By Billy “the Dog” McGraw
In my last piece about how outdated views of logic and reason have come to dominate the debate on football I tried to suggest that the contemporary vision of considering evidence and then looking for the simplest most straightforward explanation based on evidence, has been thrown out of the window.
Instead we have assertion of the kind use by mediaeval philosophers, but rejected by thinkers from the 18th century onwards – a statement that says that this is how it is because (either) it is God’s will, or because it is so obvious that even a moron in a hurry could see it.
Now I’d like to expand this further by taking another text sent to Untold which we chose not to publish.
The reason for not publishing was fourfold.
a) we had heard it all before with many other writers expressing similar views, and nothing much new was said here
b) it took a line that was against the essence of Untold, in that as we say on the home page – we support the manager and the team
c) it offered no evidence or logical basis for the position taken.
d) there are many other web sites that are both supportive of the same mode of thinking as expressed in this message, and which approve of the notion of personal assertion as factual commentary. Since our title is “Untold” a repetition of their point of view without anything new added doesn’t really meet our brief.
However I do think the points mentioned are worthy of discussion, and here is part of the piece sent in.
You also have take into account the pre-season regime that Wenger sets to prepare players for a season. His methods are dated. Shad Forsythe was still with the German World Cup team while we were going through pre-season, so he couldn’t influence things this season. But I must admit I’d hoped we’d be seeing noticeable improvements in the speed at which our injured players return and their capacity to stay on the pitch. But Wenger has the balance so wrong he’s having to play guys like Koscielny and the Ox before they’re fully fit and they just get injured again.
This piece, which is typical of many that we see, uses a trick that many football journalists use today – mixing straight opinion with no evidence within a quickly changing landscape. As a result, in this piece the waves of complaint pour forth one after the other so quickly that it almost seems as if they are connected and have a powerful logic of their own. But even a cursory analysis proves that they don’t.
Just consider the number of points raised in these few lines
1. Wenger’s methods are dated.
There is no explanation as to what this means, and no evidence to support whatever it does mean. What methods? In what way dated?
2. I’d hoped we’d be seeing noticeable improvements in the speed at which our injured players return and their capacity to stay on the pitch.
This is thus about recovery time – the treatment by the surgeon, the club doctor and the physio. The suggestion seems to be that they have not been doing their job very well, and the writer hoped that they would be improving this season.
Given the context there is the sub-plot that Mr Wenger controls how these three do their job. Since the complaints are all about Wenger we pick up the point that Wenger is somehow stopping the medical team from doing what they could do to, to help recovery times. An amazing assertion, and one that needs some evidence.
3. But Wenger has the balance so wrong he’s having to play guys like Koscielny and the Ox before they’re fully fit and they just get injured again.
There is no evidence for this. True, Kos and Ox have had injuries, come back, and been injured again, but there is no evidence given, or indeed published anywhere, that this is Mr Wenger’s fault.
The implication is that the medics are saying that Kos is not fit, but Wenger plays him anyway.
At this point we would have to ask “why?” “Why does he insist on bringing back players too early, presumably against all medical evidence?”
Indeed that leads to the question, of this is what is happening, why don’t the medics leave much more quickly than they do? If I were a medic at Arsenal and I saw my professional judgement being over ruled all the time, I’d complain, and if not listened to, I’d leave.
Colin Lewin has been at Arsenal for seven years – his cousin Gary (now with England) was at Arsenal for longer. Yet neither seem to object to Wenger’s supposed rushing back of players. Why?
Now this illustrates what I mean by mediaeval journalism – the failure to ask “why”. The sun rises and the sun sets, and the mediaevalist says, “It is God’s will.” That’s fine if that is your view – but it is not the underlying view of Untold. We believe in more contemporary approaches which ask “why?” and look for answers that don’t invoke the will of the Almighty.
The argument of Wenger forcing players back too quickly, over and over again, to cover his own stupidity, depends not just on him being stupid, and being a bully, but on all the professional, highly trained and highly skilled staff around him, bowing down to him, and staying in their jobs.
It seems unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely, and thus worthy of debate – but it is a debate which those who make the claims won’t give us.
And there is another twist to this twisted vision of reality.
When writers on Untold and elsewhere come forth with the view that sometimes there is something odd going on – with perhaps one or two dominant clubs using the Italian system of manipulating referees to ensure that certain clubs win and certain clubs lose – or get lots and lots of injuries – then we are told we are engaging in conspiracy theories and there are rather childish suggestions made about putting on tin hats.
The phrase “conspiracy theory” is itself a misleading one, since in essence much of history is made up a conspiracies. The Gunpowder Plot that we celebrate on November 5 in England is one such. The Cato Street Conspiracy to murder all the top politicians in England in 1820 was another. The Watergate cover up of 1972 another.
The notion of a club bribing half a dozen referees to ensure that when the referee club A B or C they do all they can (without being spotted) to get that club to lose, is an example of a conspiracy that would explain what we observe.
However the notion that Mr Wenger is pushing injured players back too quickly, and that the medical team are allowing this to happen and despite their best work being undone all the time, stay at the club and continue to work with Mr Wenger, really takes us into the conspiracy theory at a different level.
The difference between the two is that the first (bent refs) is a simple explanation of what we see, while the second (a medical team allowing their work to be undone month after month) is a complex explanation.
Accusing the people who put forward the simplest explanation of conspiracy theory, while one’s own explanation is far more convoluted and involves many other people, is clever, but that does not make it right.
In terms of the medics there is no back up logic or chain of argument that leads us to the conclusion that Wenger is going against their views all the time.
However when we look at refs we can back up our approach by examining the organisation that runs refs. If it was wide open, published detailed analyses of each game, had refs from all across the UK on its books, and enough refs to ensure that no one took control of a match involving any one club twice a season, then one could say, “look this is a fair and reasonable organisation – suggesting otherwise is perverse.”
Indeed if it had just a couple of those factors going for it, we might be swayed in our opinion.
But when we come to it, PGMO is not open, does not publish evidence, does not have enough refs, and does not have an even spread, so our suspicions remain valid.
It is, perhaps, this ability of those who do put forward conspiracy theories such that Wenger deliberately undermines the work of his medical staff, and uses “outdated” (but undefined methods) that is the really clever part of the aaa and their journalist allies’ approach.
The create wild conspiracies without any supporting evidence, and then accuse those of us who try and build a logical case to explain what we see, of “conspiracy theories”.
That is, I must say, an extremely clever approach – which is probably why it has become so popular and why the aaa has gained so many journalist allies.
I’ll continue the story anon.
- The day the press started to question the referees – wholesale
- Tottenham 15 Arsenal 1. The managers’ report
- What the media doesn’t tell you, part 6. There’s a financial problem…
- The Big 7 clubs, how much they spent and what good is it doing?
- What the media won’t tell you about football 5: Fifa lends money to Switzerland
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 4 – referee variations
- The final transfer rumours: 3 new names to make 66 players tipped for Arsenal