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July 2021

Aston Villa 3 Arsenal 2

By Tony Attwood

If you watched the game on Sky last night with the sound turned up (always a dangerous thing to do), you may well have started to feel part way through the game that the score was actually Aston Villa 3 Arsenal 2, rather than the Villa 1 Arsenal 2 that was played out on the pitch.

And you may have been that misled because on something like 15 occasions  through the game the commentators told us that on Sunday 13 December 1998 Arsenal had taken a two goal lead at Aston Villa and then Villa had come back and beaten Arsenal 3-2.

Yep – fifteen years ago, but it is still news on Sky.   There have been 31 games between the two clubs since then, before last night’s game, but still that old game was the game that was news.

But lest you think that the Sky presenters had been boning up on their Arsenal History (visiting the august web site of the Arsenal History Society perchance) they made only a few other references to the history between the two clubs.

The last fourteen games at Villa Park between the two since then which Villa had failed to win got one passing reference.   The fact that the 3-2 reverse was indeed the very last time Villa beat Arsenal at Villa Park did not get talked about at all (unless I missed it, numbed by the incessant discussion of 1998).

The fact that Arsenal were top of the league before the weekend and would go back there with a win got one mention I think, but the fact that all the other top teams had won and thus put “pressure” on Arsenal got quite a few hearings.

And beyond that we had, as you might expect, over and over and over and over again, Saturday 17 August 2013, Arsenal 1 Aston Villa 3.  Arsenal fans were calling for Wenger’s head, apparently.  All of them?   Yes it seems so because there was no attempt by the “reporters” or “commentators” or whatever silly name they go under, to tell us that “some” Arsenal fans had demanded change.  “Arsenal fans were unhappy”, “Arsenal fans demanded change” “Arsenal fans demanded Wenger’s sacking.”   Never “some”.  Never “a minority”.  Never “a bunch of mindless dodos that wouldn’t know reality if it came up and slapped them in the face”.  Just “Arsenal fans”.

But the reality was that the majority in the ground that day did not boo.   The boos that “rang out around the Emirates” were there, but only a fraction of the volume that greeted Arsenal’s goal.

Yes we were all disappointed, I am sure of that, and the fanatical AAA wrote their “this is exactly what I predicted” stuff that night, but no, most of us did not call for Wenger’s head, neither literally nor figuratively because…

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Well, not least because what most of us knew was that throughout the first half of 2013 we had had a terrific run of results in the league, with just one defeat in the last 16.  It was a run that set us up to become the best performing team in the league in 2013.

Even by the dismal standards of Sky commentating it was feeble stuff much of the time.  True they did try a little balance by mentioning Ted Drake and his seven goals in one game for Arsenal at Villa Park, but that just got one mention (14 December 1935 if you are interested).  But the great Villa fight back in the mode of 1998 was being set up from the moment Arsenal went two up, and that was the BIG story.

Of course in one sense it is rather amusing to listen to highly paid broadcasters make total idiots of themselves on air, but there is always that slightly sinister underlying position when broadcasters and print journalists combine together to put out a story which has a marginal element of truth at the start (yes Villa did once come back from two down) and then turn that into the main story of the match, rather than Arsenal being the team of 2013, and top of the league at the start of the weekend matches, and into the knock out stages of the next round of the Champs League, and having easily seen off Tottenham in the FA Cup.

Seven draws and seven wins for Arsenal at Villa Park before last night’s match did get one mention as I say, but if any story was worth a couple of repeats it was that – it is an extraordinary record.  Just how extraordinary can be seen by looking at all the games between Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park.

Before last night Villa had won 38, Arsenal 24 and 23 were draws.   That shows obviously that the most common result between the two clubs at Villa is a Villa win – and yet they have not won in the last 14 games between the two on their own ground.

On this basis in 25 years time the most common result will be an Arsenal win, and the least common, a Villa win.   Fanciful stuff?  Yes of course, but no more ludicrous than spending a match talking about one game in the last century when Villa turned an Arsenal 0-2 lead into a 3-2 home victory.

We could have had 8 October 1904 when the clubs met for the first time and Woolwich Arsenal beat Villa at the Manor Ground in Plumstead 1-0.  Or 25 March 1922 when Arsenal managed to score two goals against Villa for only the second time (the previous being a 2-2 draw).

The fact is the English media, like its Scottish counterparts, pick and choose their history that suits their social and political appetites, and then embellish it to fit their story, not the story that is really out there.  Was that match in which Villa came back from 2-0 down to win really that significant?  No, not given all the games since then.  Was it true that all Arsenal fans were demanding a change of manager at the start of the season?  No of course not.

The problem is however that the media has long since been in the habit of believing its own stories – and that’s the real worry.  It is one thing to sit down the pub and make up a load of twaddle which you will then write up or broadcast.  It is quite another to repeat it so much that you start believing it.

And that, sadly, is where Sky has gone.  The next thing you know is that Winston Smith (George Orwell’s character) will be commentating for them.   In fact, I suspect he already is.   (Perhaps I should try and sign him up myself.  Now there’s a thought).

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21 comments to Aston Villa 3 Arsenal 2

  • AL

    Noticed that too. And I think we were also reminded a few times of another bad loss for Arsenal at Villa Park when we played utd and Giggs scored to knock us out of the FA cup. Anyone who doesn’t know a little bit of history between the two clubs would be forgiven to think Villa Park was what Brittania stadium was to liverpool before this weekend, our bogey ground.
    I also didn’t like it when play was eventually stopped for a bout 3 or so minutes for rosicky to get some treatment for the blatant elbow he had got in the face from agbonlahor. Alan Smith had the cheek to complain that all this stopping the game was not going to do Villa any good as they had built some momentum and they just wanted to get on with it. I didn’t hear him say that when Baker was knocked out. And if we look at the two, we will see Arsenal had every right to want to continue with play after the Baker incident as that was an accident which they could not be accused or found guilty of. In the Rosicky incident villa couldn’t complain about wanting to carry on, that would have been the least of their problems had the ref done the right thing and sent off their player after one of the most vicious elbows I have seen in football. In the baker incident the ref stopped play immediately, while Rosicky was ignored and Villa continued to attack, even though the incident happened a few yards from the near side assistant ref, too close for him to have missed it. Still no mention of that, all we hear is how this stopage is doing an injustice to Villa! Its sickening listening to these guys on Sky, sickening.

  • WalterBroeckx

    It is not just Sky.
    I usually listen with the sound on mute these days. Our match reporters are also very much useless at times. A bit depending on who we have as a reporter.

    Or when watching a stream on the internet when they speak Russian or whatever I put it on as I then get the atmosphere of the match. When I review the match later on I tend to put the sound on for the stadium atmosphere.

  • Jon Powell

    It could be worse, it could have been Andy Townsend. Now there is the pits of all commentators! 🙂

  • Omglol

    Lucky for me i watch it on Russian stream 😀

  • Amos

    In the same vein it’s curious than when Theo is fit and playing for us the commentator(s) will often question whether he has the football nous and genuine ability to help us achieve our aspirations yet when he is not playing his absence, according to those same commentators, may well be a fatal blow to those same aspirations.

  • Pete

    To be fair, they also mentioned the Woodcock 5 goal game as well as the 3-2 loss. I was at both those games (if not the Ted Drake one!). The 3-2 loss was when there was a long delay to the start of the 2nd half due to a parachutist getting critically injured very close to us. I really thought he was a goner. Absolutely sickening. Slammed into the advertising hoarding on the roof, hung there for a couple of questions and then fell from the roof to the pitchside track. Absolutely sickening. Why on earth Villa decided a parachute display in iffy weather conditions in the midwinter darkness was a good idea is beyond me. I subsequently heard that the parachutist, after spending many months in hospital, married his nurse!

    And, to be fair to Alan Smith, he did say that Agbonlahor was a “lucky boy” when they re-ran the Rosicky incident.

    I think the reason they were going on about the 3-2 was because Arsenal were 2-0 up and they were trying to talk up the possibility of a Villa comeback to keep the casual fan tuned in.

  • Pete

    Sorry… meant to write a “couple of seconds”.

    Have been in a dialogue with a Villa fan subsequently who was unhappy that we were giving Benteke a hard time:

    “… ref pulled Beneteke up every time he so much as breathed on an Arsenal player and yet when he was manhandled, kicked and generally fouled he got nothing”. Oh well – always another viewpoint! I did respond about when Ron Vlaar pulled back Giroud very early on preventing him getting a point blank shot in from a cross (a “Koscielny” red card and penalty if Mike Dean was reffing).

  • nicky

    I had the sound turned up, yet never heard a single mention of the 1998 result.
    What a blessing it is to have dullness of hearing!

  • rantetta

    Did Sky mention Agbon-la-whore (****) smashing up TR7’s nose, and whether it should’ve been a yellow or straight red?

  • Red Rich

    Talking dates, on the 13th Dec, the year before, our defeat to Blackburn was our last defeat until we won the Premier League that season.

  • insideright

    To be fair, part of a commentators job is to retain the audience for as long as possible. Reminding the viewers that from 2-0 down Villa were (on recent form) very likely to lose is not as much of a come-on as trying to get them to believe that there could be a fight back.
    To me the most interesting thing was to see Villa change tactics (Lambert having been described before the game as a tactical wizard) and to start playing like Stoke of last season or any team managed by Sam Allardyce.
    To describe them as Neanderthal is an insult to our forebears. Did the commentators say that? Did the pundits mention it afterwards? I don’t know, I watched with the sound off and switched off at the final whistle. Life is too short to bother to give them a chance.

  • nicky,

    You really need to see a ear doctor 🙂 It was more repeated than the scoreline or the goal scorers. It was almost like they were hoping for repeat with the believe that if they said enough times, it might just happen. Kind of like repeating the name of “Beetlejuice”.

    I was annoyed yesterday about the repetition. Seeing Tony’s piece now convinced me that it wasn’t just me.

  • para

    I usually listen with the sound on mute too. Cant deal with the mindless rubbish the commentators? spit out.
    I can concentrate better on the play that way.
    Arsenal seem to like the other team to play, else i cannot understand why we did not finish them off. We dipped, then villa came back in the game, two or three mistakes allowed Villa to come back and one of these was the goal. Then we started playing again.
    Good win though.

  • Sonal Singh

    Reminds you of Moneyball where all the pundits constantly predicted downfall for Billy Bean’s team.

    Also reminds you of Salieri from Amadeus, “I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint.”

    They hate Wenger’s guts and his genius for having changed the game and won so much with so little, and are constantly hoping for his downfall. The spite comes out in polished commentaries with selected usage of history.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Amazing how after a few years MU fans coming out in defence of Riley we now see a lot of MC fans coming out lately in defence of Riley and the PGMOL. Forgetting all what they said just a few seasons ago. In fact the same what we at Untold said till last season.

    But when things seems to be going your way…you suddenly come up with things like: it evens out. Without evidence of course. Untold has produced evidence of the contrary for most teams in fact.

  • Norm

    Not to forget the bit where the commentator said something like,’ Well, Arsenal need to win the PL this year, because City & Chelsea will only get stronger and Utd will definitely come back.’ If it wasn’t for the great singing from our fans, we would keep the sound off. Who needs to hear this inane blathering?

  • Gareth Brett

    I personally still back City for the title but pundits are stupid idiots all writing Arsenal off for the title. Continually have shown to be the most consistent performers, and grinding out results which easily (and likely would have in previous years) gone against them. That is what champions are made of.

    BTW I am a Spurs fan, which probably explains the City bias lol.

  • JB

    Looked like Baker charged out with his arm raised to the ball which then deflected to his head. Not sure if he was inside the area at the time he handled or not.

  • JB

    Looked like Baker charged out with his arm raised to the ball which then deflected to his head. Not sure if he was inside the area at the time he handled or not.

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