had that much (so) called talent on his team it just laughable next week it will be referees fault.

  • Dammy

    With viewing figures apparently falling, Sky has no choice than to overhype the match. It was as boring if not more than Watford vs M’boro on Super Sunday. That at least had a goal. Mourinho is right in that L’pools 65% possession led to only 9 attempts at goal. That was poor even by LVG standards. As for Mou, he did what he’s best at- parking the bus away from home to a direct rival. It’s not easy on the eye but a proven tactic. Off to read another blog now about how Mou is a financially doped Tony Pulis. Fair assessment to me.

  • Pat

    Very nice article by Jonathan Lieu in the Telegraph, though, mainly enthusing about Ozil.

  • Mandy Dodd

    last night was up there with the most boring games I have watched in a while. Wonder what the Utd fans are really thinking?
    The plan was to have one of their own finest players after LVG, a man who did well enough in his brief stint in management, and would presumably be more inclined to play in a more usual style for Utd.
    But, led by the media, the Utd board lost their bottle, and what will eventually be seen as a costly car crash was bought into existence.

  • Goonermikey

    After 15 minutes of inept football a quick £20 on a most predictable 0-0. Result. That’s paid for my ticket and travel tomorrow 🙂

  • WalterBroeckx

    dws, I think you are on the wrong blog.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I disagree with the New York Time’s assessment that yesterday big game between Liverpool and Man Utd fell flat. I watched the match live on my TV from start to finish principally to see if Liverpool can overtake us from the 2nd spot in the table we are occupying by beating United with many goals. And I saw both teams played with passion to win the match. Liverpool’s attempt to overrun United with their high pressing game from the commencement of the match failed as United closed their charges down quickly and forced them to respect them.

    But midway through into the 2nd half, Liverpool appeared to have the upper hand in attacking prowess on United as United looked tiring. But de Gea twice came to their rescue by tipping over Coutinho’s audacious long range shot and also parried away a close range shot in the box to deny Liverpool. Just because no goals were scored in the match does not mean the game was drabed. No, it wasn’t a drab game but an active game played on the night.

    With all the match day no. 8 now concluded, Arsenal are effectively 2nd in the table but 2nd only to table toppers Man City by just 1 goal difference. However, Arsenal have the chance this weekend to become table toppers themselves too if they wallop Middlesbrough with as many as 5 goaks to nil at the Ems on Saturday. But we are now focusing on our Ucl match against Ludogorets Razgrad on Wednesday night at the Ems where I believe Arsenal with beat them by 4 goals to nil to top group A table and leave PSG to the 2nd position.

    I also believe Le Prof will start the same starting XI he started for our last Swansea game against Ludogorets. He won’t bench Xhaka for this match, would he? To do so will amount to killing Xhaka,s moral and spirit for Arsenal game. I believe he must have learn from his errors and the mistakes he committed in the Swansea game. And by that learning, he will play audaciously for Arsenal against Ludogorets. I think Coquelin can be brought on past the hour mark into the Ludo’ game to unwind from any rustiness he has and competitively test his knee’s strength in readiness to be started for the Middlesbrough game by Le Prof I should think.

  • bjtgooner

    The media unfortunately presents only what someone in the background wants us all to see – not just with football, but in current affairs, politics and major international events, hence the present attempt to muzzle RT and Wikileaks.

    As indicated above there were quite a number of offside decisions and they were not all correct – this is why the fans booed the ref and linesman. The ref report should illustrate this in detail. I have not seen the edited broadcast, only the full version, it would appear that ref incompetence/bias is, (not for the first time), being concealed.

  • MickHazel

    Correct bjtgooner.
    There were two off sides incorrectly given against us as I recall, both of which would have resulted in one on one situations with our player and the opposing keeper, so potentially important game changing moments in the match which could have seen us out of sight score wise had we capitalized on them.
    Why would you not show them in an hour long summary of the match?

  • Flares

    Eight games into the season and I’m starting to develop a theory on Mourinho at United: the job is too big for him. He looks out of place, somewhat small and oddly ineffective on the touchline and in the post-match TV spots. The shadow of Pep looms large over Old Trafford; the man they should have had, the Golden Child who chose the interlopers up the road. Jose is used to arriving with great hype and fanfare at a new club, but everything about his start at the Rags seems strangely subdued, as if he’s been swallowed by a whale and we can only hear his distant voice plaintively calling for sympathy from deep in its stomach. United were dull, pedestrian and devoid of pace and flair last night – only De Gea and some predictably boring park-the-bus tactics saved further blushes. I can’t see this lasting longer than a couple of seasons – City success in league or CL may hasten the fall, but this is already looking like a disaster in waiting.

    Couldn’t happen to a bigger bunch of c*nts, in my humble opinion.

  • Mike T


    I was told by someone close to the heiracy at Chelsea that to get the job at Man U he had to give certain commitments in terms of what he says in public in effect he is working at the moment with a gagging order and yes it was part of the terms when he came back to Chelsea in 2013 to a degree he was subdued till season 2015/16
    The person who told me this also made the point that it was down to image and the potential impact that the case with Dr Eva came to an abrupt end and the funding for the eventual settlement, did not come from Chelsea.
    There is no doubt that it will end in tears at some point for him at Man Utd and the pressure is on to a degree for he has Improve on LVG which will give him this season to sort out the squad but if he isn’t challenging next season , they won’t this, then he will be gone

  • Polo

    That’s why Arsenal’s and also ManC games are the best to watch, most of the time you can expect the game to be full of drama or excellent display of football skills, rarely park the bus crap.

  • Flares

    Comparison of Mourinho with LVG after first eight games:


    Van Gaal 16
    Mourinho 14

    Goals Scored

    Van Gaal 12
    Mourinho 13

    Goals Conceded

    Van Gaal 5
    Mourinho 8

    League Position

    Van Gaal 2nd
    Mourinho 7th

  • Flares


    The above was 2015/16 vs 2016/17 stats, beginning of the season.

    I just had the pleasure of reading a United fantasist on another forum describe last night as a ‘footballing masterclass from Mourinho’ and a ‘perfect away performance’.

    No goals scored, one shot on target and 35% possession. Yeah, absolute genius.

  • Gord

    Comparison continued

    The difference in points, goals scored and goals conceded are not significant. The best statement we can make is that there is no difference from last year in those quantities.

    League position is always a chance snapshot of ephemeral quantities, and only has meaning at the end of the season. A lot of the time, the actual order that a group of 2 or more teams has for a position of 1, 2 or some other high number is very much like trying to take a picture of a group of N atoms and asking which atom had a bound electron furthest in some direction.

    Hence it is easily possible that there is no difference between 2nd and 7th (with the season unfinished).

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Off topic – we have Dean on Saturday – sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

  • Usama Zaka


    PGMO already doing their best chuck trees in our winning path. Just when you thought Moss on Sat wasnt enough…

  • Josif

    The Moaning One now doesn’t accept official stats but apparently has his guy for stats. Firstly he doesn’t accept the possession stats and next thing you know he’ll be ripping his shirt and sliding his knee to celebrate his 1:3 defeat against Arsenal because his guy will oversleep goals from Alexis, Theo and Ozil.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Mr Dean on Sat….interesting, but alas in a game we stand a reasonable chance of doing well in, though there are the midweek exertions.
    Take it this should mean we do not get him against Spurs or Utd…..though there is always Mr Atkinson and Greater Manchesters finest to come

  • GoingGoingGooner

    You just know that Mourinho will do what he did to Liverpool to us and hope to hit us on the break. That doesn’t bother me as long as we are solid in back and don’t lose our shape going forward. We shall get our chances on goal and it will be up to us to convert them. Mourinho is very pragmatic but I am not convinced that he won’t drop a good many points to teams that don’t attack him. The same can be said of Tottenham. They drop a shed load of points because they draw too many matches.

  • bjtgooner

    So AW raised the expectations by advising the team to show the commitment necessary to mount a title challenge – the response from the PGMO – send in the ref with a history of screwing the Arsenal!

  • Florian


    At least one of the incorrectly signaled off-sides would have left Alexis racing towards the goal only with the keeper to beat. I have the recording, didn’t bother to look at the exact minute, but I remember the NBC showing the replay (which feed I believe is provided by Sky, only the commentary team is different), and they acknowledged that it was wrongly awarded to Swansea.

    Speaking of NBC, the Goal Zone recap after the Monday’s match didn’t have any highlights – or if they did, they must have lasted less than 10 seconds, because I was fast forwarding through the recording and I didn’t notice anything other than the score and the disgraceful stats. Klopp and Moronho had countless minutes of interview instead. It’s the first time that I can remember when they don’t show the match highlights. I’m starting to actually like Rebecca Lowe & Co.

  • Usama Zaka


    this one??

    Sanchez’s head looks jusssst offside. just.

  • Gord


    A long time ago, I meant to bring this up in referee training.

    Just what indicates offside? And I am talking very detailed and/or microscopic.

    If a person has an exceptionally big nose, does the tip of the nose being in an offside position make the player offside? If the person has long hair, and a tailwind is blowing the end of his/her hair into an offside position, does that make the person offside?

    There are a bunch of these. Holding one’s arm out (parallel to ground), big feet and so on.

    If I was writing the laws, I would “continue” the lower leg (above ankle) to the ground as a cylinder, and make the point of contact of this cylinder on the ground closest to the goal line as the location of the player. Which would completely ignore if a player is leaning over the line, big noses, long hair, outstretched arms and so on.

  • Flares

    Why do people expend energy discussing possible offsides/penalties after the event? This Arsenal side has enough quality in depth to win 30+ matches this season. It shouldn’t matter.

  • Menace

    I prefer the old offside Law which was 2 players including the goalkeeper between the attacker & the goal line in order to be onside. The current off side is any ‘goal scoring’ part of the body past the second last defender including the goalkeeper & in active play. It leaves so much to interpretation that one has to accept whatever is ruled on the field as being correct.

    The TV decides what to make an issue out of & then there are the pundits with their replay boxes that can make 10 minutes seem like a lifetime. The issue I have with all of this is the official can make or break a team. Walter will bear me out on this. Stopping momentum can destroy a flowing game just like pulling play back when a team has advantage.

  • Menace

    Incidentally – the 2 snap shots provided by Usama are at (fractionally) different times. The one timed 81.03 shows Alexis on side because of the defenders shoulder.

  • finsbury

    Mike Dean *gollum gollum* started his warm up this past weekend.

    A transparent charlatan (I’m trying to be charitable), this crow is certainly no Dickie Bird. Far from it.

  • finsbury

    He may be angling for a more juicy appointment later in the season. The cunning and clever master of subtlety that he is (Gabriel sending off), in a regulated sport he wouldn’t be allowed near AFC.

    There it is then. Why is this individual allowed anywhere near a pitch where AFC are playing? A simple question with a simple justification and also a simple answer!

    It’s the occasional application of the rules that match other PL standards that is the real giveaway. What are we to make of officials who appear to make up the rules as per their ‘game management’ eg elbows resulting in head injuries are allowed but a tap/kick which is a red in the same match.

    Bizzare. Erratic. Almost as if someone is just making up the rules as it suits?
    Simply remarkable. Like the stat comparing pelanties for first and second in the league last season. Like the strange and recent call by the broadcasters to stop replaying bad offside calls. So we remark upon it.

  • Gord

    On October 15 in Barry, South Wales, a referee was attacked about 20 minutes into a game. The game was abandoned.

    Both teams say that they did not know the 2 perpetrators and accomplices. But then again, whether they knew them or not you expect them to say they didn’t know them. It is the same as “He isn’t that kind of player”.

    It would seem quite likely that this was preplanned to some extent, as the two left the area of the field to enter a car driven by others.

    Or, that is my take on it.

    Apparently the moaning one, has been asked to explain some of his statements about Taylor.

    I would imagine this investigation will be just as rigorous as any the FA might do on corruption in football, and/or in the FA.

  • Gord

    In the Evening Standard, there was some Arsenal catering news.

    Apparently there is a “Sams Chicken” on Holloway Road. In an effort to alter their clientelle, they are going to start offering avacado fries and gourmet burgers.

    I gather one of the turning points, was some youth throwing a brick in order to get another piece of chicken.

    No word if any PGMO staff were hit by the brick, or even if any of the PGMO staff work at this food establishment.

    I guess they would have to be admin staff, as 😈 Mike Riley doesn’t hire people from London to be officials.

  • Robido

    Have man u under moronio morphed into Chelsea under moronio? Who was that team in blue?

  • Usama Zaka


    Yeah the second one looks onside. And creates more confusion.

    As Arsene Wenger said that video tech for offsides must be used, because they can be judged 100% correct mathematically.

  • Robido

    I am interested in this because if our chaps are making the mistakes and repeatedly being in an offside position we rely on mistakes by the lino to make the most of them and really should not have to.

    Am I shouting at the wrong guy. (I was lino one time when a player shouted to me that I was a f’in winker to which I had to retort at least I wasn’t the f’in winker who was offside).

    If we have done it right then we have done our job and have to accept that there are times linos can have a near impossible task. (Cricket line call videos show how things can change by the frame or blink of the eye.) Or they can just be wrong.

  • Robido

    It will help with the obvious errors but unless a more sophisticated method than freeze framing and drawing a line (often with cameras that are not best placed) is used it will not be 100%. The Alexis one shows that the situation can change in the time it takes to kick a ball.

    There will also be the interference issue like with Palace when it is arguable that if it wasn’t for the chap trying to head the ball it was an easy catch for the keeper.

    Rules of engagement would be necessary eg only the where a potential offside resulted directly in a goal needed to be reviewed.

  • Gord

    20 frames per second is fine for TV, it doesn’t work for things like reviews. Especially if the frames are interlaced. 100 frames per second is probably okay.

    More sophisticated algorithms are available.

    Not too long ago I posted a link to OpenHardware/OpenSource tpe work, on a camera that should be capable of this sort of work in the next update of its software. Or rather, it was capable of doing this at 1080p (I don’t think it was doing it at 4k).

    If Open methods are that close now, you can be sure that expensive systems can do it now.

    But, your replays on TV are probably doing stuff downmixed to 20 or 24 frames per second, and people posting snippets for analysis are largely wasting their time. It would be better if there was access to the original video.

  • Florian


    The first one seems legit, I can see the offside now. Not that it’s always been judged like this before (the infamous us against ManCity 3-6 some 2 seasons ago, Negredo was offside by half the length of a boot, Atkinson ignored it). But fair enough, looks like the assistant got it just right even though he was not ideally placed.

  • Florian

    Sorry 3 seasons ago. How time flies.

  • Norman14

    Not really relevant to this thread, but in the Southampton v Watford game, when Redmond got treatment on the pitch by the physio, Dean didn’t make him leave the pitch and re-enter. Is this a new rule – or is Dean just making it up as he goes along?

    We have Dean for the Boro’ game this weekend.

  • Robido

    I don’t suppose you know how many frames of contact there is when a ball is kicked, at the framespeed required for accurate reviews. If more than 1(which I suspect it will be) when is the offside to be judged.

  • Richard morgan

    Not unsurprising really though Tony considering sports review were calling Liverpool the form team and title contenders ahead of city Tottenham and us. The bit in same piece even stated Arsenal would suffer mid season collapse and therefore can’t be considered contenders. The daily mail top that by running their own computations and Predict final league table positions with Arsenal big surprise in sixth position. Then last night mr Michael Owen says we haven’t had a tough team yet though we have played 3 of last years top 8 then add Chelsea 10 Swansea 12 and Watford 13 respectively.ok technically Watford and Swansea are not top teams but they are mid table teams that are tough opponents. And Owens claim is based on we play Psg tottenham and Utd in November, however I would dispute the assertion that Utd are a tough team. I personally think 86 points plus will be needed to lift title this year and to be consistent 43 points at the halfway stage. At the end of game week 9 should we beat middlesborough which in all reality we should our points at the first quarter would put us on target for that half way stage target

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