Blunder, mistake, cock-up, error, problem: how the media see Arsenal’s start to the season



By Tony Attwood

“Arsenal news: Mikel Arteta dealt injury blow as £100m transfer mistake emerges.”  Yep that is the headline in the Mirror. 

To which some people say, “So what? I never believe what I read in the media.”

This may be right, except the eternal drip, drip, drip of negative Arsenal stories does clearly have an effect, because if they did not, newspapers would not publish them.   Not least because with all these stories appearing online, the media concerned are able to see which stories get the most read.  And negative about Arsenal is high up on the list.  

Thus even positive stories need a negative twist.   So a tale that begins, “Arsenal have got off to a promising enough start to the Premier League this season but the opening exchanges have not been without problem for boss Mikel Arteta,” is typical.  Yes you might think that with three wins and a draw from the first four games, Arsenal would be utterly delighted, but no… 

Instead we get, “Arsenal may have taken 10 points from a possible 12 after their first four games of the new Premier League season, but there are still plenty of headaches for boss Mikel Arteta.  Now of course one reason why the Mirror has published this is to get the link into the word “headaches” which I have left in, so you can see what I mean.  But if you don’t want to click on it, I can tell you the headline that lies behind it: “How to get rid of a headache or migraine in just TWO minutes,” and therein lies the advertising.

Now of course Untold Arsenal has advertising quite simply because it does take time and money to keep this site running.  But the Mirror and some other media outlets take this to infinitely higher proportions with articles written specifically to have advertising links within them.

For example… “Arteta is already having to operate without the likes of Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny and there are now fears central defender Gabriel Magalhaes could face an extended period on the sidelines.”

Elneny made four starts last season – one may think the club has got used to playing without him.  And the club has a squad of 25 plus youngsters, because they know that at any time there will be injuries.

So when they say, “Arteta will be cursing his luck if Arsenal have been dealt another injury issue after Gabriel was on the end of a grim challenge while representing Brazil,” that might be true, but more likely Arsenal, like all other major clubs will be used to players returning from international “duty” injured, because that is what always happens.   In fact a return without injury is a time for opening the champagne.  (You might recall Wenger’s comment that international managers are like car thieves who steal your new car, drive in recklessly, wreck it, hand it back, and then demand it be made ready for next time they want it).

The Football Benchmark website has a detailed report called “Extreme Calandar Congestion” which is effectively a report into the workload of players in 2022/3.  Its conclusion is simple, “Workload demands remain unsustainable with insufficient recovery periods.”    It reports almost half of the players in the World Cup experienced mental fatigue with seemingly no recovery support.   Plus an unbelievable increase in the workload of young players without adequate safeguards.   

And now we have new competition formats increasing demands still further with the leading players now facing the possibility of 90 games a season.  And all this while young players are being brought in ever younger and playing for longer year on year.

In short the conclusion is that the “provisions and safeguards” for player safety is inadequate and recent competition reforms are only making things worse (in order of course to make Fifa and Uefa more money).

It’s all grim stuff but then suddenly the story stops and instead we get another headline: “Arsenal’s £100m mistake,” which jumps back to the time seven years ago when Arsenal had a chance to sign Federico Valverde who then went on to join Real Madrid.

But the fact is every club wins some and loses some on the transfer roundabout, and every club has stories like this.   The story would only be of interest if one could put together all the players on loan, including which ones were rejected but who went on to be worth a lot.  Without knowing how Arsenal compares with other clubs, the story is useless propaganda.

Yet still they haven’t stopped at the Mirror because they then have “Arsenal have effectively paid £10m for Nicolas Pepe to complete transfer exit”.  Now actually there is a positive story here because when Arsenal signed Pepe the deal was to pay over five years – an extraordinarily long time in contract terms.

But is this true, that Arsenal paid Pepe £10m to leave?  Well, no actually not, because the £10m was part of the original transfer fee, which legally Arsenal has always had to pay no matter what happened to Pepe.

Three issues arise here.  First in managing to get rid of Pepe, they are no longer having to pay him.  Second by having him out on loan a lot of his salary has been covered by the clubs that have played him.   Third all clubs get some transfers wrong.  It is just that certain clubs are reported particularly by the media to make them look like basket cases.

Indeed they “forget” that  other clubs were offering more for Pepe when Arsenal bought him, and it was Pepe who insisted he wanted to sign for Arsenal.   Of course Pepe did not work out as a player (he played 80 games for Arsenal) but no club gets them all right – and the most interesting article of all would be one comparing the number of transfers that each club in turn has got wrong while perhaps noting that Pepe won the FA Cup with Arsenal.

No he wasn’t a great success, we can agree that, but all clubs have transfer failures.  The real trick is to get more right than wrong.  So why doesn’t anyone publish an article on that.

Please join our supporters’ association: it’s free!

If you support Untold’s work, please do show your appreciation by becoming an associate member of AISA – Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association.  It’s completely free, but being a member does make a statement that you value our work not just in recording Arsenal’s history but also in engaging with the club over issues relevant to supporters today.   You can join for free at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *