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By Tony Attwood
Football and football reporting are changing day by day. But unfortunately, the two sets of changes are rarely in step with each other.
Take the case of Kai Havertz. Just Arsenal for example had a piece yesterday that says, “I’m struggling after each and every outing, pre-season or when it counts, to identify even the slightest of mediocre benefits as to why when it comes to choosing Kai. Honestly, I feel the Why/Kai rhyme is the best thing I could have found, yet even I start to cringe as I repeat it.”
Yet at the same moment, we have Football.London, a website owned by the Mirror newspaper, which is historically is absolutely no friend of Arsenal, its players or its management, running the article, “Unseen Kai Havertz moments vs Crystal Palace prove Mikel Arteta right over £65m Arsenal transfer.”
The FoLo piece suggests that in watching the match live one might think that Kai Havertz’ performance was ‘non-existent,’ but “rewatching the match these accusations are proven untrue.”
Now as it has been easy to observe since December 2019, the commercial media and some of the Arsenal websites have been anti-Arteta. Indeed The Athletic (which now won’t let me read its articles despite taking out a subscription, perhaps being a trifle miffed at some of my commentaries on their work) ran a headline “The decline of #ArtetaOut” over a piece which charted the mood of the fans, although not, as I recall, the just as important, mood of the media.
But perhaps more interesting is the contrast between that recent FoLo piece on Havertz and the 8 September 2021 Football London headline, “Thomas Tuchel explains Arsenal’s mistake in promoting Mikel Arteta to first-team manager”. As the headline says, this is not a debate of IF there was a mistake, but taking the Arteta mistake/s as a given.
They ran that as a major story in September 2021, that is after a year and a half of Arteta in the job and with Arsenal having lost the first three games of the season. I don’t recall an apology in early November after Arteta’s side had won eight and drawn two of their next ten games. But still, their tune is changing now.
Arseblog joined in the arselicking as when David Ornstein of the Athletic stated on the Arsecast that he had heard whispers of regret from within the club at the decision to promote Arteta from head coach to first-team manager. Whisper, whisper… Rumoured inner turmoil in the club but not a single mention of the amazing strategy in reforming the entire defensive approach that we so labouriously analysed and traced as Arsenal moved from being the most carded team in the league to one of the least. That could be seen in facts and numbers – in contrast to the Arseblog and Athletic suggestions and rumours.
Football.London at that time went into this full on with their Arsenal writer Tom Canton also quoting David Ornstein (who really has an awful lot to answer for), “A lot of people at, around, outside Arsenal close to the club feel this was a big mistake. Even if it was going to happen, you still needed a really respected, powerful operator. Whether it be Sanllehi or somebody else, who can provide the shield for both the technical director and the head coach/manager.
“Who can be the figurehead of that operation, who can front up to the executives, who can front up the media, who can work the corridors of power, who can deal with everything, football, and non-football, that allows the head coach/manager to just focus on their role?”
The 2021 FoLo article continued the theme by talking about Arteta looking out of his depth in contrast to Thomas Tuchel whom they rate so highly and who reigned at Chelsea from 26 January 2021 to 7 September 2022. At the moment he joined the table read:
|4||West Ham United||20||10||5||5||30||24||6||35|
At the moment he left Chelsea the league table looking
|4||Brighton and Hove Albion||6||4||1||1||11||5||6||13|
And to be fair he did get Chelsea to win the Champions League, but obviously the introduction a Chelsea long-term strategy was not left in place when he moved on, as Chelsea ended the season in 12th place, a massive 40 points and 11 places behind Arsenal having scored 50 goals fewer in the season.
But at the time of his negative statements about Arsenal, the Athletic stated, “Arsenal may look back on the decision to promote Arteta to first-team manager, putting him on a level playing field with Edu, regretfully.”
Talk about getting it wrong, they then contrasted Arsenal’s hierarchy negatively with that of Chelsea saying that, “Edu’s task of implementing the first team philosophy looks devoid of the power,” to recommend the removal of Arteta. They then, amazingly, bizarrely and without any evidence whatsoever they wrote that a “power struggle at Arsenal exists and its impact on first-team performances appears obvious… The ownership of Stan and Josh Kroenke along with CEO Venkatesham must address the issues behind the scenes if they have hope to accomplish their goals of returning to the European elite.”
The failure of the Athletic like almost everyone else in journalism to apologise for such error-strewn prose, and inept and insane predictions, arising from failure to look in depth at what had happened already and how it was moving forward (with full statistics published on Untold) remains an indictment and a stain. But how unexpected and rather rewarding is the fact that at least this once Football.London has learned something from the error of its past ways and has changed its view.
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