It’s time to read the football press and really have a laugh



By Sir Hardly Anyone

It has been a constant theme of Untold in recent years that there are two elements in football that according to the media determine success.   

One is the players (which is why of course the media is so utterly and totally obsessed by transfers – it is the easiest “news” story in town with virtually no research needed, and in fact nothing required but a list of players and their imaginary prices).

The other is the tactics which is considered by most commentators to be far too complex for their readership to grasp beyond the minimal “playing just in front of the defence” sort of thing.

And to be fair the market does play into the media’s hands.  All those who follow the transfer windows are alive to the fact that most transfers that are predicted don’t happen, but many swallow the explanations… that their club was too mean, too slow or too stupid to sign the player that their club “obviously” needed.

But without a discussion of tactics, much of this is meaningless, and tactics – well that requires a little more thought, and can’t be run as a topic every day.  So better stick to transfers.  No thought, and daily invention.   And amazingly everyone buys into the fact that when their favourite club doesn’t bring in its “top targets” (nominated by the media, not the club) it’s just because one sadly supports a club that is too slow, too mean with its money, and lacking ambition.

And the call thereafter: change the manager.  And if that doesn’t work, do it again, because doing the same thing over and over again and having it fail each time is a) what stupid football clubs do and b) an easy way to make fun of stupid football clubs.  (In this regard you might like to flip back to Premier League manager of the season, not one vote for Arteta which for some odd IT reason isn’t currently even showing in our list of recent articles top right).

Then we have the targets.   The more knowledgable of writers tends to be precise (The Athletic for example offering Declan Rice, Moises Caicedo in mid-field and Moussa Diaby from Bayer Leverkusen) on the wing.

Sky Sports News revealed their “summer transfer window XI”, a line-up of the best buys of the summer as voted for by their viewers.  According to Sky Sports “Mikel Arteta says Arsenal have to “nail” the summer transfer window in the summer if they want to continue progressing as a team,” which pretty much says nothing, and I am not sure he said it anyway.

But the fact is that while the media love to hype up the transfers because it is a continuing story which can be written up in Fleet Streets favourite 24 hour drinking den (The Toppled Bollard), without a penny being spent on research (although a lot on booze), no one seems to care a toss if it is wholly inaccurate.  When the transfers don’t happen, that is the fault of the club for not being inventive, pushy, aggressive and above all AMBITIOUS enough.  In short not knowing what the journalists know and can see immediately.

Which is why it is so strange that all these football journalists aren’t leading managers.

But at least the Athletic does like to have some fun with the failures from the past, and I am grateful to them for noting the transfers of Atony (£82m to Manchester United), Wesley Fofana (£70m to Chelsea), Marc Cucurella (£60m to Chelsea), Matheus Nunes (£38m to Wolverhampton W’s, and Lucas Paqueta (ditto amount to West Ham).

And it is not just that these players were not worth the money paid, it is that having invested other people’s money in these players, most managers feel obliged to keep playing them in order to suggest that there really is something there the club needs, the manager can see something that no one else can see, and the player just needs to settle in.

Often that never really happens (Pepe of course is the case we remember at Arsenal) but because of the cost and in order to avoid a total loss of face, he is played and played.   And so, as the Atheltic suggests, the clubs then spend between three-quarters of a billion and a billion pounds MORE.  Put another way, last January Chelsea spent “more than La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Serie A combined.

Now what the media don’t go into is any thought of trickery, because for them that just makes the whole thing look like the farce it is.   But there really is a thought vibrating around the boardrooms that Arsenal actually were NOT really interested in Mykhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk, (at least not at the price being quoted for him).  However they did nothing to stop the tales of his transfer to Arsenal.  And why should they?  Arsenal never said they were buying the player, so if the media want to make up gibberish, why not let them?

It meant that when he went to Chelsea the old “Arsenal too slow” and “Arsenal lack ambition.  The laughter was had over the article in the Mail

"'How can this be happening?': Piers Morgan leads the fury from Arsenal 
fans after Chelsea hijack their £88m move for Mykhailo Mudryk as supporters 
hit out at the club for failing to land their main target" 

is going to remain on our office notice board for some time.  And laughter makes us all feel a bit better.   So thank you Daily Mail.  We owe you for that one.

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