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How the media manipulates the perception of Arsenal – the all-in-one article

Tony Attwood

I’ve suggested before that journalists and bloggers use language in a way that is intended to set the scene for their misleading interpretation of the news.  The most obvious example being, “Arsenal fans were furious when…”   If you accept that opening premise then everything else in the article seems true.  The fact that many Arsenal fans were not furious (or whatever word is used at that point) is ignored.

Barney Ronay in the Guardian obliged me a couple of days ago by writing an entire article based on this approach – an approach which was in essence outlined through George Orwell’s brilliant exposition of Newspeak in his appendix to his 1948 novel, “1984”.

Here are Ronay’s opening two paragraphs…

As an Englishman currently hoofing it around Australia – land of beachwear, cardboard skyscrapers and vast untapped underground reserves of high-end fusion cuisine – there was something comforting this week in the news that Arsenal may or may not be about to sign Julian Draxler from Schalke. This seems to be the plan for Arsène Wenger. Not a centre-forward, or a poacher or some seasoned gun for hire. But Julian Draxler of Schalke: subtle, languid and – as it turns out – now also injured for the next three months.

Just the idea that Wenger has thought about this long and hard, listened to the arguments on all sides, and decided yes what we really need here is someone to play between the lines of the spaces between the lines, was enough to make the heart swell with a sense of all being right with the world, like hearing distant news of cancelled trains or snow chaos on the A40. It really doesn’t matter if Arsenal have any chance of signing Draxler or not. What matters is that life keeps rolling along, there is indeed still honey for tea, and Wenger’s own desire to paint the world a shade of attacking midfielder continues to rage on regardless.

There is subtlety here, for he is admitting (tentatively) that Arsenal may have no intent to sign Draxler, but then suggests that Arsenal are trying to sign the player, and that all that may stop them is the fact that Arsenal might not have a chance to sign him.  Confusing old game ain’t it.

The article continues…

There is, in fairness, some variation here. Arsenal have tended to go for short, bouncy attacking midfielders. Whereas Draxler is something different, a tall, gangly attacking midfielder. Plus he would be a great addition to the Premier League, a languid and incisive creator in the first bloom of a precocious talent with an excellent name, which makes him sound like a glazed high society drug dealer in a Bret Easton Ellis novel. And he is just a lovely player to watch, with a habit of appearing in the right place without ever seeming to be in heading off anywhere in a particular hurry, like a footballing version of the ideal country house Butler, always popping up behind you with an umbrella, a pot of marmalade, the perfectly cushioned nudge-volley assist.

Now we see the majesty of the con-trick: this is the perfect player who would be an addition to Arsenal, and Arsenal are trying to get him, and we know this because… well a journalist in Australia has read somewhere somehow that this is true.

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So it is true.

But, this journalist in Australia, can, even from across the globe, tell the longest serving premier league manager, the only manager to go all season unbeaten, a manager with two doubles to his credit, that he’s making a bit of a mistake.

The real point is that he isn’t a striker. Such has been the chorus of complaint, the barking sense of absolute conviction that Wenger must, must buy a striker that, as the transfer window flutters by, one thing above all seems patently clear. He isn’t going to buy a striker. It is best just get used to this fact, to acknowledge that this is a man who would rather die on his feet in the throes of a soft-shoed sideways dink, than live on his knees if that means being obliged to perform a series of hopeful diving headers.

We’ve got it, Wenger is perverse, and in being perverse is dragging Arsenal into the fourth division, even though it might appear his club is top of the league.

There has been some talk about Wenger wanting to turn Draxler into the new Robin van Persie. But it sounds unlikely, if only because this isn’t an oversight or a coincidence, but a distinct and consistent plan. In the past four years Arsenal have spent £13m on functioning centre-forwards. In the same period Wenger has spent £120m on attacking midfielders

I wouldn’t be surprised if a load of AAA web sites including Le Toad have not started copy and pasting this already.  This is Wenger’s problem – he only buys midfielders and we need a centre forward.

There’s also the usual joking about the players Arsenal have bought who have not worked out, but that’s a bit old hat.  All papers and bloggers have done this in the past, choosing the failures from one team and forgetting the failures that other teams have had.   No club ever gets every transfer right, but it is simplistic child-like journalism to pick one club and ignore the rest.

But our man down under can answer this with a bit of simplistic finger pointing, more in keeping with the Sun than the Guardian.    “when he has a burst pipe Wenger doesn’t call a plumber: he calls an attacking midfielder”

And a bit later,

“To improve the current team is simply to try to do the same thing even better.”

It gets worse, and then worse…

“Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offers barrel-chested incision, Santi Cazorla will keep the ball tenderly, tiptoeing around in possession like a love-struck Chihuahua in a Disney cartoon spectacular, a single crumpled rose clutched between his teeth. Mesut Ozil can look like the most beautiful of ornate midfield follies. As for Lukas Podolski I have a theory there is some terrible misunderstanding in train here, that he hasn’t actually mustered up the courage to “come out” as a striker at Arsenal, that he turned up at training and just sort of joined in with what everyone else was doing, like arriving in the office canteen on your first day at work and on a whim pretending to have a broad Mexican accent, and somehow finding yourself still doing it three years later.”

So we are into silly sarcasm now, but let’s remember where it all came from.  Wenger has a burst pipe, he calls a midfielder.  Wenger is stupid.  Here’s the proof.  Roll it out across the blogs.   Yep, its Orwell’s Newspeak in total.    Find the bits that fit, put them together, ignore all the bits that don’t fit, ignore anything that smacks of the unusual our outstandish, because in Britain the unusual and outlandish is un-British.

So old man Wenger, “entrenched with age” wearing a “hair shirt”, a man who “doesn’t even really seem to say much any more, just opens his mouth and allows gobbets of fully formed Wenger-speak to come out as he nods and smiles and seems to be enjoying at one remove the absolute Wengerism of his own performance,” does his thing again.

As for the truth – a tish and tush, we don’t want any of this truth lark here.  What we want, quite simply is a bit of knock Wenger.

The fact is that the rotating midfield has been the most stunning innovation since total football is ignored.  The fact that the system so laughed at in the article, has produced a team that, from being predicted as ready for relegation, is top of the league.  The fact that what really works as a way of breaking down the “park the bus” mode of football so beloved of Allerdyce and all his followers – is a five man rotating midfield.

It is the most stunning, brilliant innovation of the last thirty years, challenged only by the notion of having the Henry/Pires approach in which the centre forward played on the wing and the midfield winger played in the holes left by defenders following the centre forward on the wing.

It is why Ramsey shot into the lead as the top goalscorer.  It is why the game is so attractive.  It’s why Santi C scored two against the park bus this weekend.

But of course not for the Australian correspondent of the Guardian.  No, Wenger has spent £120m on attacking midfielders and thus is an idiot.  Shout it loud Mr R.   It’s gibberish, but it is a perfect example of Newspeak and for that I am grateful.

  • Centre forward double plus good
  • Midfielder double plus ungood.

That’s all you have to say.

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36 comments to How the media manipulates the perception of Arsenal – the all-in-one article

  • HiGooner

    What a great article. Thumbs up!

  • Is that all he has? No mention that the 120 million was probably spent over four years and can supply two teams worth of attacking talent plus three or four kids just out of training pants.They must be paying him by the word.

  • 1NiltotheArsenal

    I’ve shared this link with all the Gooners I know and a couple of other blogs. All of us decry the treatment of our club in the press, but few have done so with erudition and insight into so glaring an example of such a restricted narrative as that thrown up by Ronay.

    Newspeak might be a bit too dramatic a label for what is essentially a really dumb op-ed piece, but your blog is brilliant. Well done.

  • tea for three

    I didn’t read barney ronay’s article as an example of bathetic criticism, I must admit. For one, he’s generally positive about arsenal, in contrast to his sports journo peers on the Guardian (step forward amy lawrence) , and he’s not shy to highlight highlight the rarseclartery of mansouri citeh, ambromovichavski, or moyes vincible manure.

  • ClockEndRider

    Sports journalists belong in the seventh circle of hell with lawyers, estate agents and politicians. I wouldn’t trust any of them to sit the right way on a toilet.
    With the advent of the few excellent blogs written by articulate people, the rug has been pulled from under the mp newspapers feet. Quite simply, they are now in every sense redundant: we see that they have no footballing insight beyond that of may fans; they have no better idea about clubs and managers plans for signings and sales; they have little or no insight into football finance and as a result can only play to the Viv Nicholson approach of spend spend spend; they adore boorish bullies like Mourinho, aman, let’s not forget who was chased out of both Italy and Spain as a result of their unwillingness to put up with his utter lack of grace and charm as exhibited by his ugly and premeditated poke in the eye of the Barcelona coach whole manager of Madrid as well as his ugly, functional football, utterly bereft of ambition; they lack the courage to stand up to the clear bias and corruption shown by PGMOL.

  • bob

    (Not to confuse their Footys with the paper as a whole:)
    That (ex-Manchester) Guardians football department seems full of (well, after that…) failed writers and English lit majors whose match accounts are dotted with tired literary references and snarky puns, as is this one by Lenscrafter Ronay.

    Last season, Ronay was a typical Guardian football department Arse-basher and Fergie-SuckerUpper. But most of them there are. Even the Minute by Minute game coverage can’t resist the gratuitous reflex AW/AFC-bashing impulse when they can get it in. (Hey, it’s only business, right? Not.) It’s been (barring this example) getting better this season, even David Hytner (he of our two pre-seasons ago’s Asia/China trip, who there was glowing, then came back to London to backstab AW) has been giving us a goodly amount of plaudits. Then again, we’ve been that good and top of the league, so how stupid would they be. As a lot, they know which way the wind blows and aren’t stupid; thereby making them treacherous. But that’s the tone that’s long been set at the Guardian Football Department and well policed by its senior folk like the Williams duo.

    At the Guardian, as elsewhere, Arsenal-bashing has seemed prerequisite to earning the rent check. And this boy, swanning down under in hothouse Oz, has reverted to type. Iron fist in the velvet prose. (Btw, Orwell I think was a writer for the Guardian for a stretch, and, imo, he’d well be able to see good reasons for his dire warnings in their Football Dept.)

  • bob

    sorry, for “Williams duo”, substitute Richard Williams and Paul Wilson.

  • here I was watching swans vs spuds just for lack of any other entertainment and towards the end of the match comes the question from commentator 1, do you think spuds will make it to top 4 this yr, commentator 2’s response: yse, they don’t have the squads of city/Chelsea so they wont win the league , so they might have to tip out either or both of arsenal or L’pool ….

    YES YOU READ IT RIGHT , Arsenal who are 8 points ahead of the tots will struggle to finish top 4, according to an idiotic commentator. I mean we are F****** TOP OF THE LEAGUE, have some respect, this idiot makes the assumption that it will be Chelsea/city for 1 and 2 , utd for 3rd and arsenal/Liverpool/spuds for the final CL place. what a total idiot. I know they all hate us, but come on saying we will struggle to finish top 4 when we are where we are after 22 games is simply unfathomable. I can only come to one conclusion, by saying we wont win it, some one put a microphone during a PL match in a looney bin and transmitted it as commentary

  • vinod.p.k

    As an Indian Arsenal fan, I think some of the criticisam on Wenger comes from a deep rooted sympathy for Arsenal. Not winning trophies and succumbing to pressure, when ever pitted against big teams and also when considered favourite to win league / cup. This season, even though we are on top currently it, is very difficult to believe still that we can beat Chelsea or City.
    Another factor is that AW still seems to be ignoring some negative aspects in our game. Yesterday, when Gnabri fired shots ( even though wide off the target ) we were seeing some thing we always miss on Atsenal. I personally believe, we terribly need a RB too, as Samgna always kills the fluency of the mid field ( Thank God, on other side we are now seeing Monreal, who was always my first choice ). Another sad thing is that AW not playing Vermealen. Even if you claim other way, this is a clear proof that in cetain thing he is greatly influenced by fan’s openion & media.

  • Ash

    I don’t agree that Ronay’s piece was an attack on AW. I read it earlier in the week and found it good-natured, humourous and actually quite affectionate towards Arsene.

    I raised my eyebrow at the £120m bit but assumed he was joking. Ronay is well known for his highly eccentric style, and upsetting people who take him seriously. Really, the burst pipe was a joke, not an insult. If you don’t think it’s funny then fair enough but it isn’t worth getting upset about.

    Arsene does love creative, attacking midfielders and that’s why we have the best midfield in the league, in terms of quality and depth. If anything this article was acknowledging that.

  • Sammy The Snake

    @vinod I am confident you can get yourself to a TV or computer screen to see that our defence of Kos-BFG-Sagna are unbeaten in forever.
    What are you on about?! Did you become a Gooner yesterday?

  • TommieGun

    I actually thought it was funny, well written and humurous….

    I think that there are much more infuriating pieces in the media being written than that one, TBH.

  • Jax

    Expect to see yourself in The Fiver or the even more abrasive Said & Done.

  • Dave Highbury

    Most fans just don’t want to accept that they were duped by the press, because (after slagging off their own team and manager), they look stupid. I was a delusional optimist – now I am a genius.

  • Dave Highbury wrote:

    “I was a delusional optimist – now I am a genius.”

    And I say ditto!


    Your comment makes little sense. Why would you show sympathy to anyone by constantly criticising and never believing in them? The analysis in your last paragraph makes me grateful that you have nothing to do with the team. You need to learn more about Arsenal and indeed the game of football. Ever heard of never change a winning team? Kos-Per is one of the best central defensive pairing in the world at the moment. Wenger does not need the opinion of anybody to keep them playing together.

  • colario

    In the last but one paragraph of the article, Barny Ronay writes:
    ‘A journalist in Australia told me Wenger went to South Africa not long ago and was asked, among other things, how he’d fancy managing Fifa’s world XI for the year. Wenger paused and frowned and scratched his chin and eventually said: “Well, it would be hard to balance the books.” ‘

    I just hope that Stepp Blatter doesn’t read the Guardian if so Arsene can expect to hear from Stepp’s lawyers very soon!

    When I read the article I didn’t think the writer was serious.

    Earlier in the piece Ronay refers to the rise of a midfield system and ends with this.

    “Arsenal may or may not win the league from here, but should they get there it would be a peculiarly absorbing kind of triumph for English football’s own zealot of the mobile midfield.”

    In other words Arsene leads the way in England for what is happening in Europe.

    I agree with this:
    “It is the most stunning, brilliant innovation of the last thirty years, challenged only by the notion of having the Henry/Pires approach in which the centre forward played on the wing and the midfield winger played in the holes left by defenders following the centre forward on the wing.”

    Arsene has found the solution to teams that ‘park the bus’ and it has produced some great goals that fix themselves in the mind to be replayed and replayed.

    Off shoot of these great goals is that Arsene is beginning to make You Tube redundant when it comes to Arsenal goals, they are so good.

    Mercy Arsene, mercy.

  • Philbet

    The press have ‘brainwashed’ the people for years (ney longer), We are spoon fed the news and views relentlessly, we are told to love the royal family,so we do, in the USA they are told to go to church so they do.
    after any major crime or disaster in any city in the world what do we hear? That the people of this city have all rallied round to help and face up to the disaster together.(Nauseous)
    Hopefully the power of the written press is diminishing with circulation falling,However they are all heading to the TV company’s to spout there bigoted views regularly, which is why we have so many TV shows simply featuring journalists spouting there precious views, You cant escape being told what to think,say or do. The answer is to have your own opinion.

  • nicky

    However good Australia is (at the moment) at the game of cricket, I do not think we should take ,too seriously, ANYTHING that emerges from that land about FOOTBALL.
    (with apologies to my Aussie grandson!).

  • Mandy Dodd

    Hmmmm….are Aus that good or are England that poor at cricket. We will soon see when Aus play S Africa
    Quite a valuable lesson for all sports teams provided by England cricket team on team chemistry though, possibly a classic example of how a player, no matter how talented and successful…and who knows, possibly within his rights to speak out…but can totally de-rail the spirit of what was once a good team. BTW, not in any way absolving the coach, captain, senior players…or pretty much the whole set up from blame either

  • Shakabula Gooner

    It is also likely that Barney Ronay was trying his hand on creative writing, using materials from the field of sports…some of his constructions are beautiful. However, he should have labeled his piece appropriately so as not to confuse fans, especially the ones that have access to the British press and take what they read in the sports section as Gospel.

    AW was asked on the satellite TV feed I have access to after the victory over Fulham why and how he feels that the press still doesn’t believe in Arsenal’s chances and capacity to win the league after being atop of it since September, 2013. AW shrugged and said it was not only ok but suited his boys fine. He said their business and focus is to keep going, winning their games week after week, one game at a time. I believe we the fans have no option but to adopt the attitude too.

  • Gord

    I found an article, almost exactly the opposite of what Tony is writing about.

    Self confessed Gooner in the journalism business, writing a completely reasonable article.

  • Pat

    Thanks Tony. Great analysis. More self-indulgent journalism by someone who just loves the sound of his own voice.

  • Pat (@10.08pm), again wins best comment of the thread!

  • bjtgooner

    Unfortunately fair and objective journalists are (like fair and objective politicians and fair and objective referees) as common as hen’s teeth – hard to find!

    It should not be so – but man’s shortcomings tend to be self ignored.

  • Gord

    Media. At the BBC Football page, two of the current topics are: Mourinho Mocks Crying Managers and Did Suarez Dive Against Villa.

    It would be very easy for Mourinho to mock other managers, if Chelsea has already purchased their 500 biased decisions, which includes N penalties given and M penalties (against them) denied.

    Of course Suarez dives. Was the contact (if present) sufficient to warrant a penalty?

    Following up on Southampton news, former Blackburn Rovers chairman John Williams is favoured to take over the CEO role for Southampton.

    Interesting quote from article:
    > He left City 12 months ago but has remained in football as chairman of the referees body, the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL).

    City being Manchester City.

    The Chairman of PGMOL is becoming the Chairman of Southampton? But his last stop before taking on PGMOL, was to work for Man City?

  • Gord

    : The Chairman of PGMOL is becoming the Chairman of Southampton? But his last stop before taking on PGMOL, was to work for Man City?

    We’ve had how many dodgy calls in the EPL involving ManCity, and the chairman of the PGMOL was most recently employed at ManCity?

    In a year where referee performance is questioned more than usual, how does this article by the BBC not warrant further comments?

    Who is doing the “deep” articles for BBC – David Bond. Maybe a person should write him, to see if he just needs a little note to get him started on a proper article.

    A quote from the wikipedia article on David Bond.

    > He was educated at the University of Southampton and King’s College London

    Apparently he is a Millwall supporter.

    Well, I guess we can forget about the BBC looking into this.

  • Rob

    Ash & TommieGun have hit the nail on the head here.

    Tony – I couldn’t agree more with your opening paragraph and often find myself infuriated by the generalisations used by journos to baseline a spurious point. Rafa Honigstein explains very well in his book “Englischer Fussball” how the mainstream football press stick together and agree a common agenda each week so that individual journalists are not left out in the cold – for many years praising ManU and knocking Arsenal has sold more papers and generated more clicks than the other way around so the editors ensure that is what they get.

    However, I think you have picked the wrong example to make your point here. I really enjoyed the article, despite being a staunch Wenger supporter (not to be confused with an AKB!) I read it as an enaging, affectionate and above all deeply ironic piece of satire which takes aim as much at the media’s portrayal of AW as it does at the man himself.

    The danger with becoming so used to defending a position in the face of so much opposition is that taking offence becomes a habit. A shame, as you could use any one of thousands of articles to make the same, valid point.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    And we thought that the fansa were bad …mum’s the word ! From

    The Sporting Spirit…

    At one point during a game, the coach called one of his 7-year-old hockey players aside and asked, “Do you understand what cooperation is? What a team is?”

    The little boy nodded in the affirmative.

    “Do you understand that what matters is not whether we win or lose, but how we play together as a team?”

    The little boy nodded yes.

    “So,” the coach continued, “I’m sure you know, when a penalty is called, you shouldn’t argue, curse, attack the referee, or call him a pecker-head.”

    Do you understand all that?”

    Again the little boy nodded.

    He continued, “And when I call you off the ice so that another boy gets a chance to play, it’s not good sportsmanship to call your coach ‘a dumb a–hole’, is it?”

    Again the little boy nodded.

    “Good,” said the coach. “Now go over there and explain all that to your mother.”

  • Arvind

    @Gord: If true, that it quite shocking. How can he be a chairman of the referering body AND a PL team? Makes no sense.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    There’s a moral to this story – try your luck !

    A man lost one of his arms in an accident. He became very depressed because he had loved to play Golf and Bowls but couldn’t play anymore.

    One day in his despair, he decided to commit suicide.
    He got on an elevator and went to the top of a building to jump off. He was standing on the ledge…

    …looking down and saw this man skipping along, whooping and kicking up his heels. He looked closer and saw that this man didn’t have any arms at all.

    He started thinking, what am I doing up here feeling sorry for myself, I still have one good arm to do things with.
    There goes a man with no arms skipping down the sidewalk so happy, and going on with his life.

    He hurried down and caught up with the man with no arms. He told him how glad he was to see him because he had lost one of his arms and felt useless and was going to kill himself. He thanked him again for saving his life and said he knew he could make it with one arm if that guy could go on with no arms.

    The man with no arms began dancing and whooping and kicking up his heels again.
    He asked, “Why are you so happy?”

    He said, “I’m NOT happy!” “My balls itch like hell and I can’t scratch them!”

  • ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah ah ha ha @Brickfields Gunners how old are you!! You always make me cry with laughter’s. You are crazy, keep them coming.

  • kieran

    I enjoyed this piece when it appeared earlier this week. As an aussie, I thought it made much more fun of us than true gunners….but maybe I have a sense of humour having watched us lose the previous ashes series to a much inferior side. :p
    I appreciate a different point to the writer, Mr Wenger will be happy having 11 attacking midfielders defeat 11 windmills, defeating insurmountable obstacles, odds and organized crime syndicates. And wont the pundits line up to hop on this bandwagon. But I’ve always read far away from the lines I guess. Anyways……COYG

  • though i usually agree with what you write about newspapers and their strange, strange comments, i actually thought this article was really witty and funny . . . the famous english sense of humour . . . beware of not being able to see the gag for the blindfold . . .

  • Peter S, yes I did perceive it as funny and Barny does indeed write amusing stuff. But through humour it is still possible to put across a message that is being put across a in much of the media, and thus support it. Just because something is funny does not mean that there is not within it the support of a theme. If the writer had indeed come out and made fun of the other writers on his and other papers then he would not have been supporting the media status quo. But he didn’t. If I want to put across a sub text in my own writing, humour is the first mode of writing that I use. Strident discourse is the last.

  • none

    Its interesting to see the comments in the press.


    Quote: “The former Arsenal player defended his actions in the days following the incident, but as the FA’s verdict draws nearer, the club’s sponsor made its stance clear.”

    So what exactly do Arsenal have to do with this? So much for being an independent organisation. Im sure that the BBC will say that “oh he has played longest for Arsenal”

    Well for the record his appearances are (from Wikipedia):

    ears Team Apps† (Gls)†
    1996–1997 Paris Saint-Germain 10 (1)
    1997–1999 Arsenal 65 (23)
    1999–2000 Real Madrid 19 (2)
    2000–2002 Paris Saint-Germain 39 (10)
    2001–2002 → Liverpool (loan) 20 (4)
    2002–2005 Manchester City 89 (37)
    2005–2006 Fenerbahçe 39 (14)
    2006–2008 Bolton Wanderers 53 (21)
    2008–2012 Chelsea 125 (38)
    2012–2013 Shanghai Shenhua 22 (3)
    2013 → Juventus (loan) 2 (0)
    2013– West Bromwich Albion 10 (2)

    So why not say the former Chelsea player? Or the former Liverpool player or the former Manchester City player?

  • Micheal Ram

    I read that barney ronay article and I have to say his words actually go beyond lies. Its a perfect art of conmanship. Its like rooney diving, the manager who hints him nothing wrong to do it and the commentator who cover up for him are actually the same person. Get the point? His bad and wrong interpretation of certain players and managers with intellectual and bombastic words in the article have gone unnoticed because of his debatable and disputable topic hence readers tend to concentrate and discuss that main topic. Yet the description was left solid in the mind. And this idea stays in the mind of readers until the next article from possibly the same writer or his associates to completely derive from previous description to a new one to install confusion and controversy among readers espicially young fans. Thus leads to insecurity then the corrupt path to emotinal salvation and finally modern slavery. Wonder why models hooked up with ugly assholes, idiots support dictators and animals perform tricks for human amusement? Its the same distrating and conquering art. I wonder how many arsenal fans now are bitches, idiots or animals. (See, I used the same techique to write this comment. For a good reason of course)