A case study: what’s wrong with this Arsenal rumour





By Tony Attwood

Charlie Gordon is a “Brand Writer” at Express Sport.   And to be quite clear, he is not a copywriter, he is a brand writer.   As such he covers “football, F1, tennis and boxing, among other sports, and frequently writes about the Premier League’s biggest teams. He is particularly interested in breaking exclusive transfer stories.”

In fact “copywriting” is out and “brand writing is in” although I fear that the meaning of the term “brand writing” will not become completely clear at this point, but we really need to try to get to grips with it, because increasing amounts of the football news and tales that appear on the news websites come from “brandwriters” and these people are seriously trying to influence how to perceive football, what you think about football, and what you think about Arsenal.

I’ll come brandwriting in a moment, but I would like to start with a headline above a Charlie Gordon piece of brandwriting.   “Arsenal chief Edu turning blind eye to no-brainer swap deal that would devastate Chelsea.”

The player in question is Moisés Caicedo, a midfielder who played 37 league games for Brighton last season and scored one goal.  And it is possible that Arsenal were thinking of signing him if the purchase of Rice had not gone through.   But the Rice deal did go through, so it is crazy to imagine that Arsenal would consider buying two such players.

But below that, we have: “COMMENT: Arsenal may be set to miss out on an enticing chance to get one over on a Premier League rival.”

Now the implication of the first headline is clear – Edu is being stupid.  The deal is there, everyone can see it is a wonderful opportunity, and the silly bugger won’t even consider it.

So the first bit of brand writing is that Chelsea could be a challenge to Arsenal this season, as in “Arsenal and Chelsea finished 10 places apart in last season’s Premier League table. A rejuvenated Blues side, led by new boss Mauricio Pochettino, are expected to be a lot closer this coming campaign.”

(Let’s just pause there for a moment for there is a clear implication: Arsenal are not going to improve – the best they will do is stand still, but Chelsea will get closer.  A lot closer…   And the evidence is… err…. well… no, there isn’t any.)

“Regardless, the Gunners would normally need no second invitation to one-up their cross-city rivals.”  (And no, that is nonsense.  There is no evidence that Arteta ever just buys players to stop other clubs buying them).   “And Edu could do just that by pouncing for highly-rated Brighton midfielder Caicedo over the coming weeks.

“Chelsea are reportedly preparing an £80million bid for the Ecuadorian, who was the subject of a big-money offer from Arsenal over the winter.

“Mikel Arteta’s side could make speedy progress if they entered negotiations as they have something Brighton want. More specifically, the Gunners are looking to auction off sought-after striker Folarin Balogun.”

OK, so the situation is that Arsenal could have the player because Brighton are ready to sell.  Second, the player is good.   Third, Arsenal can raise the money by selling Balogun.  Fourth Arsenal are not bidding, and sixth (and most importantly) the Mirror writer knows a hell of a lot more about football and Arsenal than Edu.  Wow if only Arsenal would kick out stupid Edu and bring in this young Express writer…)

Thus the key to the article is not the story – which actually is a load of total speculation and most likely total nonsense.  It is about the branding of the Express.  A brandwriter writes tiny articles that are not based on telling you facts or giving you insights but are based on making you think that the publication is a source of news which other publications miss out on.  In short, if it is not in the Express, then it is not a major story.   And if the Express tells you that Arsenal are making a major mistake because Edu can’t be arsed to pick up the phone, then the story is “Wow!  The Express is really telling me what’s what.  How dumb are Arsenal, how clever are those guys at the media”.

The reality is of course that Arsenal are not in the business of suddenly seeing a player and making a snap offer for him to stop Chelsea getting the man.  Arteta has a clear plan, and has been executing it from day one, when he started work on getting the defenders to avoid tackling (a story that the Express did not cover).

This new approach to football writing which is based on the image of the publication, not the relevance or (dare I mention it) even the truth of the story, and which leads to thoroughly misleading reporting.

I do not believe there is any evidence for Arsenal being involved in any sudden speculative buying of players, but rather that Arteta, like Wenger before him, works with detailed reports and data, and an overall plan of how he wants his team to play.

Of course, that is all a bit too complex a story for a brand writer, hence the nonsense that we are delivered.  Indeed the Express’ rate of success in predicting transfers (currently running at around two accurate reports in every 100 delivered) tells us more about what we need to know than any new tale that the publication cooks up.



3 Replies to “A case study: what’s wrong with this Arsenal rumour”

  1. What’s new ? list all the stories about any club, take out the ones that are (usually made up) transfer rumours and there probably will be nothing left. Actual sports journalism as opposed to gossip has been in very short supply for a long time.

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