How a newspaper re-writes the past, to prepare for Arsenal’s collapse

Jonny Cooper is the Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men.  He also describes himself as an Arsenal supporter.  And he recently wrote a piece in which he comments on Arsenal’s past and how it relates to this season.

In doing this he cites the movie Groundhog Day in which  exactly the same thing happens day after day.  The writer claims that Arsenal’s seasons go through this process, and will do again this year.  This season will be like last season, like the season before, like the season before.

Except that it won’t – or at last it doesn’t appear to be in the article, because there’s no mention of us winning the FA Cup again.  So Groundhog Day.  But not quite.

The first attribute that you spot among the fractionally more educated AAA people is that although, like all the AAA, they claim to know about what goes on inside Arsenal supporters’ heads they do it in a fractionally more intellectual way.   This being the Telegraph the standard AAA phrase “Arsenal fans will be unhappy that…” is avoided and instead we get the slightly more subtle “Only 36 hours after transfer deadline day and Arsenal fans (of which I am one) would be forgiven for wondering whether they are trapped inside their very own Groundhog Day.”

Subtle eh? Telling you what to think without actually telling you what to think.

“First, an injury crisis ahead of the key Champions League qualifier against Besiktas (which they went on to win, entering European football’s premier competition for the 17th straight season). And now, the transfer window closes in sneakingly anti-climactic fashion.”

Which is an odd Groundhog Day place to start, because when you think of it across the years Arsenal have sailed through the preliminary round of the Champs League without raising a sweat, and done transfers deals at all sorts of different times.  From Podolski (signed on 30 April 2013) through to 31 August 2011 when Per Mertesacker, Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta, all joined Arsenal.  And of course there were quite a few in the middle of the transfer window, like 3 August 1999 when Thierry Henry signed.

Then again it is hard to see any repeating process with the signing of Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and David Ospina followed by the last minute recruitment of  the famed England goalscorer Danny Welbeck.

None of these fit into any sort of pattern that reflects the past, except that Calum Chambers is a very Wengerian signing – a player of stunning brilliance in at least two positions, and, rumour has it, one who can also play in central midfield.

But of course nothing is ever enough for the AAA – that’s what marks them out.  So, the  Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men goes on, “But where was the incoming midfield muscle that Arsenal have lacked since Alex Song hastened his own departure to Barcelona over two years ago? Where were the reinforcements that the team’s paper thin defence so palpably needs? What happened to all those nearly almost completed deals?”

Now before you go any further you might like to note Walter’s article from June this year pointing out that Song was never a defensive midfielder.  But that’s nothing to trouble our Dep Ed Men man

And in a sense the  Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men has a point here, because this is Groundhog Day in the sense that this is the whinging and whining that we hear every year.  Arsenal make a stunning signing, the AAA shut up for about 30 seconds, and then they are back by saying it was the wrong bloke in the wrong position.

Alex Song, you might recall, was the man who had a very dodgy start – “not fit to wear the shirt” was the AAA warcry after one performance at Fulham, but who after his loan made good for a while, but became unreliable.  Good indeed when he happened to be where he was supposed to be, not not so good when turning up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Song cost Barcelona £15m, which in today’s money is about £25m, and played just 39 games across two season for the club  which is currently running out of appeal processes, while Song has gone to West Ham.  His total cost to Barcelona including wages was £27m, from which they got 39 games.  £692,000 a game. That was more than Henry cost them on a game by game basis.

But the point about Song was that he wasn’t that great at first, but Wenger could see what he could be and what he was for a while.  And quite possibly Groundhog Day has been repeated with some of the signings of young players that Arsenal has, as always, made in the summer.  Indeed looking back, can you imagine what Bellerin is worth already?  Or Gnabry.  Or Zelalem? Now it may be that the  Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men doesn’t follow Arsenal’s under 18 and under 21 teams much, but if he wants to see how Arsenal develop players, it is not a bad idea to try and do so.

So even if the  Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men’s vision were granted and we signed a defensive midfielder  it wouldn’t be a Song moment, it would be an Arteta moment, or a Flamini moment.  Still this making fun of Arsenal is a difficult business so we can’t expect accuracy.  

The Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men goes on…

“The sneaking suspicion is that after showing early intent, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal have failed to keep up with the ‘Top 4 Joneses’ during yet another transfer window. It’s like the alarm has ticked over to 6am and the same story is about to happen all over again.”  Ah, the AAA telling us what’s what, without proof.  Standard stuff.

Well of course time will tell, but wind back to before the transfer window and ask yourself, if you had been told we would sign one of the biggest stars in the world cup, a proven replacement for the defecting Sagna, a young player who can instantly fit into the team at full back or central defence and rumour has it central midfield too, one of the very best goalkeepers from the world cup, and the upcoming young centre forward who just after signing joins up with England and scores both goals in their first Euro game, would you have been moaning?

But of course the AAA, with their new front man, are doing just that and so he goes on to make his nine predictions for the next nine months.  In essence this a an AAA-light prediction, for whereas the AAA have us lingering in mid-table, but the Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men. allows us a solid start rising to the top of the table in October.

But as autumn comes along we have “Squad limitations become apparent. Arsenal’s longstanding issue with big teams continues. They struggle to assert themselves against Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, while Chelsea enjoy a comfortable victory at Stamford Bridge, where Cesc Fabregas artfully bulldozes Mikel Arteta in midfield.”

Now when I studied history A level one of the first things I was told was that what happened before rarely if ever happens again.  Indeed I distinctly remember being told that the only people who predict repetitions are bad historians in a hurry.  At 18 I found such statements quite interesting, not just for the concept of repeating, but because our history teacher was telling us that there were bad historians.  I’d always suspected as much.

But lets examine this further.  Groundhog Day is supposedly the repeating of the same events over and over again, time after time.  So let’s not just look at last year but nip back a year or two.   Autumn 2011/12 going from 16 October to 10 December.  Played eight, won seven, drawn one.  And oh yes, that pesky Chelsea away game.  Groundhog Day eh?  29 October 2011.  Chelsea got three; another destruction of lilly-livered Arsenal defence with nothing going for them.   Trouble is young Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men, Arsenal got five that day. Groundhog Day?

But of course it is not fair to single out just one season.  So let’s take another autumn from another year.  Last season maybe.  Between 22 September (the start of autumn) and 2 February (nearly the end of winter) we played 20 games, lost two and drew three.

In December our Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men has the tale of Arsenal being linked with “a host of names” – by, well, let’s think…, Who makes all these stories up about clubs certain to sign certain players who are flying in?  Oh yes, the media.

It goes on and on in a similar manner, and gets rather dull.  But I have focussed on this article, perhaps more than is good for my health, because it takes the Telegraph for the first time into the country previously the province of the Times.

Now if you have been a reader of Untold for a fair time you might remember our coverage (which the rest of the press ignored) of how the Times newspaper spotted that Arsenal were going to sign Masal Bugduv, who they said plays for Olimpia Balti in Moldovia.

He didn’t; the player was a spoof – he didn’t exist, but he was made up to test just how gullible journalists could be.  Now this sort of story about non-existent players being the latest hot property happens from time to time, but this one was interesting because it was in The Times – the newspaper that is at the heart of Orwell’s novel, “1984”.  In that novel (written in 1948) Orwell’s hero, Smith, spends his days re-writing past copies of the Times, to get rid of the mistakes.

Here the Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men seems to be doing it the other way around – rather like the AAA do all the time.  He takes a truthful past, and re-writes it to present the inevitability of a future that undoubtedly won’t happen like a past that didn’t happen!   It’s quite a stunt.

It’s a strange job, this Deputy Editor of Telegraph Men lark, but I suppose in this world of bent journalists and broken newspapers, someone has to do it.

PS: It is incidentally Song’s birthday today.  Happy birthday Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong.

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19 Replies to “How a newspaper re-writes the past, to prepare for Arsenal’s collapse”

  1. Nice one Tony. In amongst all of it, I agree with Arsene on birthday boy. He was an AM who could tackle, hold off three players, and play some delightful chip passes?

  2. I think it was the historian MacCauley who wrote: “The only thing that history teaches us, is that history teaches us nothing”. Your Telegraph chap might do well to consider that before invoking Groundhog Day.

    A propos, one of the more scurrilous distortions by the press, is how they take a random rumour (viz. Arsenal interested in signing Lionel Messi), which has no foundation in reality, and no likelihood of fruition, and give it an apparent credibility with follow-ups like:

    Arsenal to miss out on main target Messi – ready to sign new contract.

    Barcelona tell Arsenal “Messi not for sale”.

    Arsenal target Lionel Messi in talks with Accrington Stanley.

    There are several other variations to this deception, which football supporters seem to lap up (this blog notwithstanding), and create their own reality around – “Wow! Messi coming to Arsenal! I can’t wait to see him rip up the PL”, followed by the inevitable disappointment, “Wenger’s betrayed us again. Why didn’t he go in quicker for Messi?”

    Besides, where would we fit him in if we did sign him!

  3. If Song was the midfield ‘beast’ we always needed, why did we win nothing when he played for us?

  4. Another bang from Untold. Fire the bullet, we are solidly behind you guys.
    Johnny Cooper
    The Telegrap
    The AAA
    glory hunters
    we know you guys won’t run out of criticisms but one thing for sure is, we’ve got Arsene as our main signing, fullstop.

  5. Very funny those guys…

    We all know Arsenal have injury problems. Untold is one of the first to bring it up!!!

    An injury in Sep is vastly different from one in January. An injury to Giroud last season (which did not happen) would be vastly different from his injury at the moment.

    When they say, before an important match comes an injury… its the same old story… bla bla bla. Then you know they are talking rubbish.

  6. Excellent article. Very few websites, never mind professional journalists, take the time to critcise the rubbish dished up to us in the media. Even supposedly ‘upper-class’ institutions like The Times are little better than wank (excuse my French). And let’s not get started on the BBC.
    And that’s just the sports journalism. How much more desperate is the need for quality journalism on current affairs?
    Do the people in the media really believe their public are idiots, or are they just idiots themselves?

  7. Five great signings.

    Our deadline day signing has just scored two goals for England.

    We’ve got three world cup winners.

    Our team has collaborated in a witty advert against homophobia.

    We’re on another unbeaten run.

    The doom merchants can say what they like. I see great times ahead.

  8. History is only nine years old according to the papers? Football domination goes in cycles, Arsenal in the 1930’s, Liverpool in the 70’s and 80’s, Man U in the 90’s and 2000’s and now Chelsea in 2000’s and 2010’s.

    Poor old Tottenham never had a cycle?

  9. Spuddies do have a cycle. Their cycle is PL/Championship plus their groundsman has a mountain bi-cycle!!!!!

  10. @Mick, true we never won anything with Song but perhaps we’d have lost more games if we didn’t have him. You never know.

  11. The problem is Tony, you have just given the guy what he wants. He will now get more hits to his story as Arsenal fans look him up (even if it is just to tell him what they think). Would it not be better to ignore it if you don’t like the story?

  12. Thanks Tony.
    I believe The Telegraph man’s is along the lines of a new trend in journalism: make all manners of wild and unsubstantiated claims against an entity and then blame or write off the entity when it becomes obvious that the claims are, indeed, wild, unsubstantiated and untrue.

  13. “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
    ― Bertrand Russell

  14. @Chapman’s Ghost
    You may well be right, we may have lost a few more games. But that is not what these DFM protagonists mean, they insist that IF we were to sign a strong defensive midfielder it would almost ensure the title for us, but ignore the fact that we had Song and we still didn’t win anything. The ridiculous thing is that Song was never a DFM in the sense that they mean, but they still hold him up as one. Presumably they were all clamouring for Wenger to re-sign him when Barcelona let him go if they thought him that good, if so I don’t recall it. And why does the DFM need to be BIG and STRONG. Claude Makelele was one of the best and he was fairly small if I recall correctly, more like Arteta in build and style.

  15. This is why I’ve stopped reading these rags, they’re rubbish. I predict in 50 years maximum they’ll have been replaced by some other form of media, with the way technology is moving. Take for instance one can be aware of what’s happening just by following twitter, and not reading the papers or watch the news. I can’t wait for that day. They need to go, and leave us to make our own opinions, for ourselves.

  16. @Mick, have to say I was never a huge Song fan anyway and was taken aback when Barca paid what they did for him. But let’s be reasonable, none of our team won anything for you know how long (the media never forgot to remind us) and so we could aim the same criticism at Fabregas, RVP and all the others that left but without some of them we might not have finished fourth. Of course I realize what the point the media is making, as you pointed out, though I must admit I’d have been glad if we had signed a more physical DM simply because we seem to suffer so many injuries and our midfield struggles to deal with more physical teams and gets overrun at times. Still that was Wenger’s decision and you have to leave these things to him. Anyway Ramsey might be out of the City game now. Does it ever end?

  17. Chap,

    One player on the field who is stronger doesn’t prevent the opposing eleven players from tackling hard. You can’t blame our injuries on the lack of a physical dm. It doesn’t constitute proper causation for our injuries. Your agreement isn’t solid.

  18. @Dave C. I didn’t blame our injuries on the lack of a dm. I said it would be good to have a more physical presence in the midfield. Some of our players seem to be injury prone, having a dm won’t stop that but it might be useful to have an extra body who can concentrate on reinforcing the midfield as so many of our players like to get forward and that would give them the freedom to roam up field a little more.

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