“Making the Arsenal” – the book of how Arsenal was reborn
Untold Media: Call to Arsenal Fans to Reject Unwarranted Media Pressure on RVP
By: Anne (a story in five parts)
*Much thanks to Shard and bjtgooner for their contributions to this report.
I. Introduction and RVP Message to Arsenal Fans
Before getting into the particulars of the current campaign in the media to portrary Arsenal as a “one man team,” and the future implications of that selfsame campaign, I would like to direct attention to the following words to fans from RVP himself , which were published in Arsenal’s Official Matchday Programme back in October:
“‘I want to say something about my commitment to Arsenal because there have been many stories in the media lately,’ said Van Persie.
‘I am committed to Arsenal, and that’s how it is, despite people [in the media] making up stories. For example, they said I was selling my house, but that’s nothing recent, I moved house last year.
‘I see stories which make me laugh, but I can see how frustrating it is from the fans’ point of view. But I am committed to Arsenal. I am captain, and fans should not believe everything they read.
‘As for that house story, the house has been for sale for a while, but I’m not living on the streets or anything, I have found a really nice house, and yes, it’s in London! So I want to put that straight, I am committed, and I will show that on the pitch.'”
As for whether RVP has followed through on his promise to fans to show his commitment to Arsenal “on the pitch,” his recent performances for Arsenal speak for themselves. However, we at Untold Media would like to further assess his warning to fans about the media “making up stories,” how they “should not believe everything they read,” and what may have motivated this preemptive refutation of such stories from RVP.
II. Arsenal is a “one man team.” Or are they?
In order to further assess these matters, it is first necessary to analyze the development of the current RVP “one man team” angle that was highlighted in our previous media watch report , and which the media has continued to promote following Arsenal’s decisive victory over West Bromwich Albion.
We will begin this analysis with the Sun, whose West Brom match report once again highlights this tired and overwrought “RVP one man team” angle:
“ROBIN VAN PERSIE led the way as Arsenal’s revival continued.
Dutchman RVP has quickly emerged as the Gunners’ MVP following Cesc Fabregas’ summer exit.
And Van Man led by example again, scoring the opener before setting up Thomas Vermaelen….
…all the talk was of goal machine Van Persie, whose opener made him the first player since Kevin Phillips 12 years ago to score 11 goals in the opening 11 games of a Premier League season.”
In reference to the above, I would like to harken back to a point I made in my earlier report on the Mail’s Martin Samuel, about journalists using their own talking points campaigns as evidence to further bolster those selfsame campaigns. We have another example here, where the Sun reports that “all the talk” surrounding the match concerns RVP.
But the real question begged by this report is the question of who exactly is responsible for all of that “talk” about RVP? I’ll give you three guesses…
However, Football-Talk was kind enough to render all guessing unnecessary by spelling out this methodology rather clearly in the following article:
“After Arsenal’s well publicised crisis at the beginning of the season, and in the absence of Jack Wilshere, it has been Robin Van Persie who has dragged the Gunners by the scruff of the neck and help lead them on a run of six unbeaten games since they were humbled by rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Yet after this incredible goal-scoring run by Van Persie, the question of whether Arsenal are over-reliant on their number 10 keeps popping up all over the media. This is dismissed feverishly by all involved at the club…”
So, thank you, Football-Talk for that candid assessment of the media’s role in peddling this misleading angle on Arsenal’s recent team performances, and about RVP in particular. Further examples of this practice abound, with more such “talk” coming from the Mirror’s Paul Smith in his WBA match report , which led off with the following:
“Arsenal brushed aside a rather lame challenge from West Brom as the Gunners’ revival continues to gather pace.
This was their fifth straight home win in the Premier League, and once again the architect was Dutch captain Robin van Persie.
He scored one and made two more to secure the points for an Arsenal side mining a rich seam of form.”
So, the general line here seems to be that RVP scored Arsenal’s first goal against WBA, and was responsible for the second two as well. More along these lines can be found from Ben Findon at the Telegraph :
“We don’t need Batman, we’ve got Robin, reads the banner draped from the top tier of the Emirates stands. Quite so. Robin van Persie’s clinically dispatched 13th goal of the season pointed Arsenal towards another comfortable success in an increasingly golden autumn.
And, just for good measure, the Dutchman laid on the opportunities for Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta to complete victory.”
Likewise, Malcolm Folley of the Daily Mail reported:
“Another day, another goal from Robin van Persie. But if that is predictable news, like announcing that dawn will be following night, Van Persie also heavily contributed to Arsenal’s other two goals at the Emirates yesterday.”
As a sidenote, thanks to UM contributor bjtgooner for pointing out that this selfsame Malcolm Folley was up to similar mischief in the Mail post-Chelsea :
“Sunday Mail report on Chelsea v Arsenal dated 30 Oct 11
Reporter: – Malcolm Folley.
Headline: – Terry the fall-guy as Chelsea hit skid row.
Secondary Headline: – Van Persie so ruthless as Arsenal turn more heat on Blues captain.
The headlines seem to be misleading; the main headline implies that Terry was at fault for Chelsea losing rather than Arsenal winning. The second headline uses the word ‘ruthless’ to describe RVP; ‘clinical’ would be a better term. ‘Ruthless’ can have unwanted derogatory implications. ‘Turning the head on Blues captain’ could almost suggest a personal motive for what was really a superb team performance.
Folley started his article concentrating on Terry – almost as an excuse, rather than on Arsenal’s positive play.”
Thanks again to bjtgooner for the above report. We will be keeping a closer eye on this Malcolm Folly as the season progresses. But moving on for now….
In general, this particular RVP “one man team” angle diminishes the excellent performance that Arsenal put in as a team to defeat WBA, and also puts a great deal of unwarranted pressure on RVP. The truth of the matter is that, while RVP’s performance against WBA was, indeed, exemplary, the goals that these media reports are crediting to RVP alone were, in fact, “team goals” in every sense of the phrase.
For a better, and more accurate description of these three goals, including the team buildup, I turn things over to the following “match report” that was kindly compiled for me by UM contributor Shard:
“Arsenal’s first goal came as a result of Vermaelen intercepting the ball ahead of the WBA striker at the half way line, and then being fouled. From the quickly taken free kick, Ramsey released Walcott, whose shot was blocked by WBA keeper Foster. But the ball fell kindly for RVP, who then just had to turn it into an empty net.
In general, Arsenal looked more threatening from corners, as was shown by Vermaelen’s near miss for a chance to score his second goal. His first and Arsenal’s second also came from a corner, where Vermaelen stayed up after the ball was initially cleared.
Song hit a wonderful chipped pass to the far post, to find Van Persie, who hit it first time, back across goal. Gervinho couldn’t quite reach it, but the ball deflected into Vermaelen’s path, and he provided a composed finish, to bring the Arsenal lead to 2-0 before half time.
The passing throughout the game was almost effortless from Arsenal, and that continued even after the substitutes came on. The third goal came from RVP’s good work in receiving the ball near the half way line, and then turning and running into space.
A little give and go with Rosicky brought RVP into the penalty area, where he found Arteta waiting on the edge of the box. Arteta provided a neat finish into the bottom corner, bringing Arsenal’s total goal tally to three.”
Thank you, Shard, for the above analysis, which, unlike the media reports above, also managed to account for the vital roles of Vermaelen, Ramsey, Walcott, Song, Gervinho, Rosicky, and Arteta (in addition to RVP), in scoring Arsenal’s three goals against WBA.
Perhaps Shard should send his resume to the Sun, the Mirror, the Mail, and the Telegraph, along with the above example of a match report that is, in nearly every respect, superior to what their current employees were able to generate? However, it is unclear whether such a superior quality match report would be truly consistent with the overall interests of any of the above publications.
III. The “one man team” angle: a means to an end?
In addition to just diminishing the team’s overall performance, these types of “one man team” reports appear to be setting up the following two angles that lead us directly back to the “Arsenal in crisis” chorus that we became so familiar with at the beginning of the season:
1) RVP is prone to injury (following example courtesy of Michael Wade at Talk Sport ):
“Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger used his post-match press conference against West Brom to sing the praises of star striker Robin Van Persie, claiming he is world class but because of his injury record he is put in the nightmare situation of whether or not to rest him in order to maintain his fitness.”
*NOTE: Arsène did not actually say the above in his post-match press conference. Arsène’s actual statements on the subject of RVP are included further below.
2) Also, the corresponding “Arsenal is too reliant on RVP. What would we do without him?!” angle (exemplified here, courtesy of Danny Griffiths at Arsenal-News.com ):
“An intriguing question, with eight goals in four games, and receiving the Premier League’s player of the month for October, are we indeed getting too reliant on Robin Van Persie and could that get to a point where he decides he has had enough of doing it all and being relied on to grab the goals himself in that striker position?
It is a known fact we do not have a competent replacement at present for him if the unthinkable happens, and he gets injured or has to miss matches for any other reason, with Chamakh being the waste that he is whenever he plays and new signing Park Chu-Young who has yet to be fully tested after playing just two games in the Carling Cup so far, since signing at the end of the transfer window at the end of August, it looks pretty bleak, but at the same time we cannot wrap Robin up in cotton wool.”
First of all, as a self-proclaimed fan of Marouane Chamakh, Griffiths’ claim above that Chamack is a “waste…whenever he plays” really ticks me off. Had to say that. And his slight on Park is equally objectionable, given that (as he admits himself), Park has hardly even played. I myself would go one step further and say that Park has played very well on the occasions that he has been given the opportunity. But moving on…
IV. The (inevitable?) “RVP Transfer Saga”
In addition to the above, we here at Untold Media have predicted in the past, and continue to predict, that the above press angles are, in turn, intended to set up a third angle: The upcoming, much-dreaded (or much-anticipated, depending on which side of the fence you fall on) “RVP transfer saga.”
We are currently expecting this new “transfer saga” to heat up as the time remaining on RVP’s contract continues to wind down. Indeed, the Sun has already foreshadowed this coming onslaught by comparing RVP to Cesc in the same West Brom match report highlighted above:
“Dutchman RVP has quickly emerged as the Gunners’ MVP following Cesc Fabregas’ summer exit.”
However, all foreshadowing aside, Football-Talk was once again courteous enough to provide us with an overt (albeit entirely inadvertent) expose of this upcoming media angle, in the same article that was quoted above in relation to the media’s role in the RVP “one man team” angle:
“Van Persie’s current deal expires in the summer of 2013 and Wenger has to start negotiations as soon as possible, lest he find himself in a repeat of the Samir Nasri saga that ruined his whole summer.
However, working quietly to renew Van Persie’s contract will be nigh on impossible for the Frenchman, as speculation and pressure will continue to build until the matter is resolved one way or another. For Arsenal, this is massively important as Robin Van Persie could represent their only chance of continual qualification for the Champions League, and his departure would deprive the Gunners of yet another world class player and drop them further towards the realms of mediocrity.”
Once again, we would like to thank Football-Talk for their openess and honesty where this matter is concerned.
V. Time to fight back
However, the question now becomes, what action can be taken in advance to diffuse this story before it reaches the heights that the Nasri and Cesc transfer sagas reached in the past?
Naturally, we here at Untold Media will be doing everything in our power to track and expose this coming (?) attack as it unfolds, and hopefully to diminish its impact. However, the most significant role to be played here comes from ordinary Arsenal fans.
Because, dear reader, the only reason that the media even bothers with such campaigns in the first place is in order to influence the opinions that ordinary Arsenal fans (like you and I) form about Arsenal as a club. If it doesn’t work on us, it doesn’t work. Period. So, let’s keep that in mind as we all move forward.
Also, in addition to the direct refutation from RVP that was quoted at the beginning of this article, there are other hopeful signs that Arsenal as a club may be intending to be more proactive in countering the media spin this time around.
One example of this is Arsène Wenger’s press conferences, in which he himself has attempted to head off this angle and diffuse the pressure on RVP (without diminishing the amazing quality of RVP’s recent performances for Arsenal). In the following excerpts from Arsene’s last four press conferences,you’ll notice that Arsene has taken two tacks of late.
The first is that, whenever a journalist attempts to focus on RVP, he gives RVP credit, but then attempts to shift the topic of conversation to the team’s overall performance. The second is to specifically ask the press to not put unwarranted pressure on RVP. This can be demonstrated in the following press conference excerpts:
1) Post-WBA Press Conference
*NOTE here that Arsène’s actual comments in this press conference are in direct contrast with the spin that Talk Sport attempted to put on the comments (above).
Q: (inaudible) the match this afternoon, there’s no stopping Robin Van Persie.
Arsene: No, at the moment, it’s difficult to stop him, and he wasn’t only a goal scorer but a provider today, and that’s what I like, with strikers. And overall it was a controlled performance, where we had complete domination of the game. It’s good pace in the first half, in the second half the pace was just a little bit off, but… we are getting stronger, and it’s a positive afternoon. We scored five goals last week, we scored three goals today and didn’t concede, so overall it’s a very positive afternoon….
Q: Arsène, you’ve had some brilliant strikers over the years..(inaudible) Bergkamp, Wright? Where does Van Persie rank in his current form?
Arsène: (sigh) I don’t know. The only thing you know is he’s world class… When I was a kid, they had in Germany always a ranking. National class, international class, and world class. And world class we always knew four or five players, or ten players, I don’t remember… I would put him in that calibre.
Q: Do you think there’s any better striker in the world?
Arsène: There’s some quality there, and of course certainly Messi will win again… best player in the world, deservedly so, because he won everything. But let’s not put too much pressure on Robin and let him enjoy a full season, and I think then we can make a better assessment after…at the end of the season.
2) Post-Marseille Press Conference:
Q: Was it your decision from the start (that Robin Van Persie didn’t start) or why did you choose that?
Arsène: Well, he was tired, you know, it was fatigue. That’s why I did that… You know, we’re playing 50 games in the year and he cannot play 50 games.
3) Post-Chelsea Press Conference:
Q: (Inaudible) says a lot for Robin Van Persie, getting a hat trick today…
Arsène: He’s…of course he’s on fire, but he takes advantage through his class from the fact as well that we attack a lot, and that we create chances, and overall of course itelligent of his movement around the box and the accuracy of his finishing is exceptional…
Q: What’s the latest on Van Persie’s contract situation, Arsene?
Arsène: The latest is the latest of today is the latest of yesterday… (everyone laughs)
Q: In talks still, or what’s the…?
Arsène: I said yesterday in the press conference, it’s nothing to add on that.
4) And as for what Arsène said “yesterday in the [Chelsea pre-match] press conference”:
Q: I could keep going on about Robin Van Persie, but there was a headline yesterday about how you’ve started talks. Could you clarify the situation?
Arsène: No, I don’t want to… There’s no need to clarify. I don’t want to speak about that anymore.
Q: Have you started talks with him?
Arsène: I will not talk in every press conference about contract negotiations with Robin Van Persie. There’s eighteen months to go. That’s finished.
Q: It’s only because, apparently, there was a headline yesterday that said that…
Arsène: I’m not responsible for the headline, I am responsible for how we run the club.
Overall, please consider this story to be a work in progress. We’ll be keeping an eye in the future on both the media’s latest maneuvers, and Arsenal’s response. And I hope to hear from all of you in the comments about your opinions on this topic, and any relevant news reports that we may have missed. Cheers. -Anne
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