Where it all went wrong for football journalists – conclusion




Looking back at the matter of journalistic failure to predict this season’s changes, one key point stands out: there are of course multiple reasons for decline.  But if you are not looking for them, you won’t find them.

Injuries, the “physical and mental impact of falling short in pursuit of the biggest prizes in 2021-22,” poor transfers, the vagaries of the ways different referees oversee different matches, which effectively means which referee a club gets has an impact on its results…

And so it has indeed taken an awfully long time for the media to understand that this season has marked the biggest upheaval in the Premier League at least this century (and I only go back that far because I am running out of time to get this article finished and published).  It could well be the biggest change in the last 50 years.

Now there is a comment in the Athletic’s article “Liverpool and Tottenham are at the crossroads: What can they learn from each other?” in which one of the paper’s writers says, “Spurs [notice the eternal use of the familiar name while Arsenal are called Arsenal not the Gunners] finished last season so strongly, surging into fourth place to secure Champions League football, that it felt like they were on the brink of success under Antonio Conte. The mood in the summer was as good as it has ever been.”

And the key word there is “felt”.  Because football journalism by and large works on feeling rather than research – and that is its problem.  Emotions rather than facts and figures.  And thus in our own small way on Untold, we try and go beyond that and look at facts and trends and leave the journalists to their feelings and emotions.

But let us give credit where it is due because at least we have someone here who admits was and is at a loss saying, “Conte was unable to fix whatever the problem was, and neither was his assistant Cristian Stellini, who briefly replaced him. Now Spurs find themselves scrambling around trying to save Europa League or even Europa Conference League football, miles away from where they hoped that they would be.”

But really: “whatever the problem was”.  Isn’t it the job of the journalist to tell us what the problem was – or at least give us a clue?

And this really is the point I have been trying to make in these articles.  Journalists don’t look behind the scenes at the statistics and their implications.

In fact, anyone spending just a moment looking at Tottenham last season would surely have seen that there was a whole chunk of the season between the fourth and 29th games of the season, where if you built a table out of that period you would find Tottenham seventh in the league.

Now I would be the first to suggest that these tables taken from periods within a season are only part of the story – but nevertheless, they are part of the story.   It was through using such a table (one built on the final 35 games of last season) that allowed Untold to predict Arsenal would come in third this season while everyone else was suggesting a poor fifth or even sixth.

So what did this middle spell in last season tell us?    (The table is derived from TransferMarkt)


Club P W D L F A GD Pts
26 20 4 2 58 17 41 64
26 19 5 2 69 19 50 62
26 17 3 6 47 27 20 54
26 14 8 4 51 22 29 50
26 14 4 8 29 20 9 46
26 12 7 7 41 38 3 43
26 13 3 10 44 35 9 42

It suggested to us that Tottenham were not a stable team (just as other tales suggested they were not a stable club), and that their blips were likely to continue unless fixed by a development of the squad and a stability in the administration, of which there was no sign.  And indeed they in fact got neither.

Now obviously these partial tables from chunks of a season don’t give total predictions – what they do is give suggestions that can be taken into account.  So that table above didn’t lead us to predict Wolverhampton into Europe – rather that they were a team that could go this way or that.  And indeed as we have seen, they went that.

This concludes this little series on how journalists got this season so utterly and totally wrong in their predictions.  And I think it also gives a clue as to why they don’t apologise for the fact.

For the simple reason is that because they don’t do the sort of research that we spend our time doing, they don’t actually know why it all turned out like this.  In short, they never went looking beyond the world of emotions and interviews.

You of course may feel that is a rather bombastic way to end, but I hope you might at least understand how I got to this point of view, and might consider this data approach as an alternative to the emotional approach we are all fed each day.

If you have been, thank you for reading.


One Reply to “Where it all went wrong for football journalists – conclusion”

  1. In the Mancity game,Fulham were denied at least two penalty shouts.
    For Arsenal to win the epl,is going to be very tough.
    Seems to the Fa wants mancity to be the BM of England

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