Football betrayed: making up stories for fans to believe

By Tony Attwood

This week the Daily Mirror launched a big special on the questions that Arsenal fans are wanting the answer to but for which there will never be an answer.  Actually they weren’t the questions I would like to have answered, largely because I knew the answers, but they were the questions the Mirror thought would make a good story.  A subtle difference.

Top of the list was

Who refuses to spend the money – board or Wenger?

It’s a theme that has been doing the rounds for a long time.  For example the Yahoo sport / Europsport site ran a story in August 2013 by Jan Molby which said,

“The board have come out and said they have money, and that they will compete with the biggest spenders. Over to you Wenger…

“Incredibly though he has said he’s finding it difficult to sign players, despite having seen several targets – Gonzalo Higuain, Bernard and Luiz Gustavo – join smaller clubs due to his reluctance to spend the money needed to buy them.

“Additionally, the two major signings Tottenham have made would have certainly improved Arsenal’s team. Roberto Soldado is a fantastic goal-scorer, while Paulinho is exactly what they are missing in the middle of the park.”

I think we might pause for a moment here.   The question actually being asked at the moment is “Does Roberto Soldado have a future at Tottenham?”  Paulinho meanwhile appears to be the centre of an offer from Corinthians the club that sold him to Tottenham to take him back.

Soldado signed for Tottenham having scored 114 goals in five seasons for Valencia and his former club, Getafe. He had scored 20 plus goals in each of the previous four seasons.  Much was expected.   But in 2013/14 he played 36 games and scored six PL goals of which four were penalties.

Corinthians’ Paulinho came to Tottenham for £16m in the summer of 2012 but he is no longer regularly in the team.

My point here is the fairly obvious one – buying players doesn’t always work.  When the AAA criticise Mr Wenger for not buying, this rather simple issue is forgotten.

Of course the Mirror gets out of the difficulty by refusing to say who we ought to buy – they just report other people’s rumours, like most newspapers now and then moan when Arsenal don’t buy.  At least we should place Eurosport and Yahoo sport above the Mirror for having the nerve to print a piece about, it naming names and making predictions.  Unfortunately for them, they got the predictions wrong.  Fortunately Mr Wenger didn’t take their advice.

The fact is that telling Mr Wenger who to buy and making jokes about who he did buy is the stuff that a ten year old could do, and probably learns to do at school along with his times tables – especially if there is a copy of the Mirror on the breakfast table.

But there is more.  Gonzalo Higuain, as we’ve shown several times, was not a target for Arsenal, and the stories about him being spotted at Heathrow on his way to sign, were just inventions.   It was all part of the complex set of phantom and vapour transfers set up to persuade Real Madrid not to accede to Tottenham’s contractual requirement that Bale could only go to Real Mad if Real Mad refused to sell Ozil to Arsenal.  Arsenal’s triumph was by-passing that hurdle and getting Ozil – who I still rate at the very highest level, despite the contrary views elsewhere.

But back to the Mirror.  Bernard is a Daily Mirror favourite.  They ran  the story “Brazil international Bernard has been offered to top Premier League clubs as he bids to escape Shakhtar Donetsk,” in May this year.  But then can you imagine the Mirror’s angle if Arsenal did buy him and  not the defenders they also keep yelling about.  Anyway, in the end, no one took him for some reason.

Luiz Gustavo  went to Wolfsburg rather than Arsenal.  Was that an Arsenal failure, or did he maybe fancy staying in Germany, having settled there and learned the language?  Was there a visa issue?  Or a question of how he would fit into the team?  Or actually an issue about his playing ability?  Or had he been warned about the English press and the AAA?

So when we come back to

“Incredibly though he [Wenger] has said he’s finding it difficult to sign players, despite having seen several targets – Gonzalo Higuain, Bernard and Luiz Gustavo – join smaller clubs due to his reluctance to spend the money needed to buy them,” the picture begins to look a little difference.  I don’t think Higuain was ever wanted, so we didn’t find it difficult to sign him.  Bernard’s position was filled, which leaves one player who may not have been what the club saw as being a perfect fit, or who may simply have not wanted to come.

And this is the point really.  Players are people, yet are treated by the media as meat to be traded.  Respect for them and their families as citizens is about minus 100 on a scale of 1 to 10, in the media.  But the truth is that while, for me, playing on the Emirates pitch in a five a side competition was one of the moments of my life because of my eternal affection for Arsenal, for footballers it is one option among many.

And besides maybe Luis Gustavo did know about the press and the AAA.

The fact is, the approach of the press in Germany is far different from that in England, with more respect given in terms of the private lives of players.  Certainly among the tiny number of players who I have had the chance to talk to about such things, there is an awareness across Europe that if you come to England and are anything other than a quiet family man off the pitch, life is going to be tough.  And that’s before the abuse you’ll get after a couple of dodgy games.

Back with the Mirror, I won’t bore you with all the questions the Mirror posed (although there was a good one about the catering), but there are a couple that I would mention:

What is behind all the injuries?

I think you only have to read the referee reviews get an idea of that.

What happened to Chamakh?

He had huge personal issues which utterly affected his performance on the pitch. Much as we want the players to be machines that can just turn it on (like Henry) and icemen (like Bergkamp – but don’t forget he did occasionally lose it, jutting an elbow into a face for example), players are subject to human emotions.  They are people.

Why was RvP sold to Man Utd?

And this is where the Mirror really loses it.   On 30 January 2008 the Court of Arbitration in Sport laid down the Webster ruling which says that all players can leave their club after three years, irrespective of what the contract says.  Untold carried the story, as of course did many other sources.  Somehow the Mirror missed it.

RvP was tapped up by Man U, with the promise of a contract that gave him a preposterous amount of money over four years.  Sir Alex F did that as part of his policy of throwing everything at one more championship – which he did achieve.  But the price the club paid for putting everything into that one year was seen in the following season.

The ruling is rarely used, because the club liable to lose the player either there and then, or in a year or two, generally does a deal to allow the player to go if that is what the player wants, in order to get some money from a sale they don’t want.  Every agent knows they can move the player after three years, so players are in fact up for sale from the moment they sign.

The newspapers don’t talk about the Webster ruling however, because it is considered too complex for its readers to grasp.

It was ever thus.

Untold – the latest 



43 Replies to “Football betrayed: making up stories for fans to believe”

  1. This blog is awesome. I’m so sick of the tune in the Arsenal camp..

    Wenger is doing bey great considering how many fronts he’s being faught. 18 years and going strong I don’t understand why our fans fight Wenger too.

  2. A Triumph – take that you nasty press men -print anymore Lies and he’ll run you through again .

    I think this site needs a motto to put the fear into the rifraf how about

    audemus jura nostra defendere ?

  3. Great comment Tony.

    I always laugh at the rants and criticism Mr. Wenger gets, when we fail to sign players the media or some fans want. Balotelli, Saldado, Fellaini, Scott Parker, Joey Barton etc. The list goes on. I notice they are now queuing up to criticise Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil. These are reactionary types who think they know best but actually display incredible ignorance about the game.

    You wouldn’t get a bloke who works in an office or as a builder claiming he knows more about heart surgery than a heart surgeon. So why should the media and fans think they know more than Mr. Wenger? It really is bizarre the amount of arrogance these bunch of amateurs display.

    It is like all these ‘easy’ teams we should be beating. The media lie for a living and do so to sell their ‘news’. The problem we have is that there is a small number of Fans who choose to believe everything they read. But worse still, there are some who claim to be Arsenal fans that do nothing but moan and complain. When we win, we are either lucky or the other team was ‘easy’. When we draw or lose, we are rubbish and the world is going to end. Win the FA Cup and it was ‘only’ Hull. Beat Man City 3-0 in the Community Shield and ‘they weren’t trying’. It really is petty and proves the quality of fan we have now. Very sad.

    To be fair, the media are only doing it because they know Arsenal have some pretty gullible fans who believe everything they read.

  4. audemus jura nostra defendere ?

    Can you translate what you were trying to say please?

  5. @ClockEndRider
    October 24, 2014 at 11:38 am

    “audemus jura nostra defendere ” Latin


    “we dare defend our rights”

  6. I think I got the reason why everyone hates Arsene Wenger. People fear what they don’t understand, right? A survival tool for the cavemen those stoney days. I guess only a genius would understand a genius. Hey, I understand Arsene, his principles and future plans. I wonder what does that make me…

  7. @ Micheal – Sorry , sometimes my timing really sucks !
    Note to self – check before posting !

  8. It was meant for that creep who’s here to bury us , not to praise us ! Very unlike Mark Anthony !

  9. Wow , today is my lucky day ! I’ve made it !


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  10. The thing with poor old Bernie is that he has third party ownership.

    I’m no expert but even I knew that simple consideration meant that any stories surrounding this player linking him to the good ship Arsenal came out of the “how to be a football agent for dummies by Jorge Mendes” handbook. Perhaps these third party interests are friendly with interests at the Mirror?

  11. One thing those who want AW out do not realise is:

    Arsenal employed AW for the type of man he is(character), the skills he has, and for HIS understanding of the vision of the club.

    Any new manager will also be employed by the same rules i think, unless Arsenal change their vision, which i cannot see happening any time soon. (I won’t be surprised if all of the (possible)replacement(s) are already identified).

  12. I have come to realize we now have several geniuses here on UA…what a super feeling – I feel sorry for the rest!

  13. Also, remember AW’s lack of ambition and failure to sign Balotelli, who was hailed as a coup signing for the inspirational Brendan Rogers. (Memories appear to be short).

    Another example of lazy journalists: Thursday’s Mail (handed out on an aircraft, not bought), not quite succeeding in hiding its disappointment at our 2 late goals against Anderlecht, referred to their headed goal which beat Sczceny the Arsenal keeper.

  14. I was looking forward to hearing a well measured response to the Mirrors four questions in the article, and particularly the one about who refuses to spend the money – board or Wenger.

    Your answer is that the players you buy don’t always work out, followed by a rant about football transfer speculation gossip and players linked with the club by the tabloids.

    Did I miss something? I have been reading your campaign against lazy journalism in this series all week and the old saying ‘hoisted by thy own petard’ springs to mind, and that is without ever going into the next 3 question including your one line ‘refer to’ answer.

  15. Hard to tell with these flip flopping AAAA troll what I think “IBB” is trying to say is that it thinks that Levy is a good businessman with a proven record, as many 24/7 hacks have been pointing out over the years whilst ignoring what Lord Sugar the former owner of Tottenham has to tell them.

    That Loldado was worth the Wonga/ debt peonage. And that Paulinho was left eating grass as he tried to follow Oxlade-Chamberlain a player the AAAA were groaning about when signed, in Rio before he even arrived in the PL.

  16. Finsbury, it seems you are extremely stupid, in fact deluded beyond words if that is what you interpret from what I wrote.

  17. In fact the simple answer to the question asked by the Mirror about who refuses to spend the money – board or Wenger could have been

    ‘What refusal, what money? Arsenal have £170 million in the bank but are circa. £230 in debt with a £19 million PA mortgage until 2030. For the past decade we have spent within our means according to what was available, but why should we show our hand. Investment in the club both on and off the field has increased over the last two summers when new commercial deals were negotiated and permitted the investment. However as custodians of the club the board will not bring Arsenal FC further into debt and will continue to live within our means.

  18. @john
    October 24, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    OMG imagine poor (victimized) Balotelli in our dressing room!!! Real value for money!!!

  19. One elderly female friend (family friend – in case some of you get all excited) once told me; when you go to a shop window with money in pocket…decide do you NEED what you see more then you have in pocket!

  20. When refs do their job our squad is Deep enough in quality in numbers…if not, no matter what we spend (which is what Media/AAA WANT) we will spend more then what we actually have and still be in the same SHIT!!!

  21. Tony – I think I’ve mentioned this previously, but I was (fairly) reliably informed that a deal to buy Higuain was at a fairly advanced stage. I can only speculate, but I guess it broke down because of the gazzumping by Napoli. Clearly Arsenal did not think he was worth what Napoli were prepared to pay – and I think Arsenal were right.

  22. Yes, think wenger was right on Hig…..can be a good player, but if only he understood the offside rule! Quite happy with the two we have when it comes to that sort of striker

  23. I’m going to make up a story. Cabaye on loan in Jan with a view to a permanent move unless his club get a load of injuries on a par with what we get. The likes of Gustavo…..not technical enough!
    Then again, theses always Scotty Parkah

  24. That Mirror article is pathetic.

    Who refuses to spend the money – board or Wenger?
    We spent about £90m this last transfer window, so to claim that we ‘refuse to spend’ is patently absurd, nay, mentally backward, even.

    What is behind all the injuries?
    Who knows. Not the Mirror, that’s who. The club have been looking into it for a long time now. Obviously being kicked all over the park doesn’t help.

    What happened to Chamakh?
    He left two seasons ago, why are they even bringing this up as an Arsenal problem? Again, I can only think they are mentally backward. Beside which, absolutely no Arsenal fan even cares, so why include it in an article supposedly about questions Arsenal fans want answered? Why don’t the journalists and pundits tell us why infinitely many players they have hyped up in the past have become flops? Andy Carroll? Soldado? Joe Cole? Micah Richards? Paulinho? Djemba Djemba ‘the next Roy Keane’? Townsend? The list is endless. Why not present us with an article people actually want to read, like “The 1200000 players we hyped up who turned out to be rubbish”.

    Why was RvP sold to Man Utd?
    Can’t really add to what Tony says. Oh, yes, this happened three years ago, why are they still bringing it up? And why don’t they ask something Arsenal fans really want to know, like “why did RvP leave the club that stood by him through thick and thin, and developed him into one of the best forwards in the world, all to line his pocket?” You know, stuff most of us are actually thinking.

  25. @Quincy
    October 24, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    The answer (IMHO) is very simple; the ‘modern’ media is not only lazy but a conglomerate of intellectually (severally) handicapped bunch of individuals (branch-like) who grow into non-fruit-bearing trees of NO USE!

  26. I love this blog but just wish you all didn’t have jobs so you could write more often and then I wouldn’t even bother with the sports pages, sadly I have to read what the blogposts at the daily mail (daily Nazi as some of my friends have labelled) etc have to say before erasing from memory then coming here to read some sensible well balanced articles, thank you again.

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