By Tony Attwood
Yesterday evening, working through the multiplicity of comments that had come into the site, I spotted one in particular which seemed to me to be a perfect case of “that sums it all up” as they say before each game.
The writer in question picked up on Walter’s comment about referees, and he (the correspondent) said that in his opinion we had not done too badly in terms of refereeing, certainly no worse than other clubs. There was also also of course the regular stream of comments from people saying “you can’t go on blaming the refereeing” or words to that effect, most of which we now don’t publish.
It is like a broken telephone, because on this site there is a vast amount of analysis and evidence (the largest amount of evidence published anywhere in relation to this) seeming to prove that there is something very fishy about refereeing – including of course the analysis of the first 160 Premier League games this season, complete with video evidence.
Now I say “seeming to prove” simply because there is always room for debate – but that debate has to surround the existing evidence. Now since PGMO don’t publish their evidence, and no other website has taken up the challenge as we have of such a detailed analysis that can be examined and itself debated, (with all the video evidence of all the major decisions also included), the only evidence there is, is the video evidence that we have presented.
What we have is a situation in which a lot of people have their own opinions, and then use them to argue against the views expressed on this site – without bothering to produce anything that is remotely like real statistical analysis of the type we use and without bothering to do a detailed analysis of our analysis.
But of course that is only phase one of the broken telephone syndrome – a syndrome that leads one to believe one is talking to another person in a meaningful way, when in fact there is no such conversation taking place at all.
For beyond all the statistical analysis of referees, plus the historical context and the lessons that can be learned from that, there is all the other analysis presented here which suggests very strongly indeed that simply removing a manager and/or buying lots of new players at all does not help matters at all in the majority of cases where it is tried.
There are all sorts of reasons for reaching this conclusion, such as:
1: The removal of managers from other clubs has more often than not resulted in either a continuation of the current situation or a further decline in the club’s fortunes. The number of upturns has been smaller than the number in each of the other two categories.
2: Only 25% of high profile high cost purchases of players actually come good in their first year – which means evaluating Arsenal’s recent purchases on that basis may not be particularly helpful, and using new transfers as a way to turn the club around quickly is more likely to fail as a strategy rather than succeed.
3: It is difficult to think of many examples of situations in which fans being in revolt (even a tiny minority of fans being in revolt) actually leading to an improvement in on-the-pitch activity. Mostly the reverse is true. The more that fans protest the worse it gets.
If you are a regular reader you will know that the list can go on and on and on, but let’s just stop there and ask instead, why are people doing this?
The answers are:
a) they are ignorant of the facts and figures and despite this ignorance are continuing with their protests
b) they have serious evidence that we have not seen which shows that recruiting new high profile players can turn a club round and that criticising the club and/or the manager does not do damage which will last for a long time. And they are choosing not to present this.
c) they actually want to damage the club.
d) they believe that a small number of examples to back up their case (eg a small number of managers who have made a positive difference to a club upon arrival) counters the bulk of evidence.
Or they have a more philosophical point, related to natural rights. “Arsenal is a big club and so has a natural right to win the league,” which is an argument that has no logic.
All of these scenarios are rather bleak, and the debates surrounding all of these are perfect examples of the broken telephone syndrome – where one can imagine there is a conversation going on, but in fact there isn’t. Yes, of course people can believe that opinion is worth as much as evidence, but the non-religious non-mythical world has been built on rationality and science, and that is where our analyses are based.
When attacks on the club and its players do have a positive outcome history shows it is because there is a very strong personality within the club who is willing and able to take on the negativists and counter their outpourings.
However those people who have stood up and taken on the negative fan base and the media are few in number but include Jack Humble, Sir Henry Norris, Herbert Chapman, Tom Whittaker, the board of Arsenal around 1970 – but here only for a short period, and… Arsene Wenger.
Mostly, however, Arsenal is brought low by the sort of onslaughts we have seen of late, and that sadly is the most likely outcome now although there is still a chance of the club coming out unscathed.
Having the sort of view that I hold is generally considered to be part of empiricism – and it is worldview that has been around for 500 years or so. Of course there are different approaches to knowledge, such as “what I see with my own eyes” and “seeing is believing”. These approaches allow people to see an event, and then draw conclusions from it, rather than seek further evidence. It is a very comforting view of the world, because it leads to an immediate conclusion that one is right, and that this rightness is obvious.
But all the progress in our world, the computer I write this on, the car I will get into later on this morning, the treatment that I shall have for an injury to my foot sustained last weekend, and the knowledge that the sun does not go around the earth although it appears to do so each day, all come from a combination of seeing with analysis.
In the end is just a matter of choice as to how one sees the world.