By Tony Attwood
There is something strange about the way the media treats the Arsenal. Like the Telegraph giving a rating of Arsenal player performances in the game and giving everyone seven out of ten except Ozil with nine, Alexis with eight, and the two central defenders with six.
And why? Well, we don’t quite know. They are just numbers, take it or leave it. I’d have given Ozil 11 out of ten, just for making me feel so happy in the stadium last night. I enjoyed the build up to the game in the pub with my mates, I enjoyed my pint of beer, and the walk to the ground, and (unless we lose) I enclose the chatter on the walk back to the station and the train journey. That performance last night added something extra.
I guess this is why so much football journalism seems so far out of kilter to me – because football is watched by fans for whom the game matters very much, but is commented upon in the media by people who like to consider themselves experts, and as such objective, beyond the passion and engagement.
They long ago moved away from the original notion of football reporting (that of telling us what happened) but that is what they did at the start. If you want to see how the press started out reporting football we have a transcript of the Arsenal v Newcastle game from 1893 on the Arsenal History Society site.
Now almost everything is criticism, with just the occasional game seen as being of high skill.
So even when someone takes a picture of the players in the dressing room after a game this is a chance for criticism as with the Telegraph’s headline “Rio Ferdinand criticises Arsenal’s celebratory dressing room picture saying: ‘Wait until you have a trophy’.”
Most of these guys have won a trophy – the FA Cup. Some have won the World Cup. But it is not just the ineptitude of the comment that grates, it is that the comment is unnecessary, because the people who makes comments like this have by and large simply never been supporters in the way that myself and my friends who go to the Arsenal are – the quite probably the way that you are.
In fact they don’t actually know what support means. In their desperate attempt to have an expert opinion (be it delivered in the eternal “5 Things We Learned from…” articles or pontificating on TV) they totally lose any sense of what football is about. Support.
Because without us, there would be no show.
Yes the guys could go on and play on the local playing fields, but that wouldn’t be quite the same.
Supporters are the essence of professional football, and yet we are treated like ignorant prats who can be patted on the head as some sort of funny group of schoolchildren behaving in odd ways.
In one sense it used to be a lot worse – both the clubs and the media treated us with contempt. Now I don’t feel that Arsenal treat me with contempt – I think they have made great moves towards recognising who and what we are in recent years. (It’s not perfect, but it is a lot, lot better than it was in, say, the 1970s.)
But the contempt and disregard has been taken over by the mass media who somehow see us as strange little beings who can (along with the game we love) be manipulated for their own profit.
Filling up mass column inches in newspapers and hours on TV and radio with “experts” telling us that our team is rubbish, is the cheapest way of getting by, for the media. But there is never the slightest indication that any of the people involved actually know what it is like to be a supporter; people to whom the outcome of a game really, really matters.
It doesn’t have to be like this of course. Although there are many blogs that ape the style of the newspapers and the approach of TV pundits, there are others that do seem to me to reflect the view of real fans. Indeed I like to think that this blog does that, given that it is written by people for whom each Arsenal result really, really does matter.
And yet there are thousands of blogs which write their “Arsenal fans will be worried that…” approach as if somehow they have gained the ability and the right to interpret what is going on in ours heads.
One thing I can tell you for certain is that much of the time I’m not at all sure what is going on in my head – so how the hell do they know?
So I come back to the marks out of ten for Arsenal players. Ospina got seven out of ten. So what was he supposed to do to get ten out of ten? He conceded none. He didn’t make any absolute mistakes, as far as I can see. For me, as a fan, he got ten out of ten.
This is typical of the huge disconnect between the media who want to analyse and speak for us, and the real fans who live on a completely different planet – the planet where football is not a way of making money, but a way of passing time with friends, a way of generating great excitement, a way of feeling happy or sad.
The commentators strip all of this out of the game and leave us with an “analysis” that is so far divorced from my experience of each match, that they could be talking about knitting.
Occasionally someone gets close in his/her writing, as with David Fifield today in the Guardian saying, “This team is irresistible.” But much of the time, they don’t have a clue.
Recent tales from Untold and the Arsenal History Society