How journalists cover their past criticism of Arsenal

Ever since the Unbeaten Season journalists have been knocking Arsenal. (In fact in the case of the Observer they were knocking Arsenal the day after we beat Leicester to complete the Unbeaten).

They have been saying how awful the club is, how it is going down the table, and will ultimately collapse and Wenger will be kicked out.

I thought it would be interesting to look at exactly what one journalist said in the past and in relation to Everton 1 Arsenal 6. I chose the Sunday Times report on Everton 1 Arsenal 6.

“This was, after all, a team that only spent £10m on one defender this summer, Thomas Vermalelen, and which many had prophesied would struggle to retain fourth. Let alone claim the title.”

Article, page 4, Sunday Times sport section, 16 August 2009.
Nick Townsend at Goodison Park

Consider the phrase, “many had prophesied.” You will hear or see it, and variations of it, over and over again in the coming year. It suggests that I, the writer, wasn’t one of those. It was others. Nasty silly folk who don’t know what’s what in the world of football.

That silly berk on Match of the Day with sticky out ears does it all the time. He did it on the 15 August edition – no one here has ever doubted Arsenal, he seemed to say, but others have.

The Sunday Times piece was written by Nick Townshend – who used to be with the Independent. He proclaims (well to be fair he implies) that others have doubted Arsenal – but not him. Which others have knocked Arsenal during the last four year project, we might wonder.

Well if you were ever to click here you will find this self-same journalist talking of Arsenal going down to “Fifth, or wherever they plummet to ignominiously by the season’s end”.

He is of course exactly one of those people who has it this way, that way and every other way, just to stay in with the in crowd. In short he is a writer who makes himself and his reputation more important than the story.

I mention this man particularly because in the Sunday Times of 16 August he excells himself. He was, it seems “At Goodison Park”. Well I never. Obviously somewhat lacking in glasses. Or maybe those early evening drinks were taking their toll. Or maybe Goodison Park, Skegness.

Because apart from giving a very clear implication that it wasn’t him what said the bad stuff about Arsenal, he also says this…

“Arshavin netted the Gunners sixth.”

Now that it is – the entire sentence. No cutting and pasting by me.

Utter gibberish of course. Total tripe. As will be clear from my earlier posts I wasn’t at the game – I watched it on ESPN and I knew exactly who scored that goal even before the replay. The two of us in the room both burst into spontaneous applause not just because of the goal, but because of who scored it.

The Times is of course famous for telling us about the top 50 young players and then running an article about a player who doesn’t even exist, and telling us Arsenal were about to sign him. So maybe we should see this as an improvement. After all, Arshavin and Eduardo do both exist.

Unfortunately Nick Townsend and the Sunday Times exist – and that’s the problem.

While we’re at it, there was another this weekend…

“But Arsene Wenger’s men are arguably more vulnerable now than they ever have been during the Frenchman’s 13-year reign.”

That was from the Sunday Mail in Scotland 16 August who predict Celtic will win what they call the “Battle of Britain”. (Actually guys that involved the British and the Nazis, not one Scottish team against one English team).

So that’s one prediction. More to come.

PS I have received a number of really good articles of late, but because of my excitement over the weekend and in the build up to the game I have not run them yet. The coverage will start shortly, and we’ll be running more articles on here for a while – maybe one at around 8am and one at around 6pm. Not exact times – but something like that.

Thanks for reading. Tony Attwood

33 Replies to “How journalists cover their past criticism of Arsenal”

  1. Hi Tony, here in sunny South Africa we are still getting some of the same. Our soccer comes via a satellite station called DSTV. As pundits, they employ some recent South African stars as well as Terry Paine (he was part of the ’66 world cup winning squad) and Gary Bailey, formerly of ManU and England. (Also Eddie Lewis, but you need to be very old to remember him). Gary was on duty yesterday. Before the two games, he said that Arsenal didn’t have enough depth to win the league. After the games, he said that Arsenal is a great summer team, the team he most likes watching, but come the winter, in inhospitable places like Stoke, we would get our arses handed to us.

    I find the comments on our squad difficult to understand. I have no doubt that our second XI is the best in the EPL. And I am sure that our unbeaten run last year went through much of the winter.

    What the pundits haven’t got their minds around are the improvements that the players have made. Yesterday, Cesc, Denilson and Song were terrific. Not terrific for 21 & 22 year olds, just terrific. So was Bendtner. I rate Rosicky and Nasri very highly; but I don’t see how they are going to win places in this midfield. As for Diaby and Ramsey, they will have to wait for injuries. Have a look at the Guardian chalkboards. Only a handful of misplaced passes between the three of them.

    Was there any press analysis of the poor performances from ManU and Chelsea? Both scraped home against very ordinary opposition. And Liverpool didn’t play with the energy I saw last year.

  2. It’s the British Syndrome i.e. if it’s successful it must be knocked down. The object of any Football Club is to be decried by the media……it means that the Club must be doing something right!

  3. Well Nick Townsend and his coteries can write whatever they want. They may even shift positions as often as they want. As far a I am concerned, they are only fit for the BIN. We will surprise the lot of them, mark my words.

  4. Tony.

    It was just one match. One of thirty-eight. And there’s plenty of time for all these journalists to volte face again. So, please don’t get ahead of yourself.

    That said, I really must take you to task over your understanding of the phrase “Battle of Britain”.

    First, the use you cite is as a metaphor … both journalists and yourself are allowed those.

    And secondly, the battle itself involved the RAF and its allies and the Luftwaffe – not Britain and the NSDAP. And in the same way as not all Luftwaffe personnel were members of the “Nazi” party, not all members of the RAF were British. Fully 20% of the pilots who fought on our side were foreign born. And while many of these came from the Commonwealth and the Dominions perhaps the most significant were from Poland and Czechoslovakia. I’d even argue that without the Poles (303 squadron being one of the most effective, if not the most effective squadron during the battle) the Battle of Britain might well have been lost.

    So please … not all Germans were Nazis, and not all those who fought and gave their lives on our side were British.

  5. hi

    i’m also a cape gooner, know all about the tripe of supersport, let’s just all retain hope that the young gunz have and will further mature this season

    and to cape gooner lets conversate via e mail

    all other gooners welcome

  6. Fiona – my summary of the Battle of Britain is indeed very slip-shop, and I accept your point totally.

    But I am not sure “The Battle of Britain” is a metaphor. If it is, I think it is a very poor metaphor.

    The classic metaphor within our language is “All the world’s a stage” – classic because of the structure of two concepts, one being the other – the world is a stage. It clearly isn’t but it is a brilliant idea opening up many possibilities.

    So “one term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance” – and the example from is “A mighty fortress is our God.”

    In the article I quoted they didn’t say, “Celtic against Arsenal is the Battle of Britain” as such, although I think one could argue that is the implication. But if one accepts the definition that the metaphor has to suggest a resemblance, where is the resemblance between what happened in the Battle of Britain, and what will happen when Celtic play Arsenal?

    Whereas with “All the world’s a stage” the resemblance is clear, and so deep that it would take a lifetime of thinking to resolve it all, here there is no resemblance at all.

    So I’d say either not a metaphor, or such a poor metaphor as should not be used.

  7. Fiona

    Spot on I could not agree more with you, more Poles and Chech’s have died than the British, if any of you have time to go to Northolt in Middlesex, please take a look at the Polish War Memorial, that will explain a lot.

    Tony good article but we have a very long season ahead of us, on the other hand we all know the media is always stabbing us in the back but this time they have already killed us off which is good for us because we are no longer in the spot light. Man City is as the Premier League picture on Sky Sports no longer has an Arsenal player in it, instead Gareth Barry is in there this time.

    I hope the lads can prove everyone wrong….

    And Bring on Celtic and even thou being Polish, I think Boruc is still in bad from and he certainly needs to loose some weight.

  8. I’m not naive, and it is only one match – and I DO think we need strengthening BUT, you know from where I was sitting I couldn’t hear any anti-Wenger talk, but I did hear the chants of ‘there’s only one Arsene Wenger’.

    God, those ‘plastic fans’ get everywhere, don’t they,all the dopplegangers). As for the ‘silent majority’: I didn’t hear them but then again I didn’t see anyone that was silent. I did hear some sobbing, though.

    At first I thought it was the scousers, but on closer inspection it was BSboy and someone sitting in his pocket talking gibberish – something about ‘imbeciling’ and folly-statements’ and I’m sure some mumbling about ‘depilating’ footballers (each to their own perversities, I suppose).

    the truth does hurt – it hurts those that seek to distort and those that dissemble. 6-1 to the boring Arsenal – wonderful. And ‘Lescott for Scotland’ – priceless.

  9. Um still gettin to grips with the result and the game as a whole.I was impressed by Song he really pretty much started where he left and long may he continue to upgrade himself.Denii played a mature game as well he linked played well and when it was needed to defend he was there i think having Song there will bring out the best of both Cesc and Denii but we have to think ahead bout wat we will do when he goes for the ACN,dont think we have anyone else who can do the same job.
    Yes Denii can drop in there but i dont think he would be that effective and that jus leaves Diaby .and with that i think we can see that we have a lil problem ahead of us but um sure Wenger has that in his thoughts.
    Verminator was superb if you watch the game or highlights closely u will see he was constantly talking constantly giving the whole defensive line instructions with regard to defnding set pieces but mostly for th off side trap it really was a joy to witness.
    I really like B52 he linked well with the play and i think the idea of him at the wings works quite well coz he will be fighting for the ball with RB’s abd LB’s who u have to admit are not as bigbuilt as lets say CB’s,really enjoyed his input yday and to see him taken off for preservation rather than poor performance was a reall and utter joy that i hope to witness for many more weeks and years to come.
    Bring on Celtic,jus hope the lads know its another game we have to start from scratch and not to rest on their laurels

  10. Thanks indianGooner – Arsenal Mania have been very correct throughout, approached me, and we have done a deal which allows them to reprint.

    On the wider issue of not getting carried away, I want to get carried away. There will be plenty of time for not getting carried away when we are top of the league with 6 games to go and Man IOU are right on our tail – that’s when I lose weight, sit up all night and just scare myself stupid. But if I can’t get carried away now, when can I?

  11. Tony – My objection is not that journalists criticise Arsenal, whether the criticism is unfounded or not. What drives me to distraction is the double standards. ManU have lost Ronaldo, now whatever you think if him as either a man or a player the fact is he scored a lot of goals for ManU, many of them match winning goals (I’d love to have the stats of how many of his goals turned a loss into a draw or a draw into a win). Are ManU going to miss his goals well yes but they are still going to be right up there despite not bringing anyone in who will replace his goals. Arsenal have no strength in depth. Did anyone see the Liverpool team or bench yesterday but Liverpool are going to push ManU and Chelsea all the way. Phil Thompson even went as far as to say of Soccer Saturday that there was now a top 3 and Arsenal will finish 5th. I’m not even going to mention finances.

    I also had the rather unpleasant experience of finding myself agreeing 100% with Glenn Hoddle yesterday when he actually said that the Spud’s outside of Torres and Gerrard have not only a stronger team but a far better squad than Liverpool.

    I have had people tell me that this is done to all teams and I only notice the Arsenal criticism because I’m being paranoid about my team but sorry it seems the biggest sport in this country is not football but Arsenal bashing.

  12. Now the players brougth us heaven
    and ours spirits all high….

    Lets just enjoy it and back our players to give us a season full of joy.

  13. You are always welcome, Tony. Your site is my favorite site when it comes to the Arsenal and my belief is similar to yours. Trust is whatever Lord Arsene does..

    Regarding the criticism of the media about Arsenal, I’ve stopped taking them seriously. But its fun reading the way they justify their criticism/prediction. Just read this link for example: Stan Collymore says “But you just know come November and December on a cold night up north they are liable to succumb to defeat away from home.”. Didn’t our unbeaten run last season begin in November?

    He also says “In the toughest league in the world you need more than pure football ability. And the Gunners’ inexperienced and small squad will be exposed during a long, gruelling season.”. Small squad?? We’ve 29 first-team players!!! And we’ve lot more in the reserves who can step-up if needed.

    But he ends the article with “The club have not won a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup final so I do hope they get some silverware this term to reward Wenger’s admirable philosophies. And if Arsenal prove me wrong and do end up winning the title then we could see more clubs copying Wenger’s approach to nurturing talent.”. This is the funniest part along with the comments on these articles.

  14. Everyone but everyone – please read the previous bit, and go to the Mirror link. It is the funniest thing in the history of funny things.

    Oh joy.

    There are some people in my company who are not football orientated and although everyone knows how important Arsenal is to me, they don’t automatically link anything to Arsenal.

    Two people this morning said, “You’re looking very happy today. Did you have a good weekend?”

  15. Tony – That link is exactly what I was talking about. On a cold wet winters night Arsenal will lose a game. OK but why are Liverpool (whose squad is a joke) contenders when they can’t win on a pleasant warm summers afternoon.

  16. If we look at our side with Hleb-Flamini-Rosicky in midfield two seasons ago we since then have lost all 3 of them and are still hoping that Rosicky will come back (fingers crossed).
    To lose 3 international midfielders in such a short time is almost unreplaceble for any team. So the youngsters like Song en Denilson had to carry the burden much to soon and we payed a price last season and certainly in the beginning of the season.
    But every bad thing has a good thing, a quote from Johan Cruyf that can be reversed also, those youngsters learned it the hard way.
    The manager knew what he was doing and he knew that they would deliver.
    They gave us a good season from november on, with some majour injuries in the side, and now are showing what Wenger did see in them.
    I’m expecting big things from the Gunners and the not so far future, maybe the deliver this season but I’m pretty sure they will deliver hughly next season.

  17. On the topic journalist: In the dutch languague we also call those people “joernalist”. But I often call them “hoernalist” and if you wanna now what a “hoer” in dutch means…. just check the translation from google or so.
    I don’t wanna be kicked of the side for use of bad language. 😉

    The point is they just write as they are told to write or to follow the genearl publics view. So the “hoer” gives you what the paying people want her to give and so do the j(h)ou(e)rnailists.
    Journalists, I spit on them, as they would have said in ‘allo, allo’

  18. Very happy with Vermaelan…

    Mr Le Beak – you were banned for plagiarising other’s work, and then sneaked back in with a slightly new address – and then what do we find, your very first post is copied from Dude Davies on Football 365. Of
    course he might be yourself – but even so, I still don’t want to publish it.


  19. Blimey, did you have Allo Allo on Dutch or Belgian TV?

    Was it popular?

    The very simple joke of the British airmen who could hardly speak French going up to Renee and saying, “Good moaning” became a central family joke with my children. Like all teenagers they would moan, moan and then just for the hell of it moan a bit more, about school, dinner, homework, my music, my jokes…

    So each morning I used to say, “Good moaning.” They saw the show too, and got the joke, and picked up on it. All seems very childish now, but such things, in my experience, could help the family get along with each other and stay friends. And my three daughters (now aged 30, 28 and 26 – birthday today) are great friends to each other, and to me.

    And I am certainly not going to throw you off the site for bad language Walter!

  20. just a point on the battle of britain sidebar, i would expect that the polish were helping the british fight the luftwaffe, after all its because britain and the allies came to their aid after being invaded that started the bloody war in the first place.

    allo allo was on when i was at school, and ‘good moaning’ was a very common refrain. the gendarme was hilarious also. all very enjoyable, but not as enjoyable as the thrashing we gave everton. did i mention that we beat everton…

  21. Ahhh…Tony. Nail on the head again, mate. Just excellent work.

    There really are few things in the Arsenal Universe that get my feathers ruffled as much as the press. It’s not the overall shoddy journalism, which speaks to an entirely different element, but rather the blatant anti-Arsenal bias so clearly displayed by a good number of journalists.

    Take, for example, a recent and actually well done bit of journalism in Martin Samuel’s articles with Arsene Wenger. So much of what was in that series was excellent and thoughtful from Le Boss. There was so much positive to take from the pieces and I often found myself in awe of what I was reading (not because of the writing, but from Arsene’s words)…and yet, what was the prevalent headlines in follow-on articles from other writers? “Arsene Admits To Lying! Says He DOES See Fouls!” or some such rot. Honestly…of all that came out of that interview, that’s the one thing these bozos pull out at the lead thing to comment on and wax “holier than thou” about? Cheap, sensationalistic and lazy journalism at the very least. Blatantly anti-Arsenal at the worst.

    I’m from the US, so am quite used to sports reporters punching above their weight with regard to a certain story or team on occasion. Pontificating as if their word was THE word, without ramification for the validity of their comments.

    I’ve done my fair bit of reporting for a fan sports website for a university football (American) team. At every instance I was cognizant that people were paying to read my thoughts on players or the state of the program. And it was always my charge to put the READER FIRST. While it was important for me to be supportive of the team, being an alumnus of the university I was reporting on, it was also important to be objective in my reporting and to make my own arguments without regard to the maelstrom of commentary surrounding the program from other writers.

    While I acknowledge that my situation was a bit different than reporting for a regular newspaper that should supposedly be an objective platform, I might argue that it is inherently important to be honest with the readers regardless of the platform. “Own your comments”, my editor always told me. Make your arguments and stand by them. And if you’re proven wrong or your opinion was off the mark, own up to that and give the reader the opportunity to appreciate that you’re just one guy and that what you write is not the end all-be all of commentary. That approach has always served me well in my forays into journalism, and I’ll continue to do that when I have the opportunity to write publicly.

    As you know, I’ve been waging a bit of a one man campaign against Antony Kastrinakis at The Sun. If ever there was a journalist who actively sought out negative stories, or created negative stories from thin air, it’s Kastrinakis. His unabashed glee when reporting on Barca, AC Milan or any other team supposedly interested in Cesc is downright appalling. And since I’ve been reading The Sun online, Kastrinakis hasn’t yet been correct. About anything. But still his articles continue to “grace” the front page of the Sun’s online edition, screaming headlines of Cesc’s imminent departure, completely devoid of responsibility for the commentary he offers the reader. It’s infuriating, and I spare no chance to write in the comments section of that rag, “KASTRINAKIS WAS WRONG. AGAIN.” It’s a small effort on my part, but I think it’s important to keep reminding readers of the comments section just how often that hack has gotten it wrong and that The Sun continue to give him a paycheck.

  22. Bigger blimey – JLB on topic and not a moan (good or bad) in sight!

    Well I was just ‘pissing be ze wandow’ etc…

    Vermalen’s height is less of an issue as he has a good set of springs on him.

    6-1, I’m still pinching myself…

  23. The great thing about the Mirror link, picked up by IndianGooner, is the replies from the Gooners letting Stan Collymore have it. So often the Arsenal fans commenting on national newspaper sites stick the boot into their own team, which pretty much does the opposition’s job for them.
    Collymore deserves all he gets. Last season he was slating Wenger’s ‘failings’ at every opportunity, but when his beloved Vila fell apart, he didn’t say a word about O’Neill. After their shocker against Wigan, perhaps Stan should launch an O’Neill out campaign. I’m sure if we had opened with a 2-0 home defeat to Wigan he’d be hammering Wenger.

  24. Just seen another classic on the Yahoo/Eurosport site from Paul Parker.

    “If you look at players outside the first XI, I would say that Tottenham’s squad is stronger than Arsenal. They have more depth, more experience and more big games under their belt.”

    It must be all that experience the Spurs players have picked up in those big Champions League ties then.

  25. Tony,
    allo allo was and is still popular in Belgium in Flanders anyway. I think they have showed it some 5 times over and over again. I didn’t mind it and my kids loved it also.
    The good moaning joke was also popular in our house in those days as was the ‘i spit on them’ from the old mother in her bed.
    Well all the personages where very funny

  26. I will not even comment on what BIAZED pundits say or write. Who made them the experts? Their views always reflect where their loyalties lie.

  27. Jonny Neale,

    sorry fella,a leopard never changes his spots.JLB’s comments are a direct copy from

  28. Funny how an outstanding result can leave you in such a great mood and in which has an uncanny knack of governing the week in so many facets(my Enslavement to the Arsenal, i guess!) – especially under the noses of the negative pundits slating us. The response in the media to the result was disgraceful though, imagine if Man U had won 6-1 all these mediocre ex-player pundits; Paul Merson, Tony Cascarino, Stan Collymore Mark Lawrenson… you know the intelligent not following the trend type of pundit we are blessed with in what seems like 75% of all Arsenal news; the type which has the brain capacity and insightfulness of a walnut. They would be sucking Man United’metaphorical penis and we all know it.

    Rant over – Passion for the game!

    On a positive note best 3 players on the pitch on saturday were:

    1st – Fabregas
    2nd – Song
    3rd – Vermaelen (Solid as a rock)

  29. Nothing, and I mean nothing gets my goats, cows, chickens, and sheep like the biased media coverage of Arsenal. I recently had a furious row with a friend who also supports Arsenal over his firm and unwavering support of the views of Myles Palmer.

    Now, there are negative Arsenal fan sites out there, and I can stomach their rants because I believe that no matter how misguided or wrong their views are, or how unrealistic their demands or outlandish their opinions, they all spring from their love of Arsenal. Myles Palmer has come out time and time again and declared that he is not a fan of Arsenal. For me, that makes Arsenal News Review a parasitic site, and I am willing to come to blows with anyone who tells me that anything Herr Palmer has to say makes sense.

    People are quick to dismiss the fact that the media’s coverage of Arsenal is heavily biased towards the negative as mere paranoia on the part of the fans, but that doesn’t change a damn thing, the bias is there, and it is undeniable. Even when we’re playing well, you know that any praise we get is simply their way of biding their time until we lose a game so they can jump up and down with glee.

    For my SA Gooners, haven’t you noticed that Supersport only shows Arsenal TV once a week, and that is at 2.00 a.m. on Monday, while Liverpool, Man U, Barcelona, Chelsea, and Real Madrid are all shown in the mornings, and repeated throughout the week? Are those others more watchable than we are? With the exception of Barcelona, I think not!

    We’re just going to have to ignore the idiot pundits, and keep our feet firmly on the ground. After all, it’s not like we’re surprised our team is playing this well.

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