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The one gigantic question the football media refuse to ask, let alone answer

By Tony Attwood

Of course, we all know that what the media and the bloggettas say has nothing to do with reality when it comes to football, but interesting to note (returning, as I have, to England after 3 weeks in Australia) that the press have got a bit fed up with Arsenal bashing and so have gone elsewhere instead.

A major part of the media’s problem is that the whole Arsenal-knocking story is one that contains within it no comparisons.   If the story is “Arsenal have lost 1000 player days through injury in the last five seasons” we can’t judge it, not just because we don’t know if it is true or not, but also because there is no comparison for how many player-days other clubs have lost.  Nor any analysis in terms of the importance or otherwise of that player.  So we are left with statistics that might look shocking, but which we can’t actually analyse seriously – because there is no comparison.

And all that is before we get to the fact that no one asks “why?” any more.

In the press today we have, of course, “Claudio Ranieri sacked by Leicester less than a year after Premier League title”.  Shock horror.  But the “why” questions (and here there are two: why have Leicester done so much worse this season than last, and why sack Ranieri now) are hardly being touched upon.

The Guardian had a slight attempt in an article in which they claimed that “Ranieri had lost his grip on the dressing room” where “players had become frustrated and bewildered by some of his tactical changes and selection decisions, and the manager also seemed increasingly distant from members of his backroom staff.”

No evidence of course, no clarification of how the “increasingly distant” bit was measured.  And a lot of other bits in that story are so vague as to make the whole piece meaningless.

I’ve had a couple of bashes at answering the “why” questions – and of course my approaches are also without too much evidence, but my excuse is that Untold is run by volunteers nor professional journalists with access to a team of researchers and people whose job it is to get inside information.  But my point is that I might have got this wrong, but at least I had a go.

So my thoughts turned to the extraordinarily odd marketing machine that Leicester have, hidden away from the public gaze, doing deals in secret that don’t quite seem to add up.  Plus the fact that the summer was badly handled, in that players were given ludicrous contract extensions to keep them at the club for years and years at high salaries, in response to alleged bids from elsewhere which in turn were surrounded by contradictory tales.  Vardy to Arsenal?  Riyad Mahrez going to Arsenal (for £37m???)   Did we actually need either?   Given that we are equal top scorers in the Premier League, the answer seems probably no.  So were we about to buy either?  Probably not.  But the effect on Leicester was the worst – more money poured into players who were in the long term not as good as we had been told they were.

And the change in the way referees look at Leicester must be considered – although this is a complete no go zone for the media.  But I do think refs are treating them differently this season – not least with regards to shirt pulling as a prime defensive tactic.

So then the thought – if that were true, was it a reflection on the manager (I suspect not for points one and two, only for point three).  And yet the manager gets the sack.  An interesting thought – but not one reflected in the media’s woeful “analysis.”

Two weeks ago, while I was away, I read a story about Leicester’s directors giving Ranieri “unwavering support.”   The statement  mentioned the club’s success had been “based firmly on stability, togetherness and determination to overcome even the greatest of challenges”.

And now that turns out to be a lie.  What impact will that lie have on the recruitment policy of Leicester as it looks for a new manager – a man who will know that the original story was a lie, and that the players in the squad are tied into contracts that mean that they will have very little interest in leaving?

Plus, there is the fact that this is still within the season.  Only out of work managers can apply!  Who have they got in mind?  Quite possibly we’ll know by the time I finish typing this little piece.

But of course that is not the only story that misses the big “why?” issues.   Tottenham have been billed as the great up and coming team, the new dominant force in London and beyond.   It was also (at the time when I got on the ferry to start my day and a half journey home from Australia) when Tottenham were to be taking the bull by the horns and show Arsenal how it should be done in Europe by playing what must be considered rather modest opposition in Europe, and hiring Wembley stadium in order to do so.

What do I find upon my return, but a headline that reads “Tottenham fluff their lines against Gent and head for Europa League exit”.

Why did they screw up so badly – such a super team charging ahead in the Premier League against a team in 8th place in the Belgium league?  I don’t know because I am not sure anyone has done a serious analysis.  Certainly the “why?” question is notably by its absence.

I also note that “Spurs must wait until March 23 to discover if they can use full Wembley capacity next season” which is interesting.  Remember all the times Arsenal have been criticised for muddle and uncertainty, dithering and meandering.  And now we find Tottenham have not even put in their application to use Wembley yet, so they can’t actually confirm they are going to play at Wembley.  And why not?  Errrrrr…. I don’t know because none of the papers tell me.

Arsenal History Books on Kindle

The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle.  Full details are here.

Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without.   For full details please see here.

24 comments to The one gigantic question the football media refuse to ask, let alone answer

  • crispen

    Here goes… Why do you keep writing such good articles?

  • Doug

    Thanks Tony

    Another well considered and brilliantly written article. The media seem to think that the fans cannot handle the information as to why, probably because us fans would generate our own conclusions and not the script that has been written for us by these dishonest hacks. You might not have the resources of a global media outlet, but your articles seem more professional.

  • Dave Ingram

    If Wenger is so bad we must get rid of him why would all the best players leave when the supposedly better coach arrives?
    Or are we hoping Wenger leaves so we can get a worse coach?

  • Saadman

    I wonder why some independent blogs out there (like this one) provide much better analysis than top news media who pay their writers decent salaries to write very “insightful” analyses. Another brilliant piece of writing Tony. I always thought the way people look at things was inaccurate and the media is doing a shitty job at correcting them.

  • ossasa

    JM lost the Chelsea dressing room and was shipped out and now with Conte they may well win the PL. Leicester are the holders and I guess they are looking at the Chelsea model and hoping to bounce back. What is the problem? Not sure about the point re the Totts as they are above us in the league. Bit of a muddle this article. A question could be asked is whether Bellerin is considered a good fit for Spain. Interesting that Ozil, Sanchez and Carzola were all surplus when there.

  • Nate

    The problem is that most reporters seem to lose their minds in excitement the second news starts pouring in to try and be the first with the what. That race leaves no time to consider the why, and the reader certainly never benefits for it.

    That is why I tip my hat to Untold. Never afraid to ask why on this site. All of the negative comments can attest to the fact that you are certainly doing a great job. Please keep it up!

  • Norman14

    Welcome back Tony – and well done with this article. You can’t please some people can you? “No news” is Fake News, so the fact that there are no questions from the mainstream media, doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. You can find out almost anything if you try, but if you are a lazy hack, you just make something up.

    Other people say the strangest things. Like ossasa saying that Santi was “surplus” when in fact, his club were broke and needed some money PDQ. Ozil, and to a certain extent, Sanchez, were victims of regime changes at clubs where the turnover of players, even those of extremely high calibre, is very high. Besides, who has said that Barcelona want Bellerin? Oh yes, lazy journalists after a quick bit of click bait.

    Here’s another “why” question for the media: “Why was Alli given a red card for a tackle by a continental referee, when only 4 evenings previously, an English referee didn’t even give a yellow?”

    We live on in the hope that the investigation into “governance in football” will ask some tough questions, but we shouldn’t be holding our breath.

  • Zedsaunt

    The immediate questions to be asked –

    when do the media – including those journalists acting as shills for the EPL on BBC & Sky & BT Sports – start demanding to see the betting patterns for Leicester winning the title? the betting patterns for the sacking of Mr Ranieri 297 days later?

    when do they demand, on behalf of the great British public, including Leicester City fans who have been royally ripped off, the Football League and the FA’s ‘transparency criteria’ the FA and Football League use for ‘fit and proper’ administration of football?

    when do they demand an inquiry into the PGMOB use of a select few referees for the games Leicester City played from the run-in of the preceeding season and through the title winning season?

  • Jerry

    @Tony,
    Great article again! That’s why Untold is head and shoulders above the rest! Just to add a little about the Bellerin article in the Guardian, it also states that Ozil and Sanchez are unlikely to sign an extension, until Wenger makes his final decision.

    That’s something for those asking for Wenger to consider: if we lose Wenger, we will possible also lose Bellerin, Ozil, and Sanchez to start with.

    @ossasa,
    Your blind belief in fake news knocking Arsenal or limited global football knowledge is evidently clear in your comments stating Ozil, Sanchez, and Cazorla were surplus in Spain.

    In regards to Ozil, his final 2 full seasons in Spain, he was ranked 1st and 2nd in assists. Also look at the comments made by Ronaldo, Mourinho, and other RM players in regards to losing Ozil.

    In regards to Cazorla’s last Spanish season, he had the 4th highest Whoscored rating and also had the 3rd most MOTM performances (only behind Messi and Ronaldo) for the season.

    In Sanchez’s last season, he scored 19% of Barcelona’s (19) league goals (only Messi higher- 27%- 27 goals) and also the 4th highest in the league! He also started 27 of their 38 league matches (sub in 7 also).

    Those stats would never be considered surplus for any club. I wonder if you say the same thing about other successful players that left Spain- David Silva, Xabi Alonso, Diego Costa, David de Gea, Juan Mata, Zlatan, Thiago at BM etc..

    It is great to be able to think for yourself instead of believing whatever the media says.

  • ossasa

    Jerry
    Interesting that most of the players you mention are all serial winners and generally working with pro-active coaches. Your assist argument for Mesut is looking flakey as even Arsene is concerned with Ozil’s form and he has gone back to Germany with back problems. His assistance not currently required. Do you honestly consider Barca or RM to be selling clubs? Enjoy your weekend.

  • Vinay

    The “Why”when it comes to Arsenal is a never ending story. Why is there is such dislike towards The Arsenal by the british media? Why is Arsene Wenger and his achievements always demeaned? the list can go on. For me personally, it is just that the so called critics cannot fathom the fact that we are well run, independent, classy and have the morals that the others crave for. We may not be the most successful ones but we definitely are the classiest. The same applies to Arsene, the man changed the face of the premier league and instead of acknowledging it, they demean it.

  • Jerry

    @ossasa,
    All players go through bad patches, it’s the job of the supporters to actually support them to get back to form. The trip to Germany was approved by the club as him and other players were given break and he’s expected to play in our next match.

    But not sure why you’re mentioning his injury, when you were stating they were considered surplus in Spain, when the stats clearly show during their time in Spain, that you were just plain wrong. No one said they were selling clubs.

  • Thought so, we can twist Raniieri’s sacking into a reason to keep Arsene, ffs, and Jermry Corbyn will be the next PM..lol

  • Mandy Dodd

    Another great read.
    Why do the media love Tottenham so much…..it really is bizarre, there those who say the Spuds are nearly as loved as Liverpool…..surely the world has gone mad?

  • WalterBroeckx

    Some unhappy people. Maybe yesterdays result didn’t go down well…

  • finsbury

    Welcome home hope you had a lovely time with your family.

    “Why did they screw up so badly – such a super team charging ahead in the Premier League against a team in 8th place in the Belgium league?”

    I’m going to risk venturing out onto a limb of speculation here, dangling over the precipice:
    Because their collection of spoilt diving cloggers are not indulged by the “game management” witnessed under the flexible pgMOB Rules (ok?) Football code? What are the Sunbet odds?

  • Tommo

    I think the media are just as puzzled as to why sack Ranieri ‘now’, as the next man. And from what I can gather most of the media disagree with the decision, so isn’t that the same as asking ‘why’?

    As for the answer to the question? Well Leicester are 4th from bottom which is probably the reason why the owners have sacked him. That’s my bash at it, of course, with no evidence as it being the reason.

    I don’t get the dig about the media over this? They don’t give answers which upsets you. If they take a guess (like you have done), you would call it sloppy journalism without evidence. What inside information do you expect from them? That the owners tell them the exact truth to what they’re thinking?

    As for Spurs and why no explanations about them? Well they’re a small time tin pot club that ain’t newsworthy. Again, no evidence, just my take.

  • RondeJonge

    Thanx for good article, what really intrigues me is the way the refs treat Leicester now. I always thought that Leicester defenders were really mediocre and only kept their clean sheets last year with rugby techniques that really hurt the eye and any sense of fairness. how could the refs let that happen week in week out and this season cutting it short the way they should have done. not to mention the penalties Vardy got awarded everytime he tripped a defender. now he gets zilch? unbelievable the media keep silent about this

  • Norman14

    Zedsaunt, Finsbury..

    Spot on – and the place to air these views is with the enquiry into Football Governance. My “speculation” on that, however, is that Mr Collins’ committee is being somewhat “controlled by party politics in being allowed (or not allowed), to ask the right questions.

    There is a horrible suspicion that football in this country is controlled by TV/Print Media/Betting companies/FA/PGMOL. The very fact that PGMOL refuses to move it’s business model from that of the Calciopoli, suggests that “fair play” is at the very least, questionable.

  • Nitram

    Mandy Dodd

    “Why do the media love Tottenham so much…..it really is bizarre, there are those who say the Spuds are nearly as loved as Liverpool…..surely the world has gone mad?”

    Indeed Mandy

    This from an article I read yesterday:

    “Spurs have competed in Europe in all but one year since 2006, with the exception of 2009-10, but they have only made a lasting impression in their unexpected run to the Champions League quarterfinals in 2010-11.(when Modric and Bale where at there best). In the UEFA Cup/Europa League, they have rarely looked as motivated or as capable as in domestic football — something alluded to by Harry Kane before the 2-2 draw with KAA Gent, which eliminated Spurs 3-2 on aggregate.”

    So basically the magnificent Spurs are crap in Europe’s also ran contest, simply because they lack the motivation they posses in the Premiership.

    And yet even with that extra motivation they posses in the PL they still manage to finish behind that load of crap from up the road, every single season. Weird that.

    And despite how utterly crap Spurs are in Europe. And despite the fact they keep finishing bellow Arsenal in the PL, the love in continues unabated.

    This little Danny Murphy gem from a predictably fawning piece in the London Evening Standard:

    “A full-strength Spurs team can win the FA Cup and finish in the top four of the Premier League.

    What a season that would be for everyone at the club, especially the amazing supporters, in what looks likely to be the final campaign at White Hart Lane.”

    So the FA Cup is a trophy after all.

    And as for that 4th place trophy, well I never.

  • Poch knows he had to drop it or risk top four, when his club needs urgent funding from CL qualification, he flopped on purpose. Bayern anybody!

    Man United owners are after money out, not money in, they want Dollars to pounds, so random investment happens to the tune of 89m and Antoine something similar. artificial inflation of player values, only some can afford, to price out the competition for signatures, whilst the top clubs merry go around the best talent. Moyes was a paid fall guy, for the interim, the question is does mata go as one of th teams top performers, or was Jose lining his bed?

    The Guardian lie, Dianne I’ll be seeing you, Leicester wouldn’t release VArdy and Mahrez, as the chair wanted to cash in on a certain league and maintain position, but he didn’t understand how much a Defensive Midfielder does (Uh Um a defensive midfielder), or that when you piss someone off so badly, they may just not score, maybe he missed Hazard the year before. And the summer will see big changes, player power, wrong or right? Case merits individual!

    Liverpool have a good chance now, please make top four, United another year outside will do nicely. And to be honest in terms of football, City over Spurs, but to nulify both, Spurs over city, they can’t buy the talent required and City can and need no boost to reputation.

    My humble comments, to all a good day!

  • 14, 32, 37 Harry, Harry, Kane! He’s actually different class, We missed a trick again!

  • Alderweireld injured, sorry he’s very good, but HAHA, Ali has made it four as Stoke find safelty and assurance of a somewhat medicre finish, with Sherdan only just fit to add any real class to midfield!

    In this fixture if not the league, sinking without a trace.

    incidentally all the brexit counties are rock bottom, with over 66% of talent in the league foriegn, well, not so clever, in a league that generates so much free money, it stops brexit form actually occuring single handedly! HAHA twice