The endless assault on Arsenal. Now it is started I doubt it will ever end.

By Tony Attwood

I got interested in how the media works way back in my late teenage years when I started playing with various rhythm and blues bands.  Rather obviously (since my name is not known in musical circles) my attempt to make the big time (or come to that even the little time) failed totally, but as this failure became obvious, I did get to know some of the people working in the music media and what we called the A&R department of record companies.  (A&R = artists and repertoire – the musicians and the songs).

What we talked about a lot was how it was that some songs and some bands got exposure in the media and others didn’t.   The answer by and large was quality, corruption, prejudice and pure chance – although not necessarily in that order.

My interest in football in the media took off from there, and was particularly triggered by an outburst by Nottingham Forest in the late 1970s when they launched, in the club programme, an interesting attack on the press and certain high profile journalists for their coverage of Nottingham Forest.

This was around the same time as several newspapers started to criticise TV stations that ran edited highlight shows – the criticism being that the stations were deliberately turning dull and tedious matches into games of excitement by “skilful editing techniques.”

Such events and commentaries don’t happen now.  If the press criticise TV it is merely about kick off times and how running live games five days running reduces crowds.  If a manager or owner criticises or even bans the press it tends to be treated with disdain, or else by the media making it quite clear that the manager it a bully, and not quite the right sort of person to run a club.

But over the years, neither subject (the way the media is involved in influencing popular music, or the way it reports football) has become a mainstream debate – but that’s never stopped me from following a line of enquiry of my own.  It seems to be what I do – not sure why.  I just do.

So it was with some interest that I saw the story in the Telegraph last week that proclaimed, “Arsenal players and staff are becoming increasingly mystified by the decision making of manager Arsene Wenger.”

The story quoted no actual sources – so of course there is no way of knowing if any of this is actually true, or if it is all make-believe, or if it is the vindictive invention of one very fed up player – or come to that by a mischief making journalist.

What made the story very suspicious is the lack of detail within it – indeed just about the only detail is that the manager gave the players the day off after the draw with Palace.

The article talked about the “drift to desensitisation, coarseness even, as the boundaries between conventional media and ‘social’ media break down.

“It was shocking to hear [at a media event] speaker after speaker describe the offensiveness and abusiveness they encounter on social media and the sense of helplessness at being unable to prevent it or respond effectively.

“At the same time, it was striking to hear so much emphasis from editors and journalists working in social media on the speed of their responsiveness as well as the volumes of ‘hits’ and ‘impressions’ they rack up, but with little focus on the value or the importance of what is being said.”

It is a valid point, and one that has often been made, but it hides another point.   While one or two papers (well, one, actually) wrestle with the issue in terms of serious news coverage, every single paper long ago gave up serious consideration of what it is supposed to be doing in terms of football reporting.

There has been no attempt to distance the traditional media from the social media and actually try and do some serious evidence based analysis.   As the Brady article said, “instant reaction, allowing virtually no time for reflection or application of critical judgement…” is everything.

“If journalists and programme-makers allow the urgent and the trivial to drive out the important, and if they frequently sacrifice judgement to speed, there will be a breakdown in trust and respect for the media.”

But as the Guardian commentary on the piece said, “It is pushing it to suggest that mainstream media is being led astray by social media.   That said, he surely has a point about the need for newspapers and TV newsrooms to resist the temptation to react too hastily to online postings.”

But when it comes to football, this season has seen an old media / social media alliance in an attack on one football club and one manager as has never been seen before.   No manager and no club has ever had to take the endless undermining through invented tales and ceaseless rumour that Arsenal now takes day by day.

From the sneering of Lineaker that Arsenal were so stupid they actually offered a job to the “wrong man” from Leicester, to invented stories about Arsenal getting more injuries than anyone else, it is endless, and will  continue once Mr Wenger has left the club.   These campaigns never ever stop once started.  Even when the object of their rancid hatred is laid low the anti-Arsenal campaigns will continue.

And this is the problem – the alleged absolute failure of Arsenal while having its best 20 year run in its entire history since formation in 1886 has become some perverted sort of truth, which every manager will now have to live up to and greatly improve upon.  Year after year of qualifying for Europe is not even base level acceptable.  No Arsenal manager has ever done anything remotely like this – but the next manager will have to do much, much better just to assuage the newspaper commentators.

It sure is going to be tough.

But now, before you rush away, do you fancy something a little lighter?  I was asked to join in writing a piece about emotional moments in sport.  It’s just been published.  You can read my contribution, along with a number of other writers here.

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42 Replies to “The endless assault on Arsenal. Now it is started I doubt it will ever end.”

  1. The quicker we change the board and the manager the better, and when AKB’s start accepting this and joining the other 80% of Arsenal supporters who want change, then better still.

  2. Dear, dear Geoffrey you forgot to deny that once you have done all that you want to do it wont change the attitude of social and main media towards Arsenal.

    At least you don’t deny what Tony has written about the medias toward Arsenal

  3. Dear Geoff,

    I don’t like Putin. I think he is corrupt, indulges in nepotism, and is cheating the Russian public. I think ‘the quicker we replace that crook Putin from the Russian presidency, the better…’.

    Admittedly, I have never stepped in Russia and have no links or influence whatsoever with anyone Russian (except perhaps following Arshavin when he was at Arsenal). Can I canvass your support for a march at Trafalgar square to protest against Putin’s presidency please?

    Thanks, now what were you saying about changing the Arsenal board?

  4. Great work as usual Tony! I also do not expect a change in the media attitude any time soon, even after Wenger leaves.

    Unfortunately, Arsenal will always have the loud minority also known as the “boo boys” like Geoff.

    It’s interesting how much better Arsenal played against West Brom with a better environment when the boo boys were supposedly boycotting the game. But sure, those fans are doing their best to support the club in their own heads.

  5. much as I also dislike the ‘boo boys’ Jerry its hard to say the team at Sunderland had a better or worse environment to play in. In fcat I could hear the away fans support loud and clear from my sofa. It didn’t seem to help much

  6. Geoff, you appear to have mixed up your percentages.
    Obviously we all know it should say “joining the other 20% of Arsenal supporters”, although I have to say I think 20% is an over-estimate…. or where you referring to the whining ‘on-line’ which probably is closer to 80% by those few with entitlement issues..

  7. Robert
    April 25, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I am reliant on TV or a stream. When our game is shown on TV where I live I also take a stream.

    This means I get two commentaries.
    A local commentator and the stream commentators the latter are usually English.

    If you have only the commentaries for the game then you have two different games.

    The English will tell you how poor Arsenal are and good the opposition are.

    The local version acknowledges the skill of the Arsenal players which is rarely done by the commentators from England.

    For the game against Sunderland I had to rely on a stream.

    The commentary ran true to form. Everything that Sunderland did varied from ‘great play’ to ‘brilliant’.

    I counted the number of times they mentioned ‘good play’ by an Arsenal player.(I do this for every game) three times in the first half and four times in the second half.

    When a Sunderland player made a bad pass there was no mention of it.

    As unable as they were to mention bad play by Sunderland they were Formula One quick to mention a mistake by an Arsenal player.

    Are we to understand from you that as an Arsenal supporter this media debunking of the team you support is for you correct?

  8. Ouch! I have just seen I have made a horrible mistake and addressed my above second post to Robert.

    My apologies to you Robert.

    My post was in reponse to Geoff Alvis
    April 25, 2016 at 2:29 pm

  9. We were lucky that Chelsea and United had a bad start to the season or else we would have been finishing 7th in the table. But that’s OK with a lot of supporters because years ago Wenger was a really good manager. For the rest of us who live on planet Earth he is letting us all down. Nobody with any sense keeps a car for twenty years and still believes it is as good as a modern model.

  10. I would have thought it was self evident these days that the media necessity for grabbling the attention of the public entails putting out rubbish and falsehoods. Its never more evident than when we have the transfer windows. Most intelligent watchers can sort the chaff from the wheat I would have thought. In the end sport is a results driven business, you win or you lose. if you can win well thats a bonus. Everything else is irrelevant in my view.

  11. @blacksheep,

    I wasn’t questioning the away support, because I think this season for the most part, the away support has been great for the team.

    At home though, it seems some fans are more likely to get on the backs of the team for every little mistake, rather than have the team’s back. I know it’s a loud minority, but the team should feel like their place is a fortress.

    At home, defensively we have been sound (11 against, only United (7) have been better) but offensively we have struggled (26 goals for, where 8 teams have scored more goals at home then us).

    In away matches, the opposite is true: offensively scored the most (32), but defensively 7 teams have let in less goals than us at 23.

    It looks like the team plays more conservatively at home but more freely on the road. I do think a better offensive-defensive balance is needed in both, but the players on the pitch are the same, the only difference is the fans at home and away.

  12. ” Nobody with any sense keeps a car for twenty years and still believes it is as good as a modern model.”

    A car is not a football team.

    What does ‘modern’ mean in football terms season 2015 through to 2016?

    Is James Vardy ‘modern’ or is he so good at ‘buying penalties’ only Francis Lee can compare with him amongst English strikers?

  13. Arsenal has become the eye of the Premier League football in England since the arrival to the club by the Boss in my own observation. Hence, the unusual media’s focus on Arsenal. And since Arsenal have not been winning titles in the last 12 years, save when they won the back to back FA Cup and the Charity Shield titles in the last 2 seasons, the media focus on Arsenal has turned to utter criticism of the Boss who is responsible for the Gunners results on the field of play.

    Irrespective of the unusual attention on the Arsenal manager by the media, how can we know if the so-called change mantra at Arsenal for a change of the Arsenal manager is the majority or is in the minority calls by the Arsenal fans across the board since there hadn’t been a Poll to determine that in the social media?

    Arsenal title failure this season may not be totally due to the incompetence of the Gunners on the field of play.But the Boss too should take a chunk of that failure as a result of his wrong sense of judgement in his starts which I consider to be on the sentiments side a times instead of to mostly base his starts and substitutions on competent Gunners who can deliver the goods for us and not be basing it on his favoured players who may not be able to positively contribute his or their own quota to have all the 3 points collected on a consistent basis in matches when Arsenal need to be doing that to win at least 2 titles every year if am not demanding too much.

    Since the Boss has mistakenly tookoff Giroud in the Chelsea game at the Ems instead of to takeoff Campbell for Walcott, Giroud has not recovered his goals scoring form again for Arsenal. The Boss removed his inform striker and Arsenal lost the match.

  14. Not sure it is the most successful twenty years in our history. Depends how you define the 20 years and value the respective competitions. 1930-50: 6 league titles and 3 FA cups (and surely more if for WWII). 1979-1999: 3 league titles, 3 FA cups, 1 European cup winners cup and 2 league cups. Specifically under Wenger: 3 league titles and 6 FA cups.

  15. My response to this post is two-fold and based on a)having a degree in journalism and at-one-time being one, and b)the good old boy-ness of English football and its coverage in the papers.

    1) It’s football so who cares? More serious news has gotten bastardized as well, but football falls under the umbrella of what’s referred to as the Toy Department, or sports page. While serious news is not to be played around with, football is sport so really who cares, have fun with it, make shit up, doesn’t matter.

    2) A few months ago FiF pushed the idea Mourinho was essentially run out of the Premier League because he wouldn’t stop talking about the referees. That the real reason Chelsea suffered as much as they did was down to the powers that be wanted him out. On first glance, to me, that doesn’t seem ludicrous.

    The poor decisions against Arsenal this season are legion, and perhaps like with Mourinho, this is what the good old boys of English football are looking to do with Wenger. Considering he’s at the end of his career, and had a real shot at the tile this season, maybe it was decided that no he will not win another and in the context of this Premier League season where really Arsenal should come top, not winning will be the straw that finally rids them of Wenger.

    It’s a theory at least.

  16. A good article Tony.We are doing everything Tony has written about when we reply to geoff.Totally pointless!.Can you tell me who you want our next Manager to be.I know, it is Eddie Howe.The only reason we were able to buy Ozil and Sanchez and get Welbeck is because of AW.When AW does go(I do think at the end of his contract) we will have to get a big name in.Big players do not play for small Managers.

  17. Jerry @4.41pm

    I like your analysis, but the way the opposition plays is also probably a factor.

    Most teams come to the Emirates looking to park the bus & to prevent us scoring too many or at all – going home with a point or avoiding a thrashing is almost a victory.

    When we are on the road teams will at times attack us more, which in turn gives us opportunities.

    The additional random factor is the the amount of thuggery permitted by the PGMO – which can influence the balance of play in any match.

  18. Zedsaunt. Have you ever heard of metaphors?
    Wenger is not as good as he was years ago. He costs a lot more money run and he is not as efficient. Do you want to keep him until he is 90 years old?

  19. Ever heard of the wisdom of age and experience, geekaybee? Arsene Wenger is scarcely in his dotage.

    I find the points you make about Nottingham Forest and football clip programmes on TV very interesting, Tony. Was that Nottingham Forest under Clough? If so, that’s another successful manager, though a very different one, who got picked on by the press.

    I’ve recently got more and more sceptical while watching Match of the Day, mainly because of things people have pointed out on this web site. It shows how people’s perceptions are moulded by select presentations of reality. It is interesting, therefore, that this scepticism was expressed right at the start, but swept under the carpet.

  20. Spurs can only draw 1-1 with W Brom, we could yet have another St Totteringhams day!

  21. @bjtgooner,

    I do agree that most teams that come to the emirates will try to park the bus, but I think majority of the teams that park the bus at emirates do the same at their stadiums against us as well so the difference is almost negligible.

    For example, Sunderland at the Ems got 27% possession, 11 shots (4 OT) vs a SOL: 30% possession, 12 shots (3 OT).

    West Brom also similar home and away, as I am sure many other teams are as well.

    In regards to the thuggery permitted by the PGMO, not sure if worse at home or away!

  22. When I first started to follow English football in the early 70’s , I had to rely on the BBC World Service radio broadcasts every Saturday . After listening to a selected 2nd half game , I would eagerly wait for the round up of the rest of the games by the respective commentators .

    The level and depth of those comments were not only enlightening , informative and illuminating , but also delivered with such humour and panache in the finest Queen’s English , that it sounded almost Shakespearean in nature . One even wanted to clap for the vanquished , as they seem to have fought the good and gallant fight .

    Forward to the present -( thud !) – utter and unmitigated prattle from very biased and second rate players that seems to follow a set script . Nary a praise for the Arsenal , but bullshit and brickbats by the ton .

    But , the best part of my viewing is watching it with the sound very , very , low . And unlike the LIKE button on here , it works !

  23. If only I could also get to silence ‘them’ and their unwanted presence here , I would be quite happy . Even though its been a year since we last won a trophy ! Yes the FA Cup is again recognised as a worthy trophy ! The Charity Shield is not .
    And 26 after Wright & Bright almost got it right , we have revenge in the air!

    Anyway fuck ‘them’ !

  24. FUCK HIM !

    At the regular Sunday morning service, Rev Roberto announces that he is planning to leave for a larger church that would pay him more.

    There is a hush within the congregation. No one wants him to leave, because he is so popular. Colin, who owns several car dealerships, stands up and proclaims “If Rev Roberto stays, I will provide him with a new Mercedes every year, and his wife with a Honda CRV, to transport their children!”
    The congregation sighs in appreciation and applauds.

    Daniel, a successful businessman and lawyer, stands and says, “If Rev Roberto will stay on here, I’ll personally double his salary, and establish a foundation to guarantee free university education for his children!”

    More sighs and louder applause …

    Mary, age 68, stands and announces with a smile, “If Rev Roberto stays, I will give him sex!”

    There is total and stunned silence.

    Rev Roberto, blushing, asks her: “Mary, you’re a wonderful and God fearing lady. Whatever possessed you to say that?”

    Mary’s 70-year old husband, Mike, is now trying to hide, holding his forehead with the palm of his hand, and shaking his head from side to side, while his wife replies, “Well, I just asked my husband how we could help, and he said: ‘Fuck him!'”

    Moral of the story:
    Women sometimes do not understand men talk!!!

  25. geekayabee – why don’t you try and imagine that in a very short span of Arsenal history Mr Wenger has won a hefty chunk of the trophies Arsenal have won? The Danish Arsenal fans who were in the bar watching the Sunderland Arsenal game, in discussion afterwards, had difficulty understanding why Arsene Wenger should go. In the reality of the football club he has won trophies and entertained them, even compelled them to buy plane tickets, tickets for the ground, and travel over, their passports in their pockets.

    The danger of metaphors is twofold – firstly, the metaphor is not exact as a metaphor to the reality it describes, it is not grounded, there are no tendrils connecting it to the reality, secondly, the person who uses the metaphor believes the metaphor as a reality.

  26. Geoff,

    “The quicker we change the board and the manager the better, and when AKB’s start accepting this and joining the other 80% of Arsenal supporters who want change, then better still.”

    And how are you going to do that? Change the board? This is not a parliamentary democracy, where you go and vote in a hope to elect your desired candidate to the assembly. This is not just a football club, this is full-time business. You cant get rid of people cos you dont like them. Instead of coming up with unsupported “80%” claim, you should concentrate on how to help the team when they are down and low.

  27. @ geekaybee “Nobody with any sense keeps a car for twenty years and still believes it is as good as a modern model.” – I’m sorry, but did you just compare a human being to a car? Honestly, some of the arguments you lot use are just down-right embarrassing. Coming out with lines like that, just does your side of the argument more harm than good.

  28. Edmunds has a Top-100 Cars of all time. Number 1 is the

    1932 Ford V8

    Other selections of mine (from that list)

    1964 Porsche 911
    1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL
    1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
    1928 Dusenberg Model J
    1908 Ford Model T
    1908 Cadillac
    1938 Bugatti Type 575 Atlantic
    1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray
    1965 Shelby Cobra 427
    1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Roadster
    1963 Aston Martin DB5
    1906 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost
    1948 Jaguar XK120

  29. Jerry, Sorry to state the obvious but although the Sunderland possession figures home and away are very similar, they’re just the end result of the way 2 teams play according to their situations.
    Sunderland at home were in a league position where a point is very necessary for their PL survival effort. If we’d played them home and away early/mid-season then they’d have been a bit more attack minded in their home game. In this situation it was their priority was a draw, but a win with some luck.
    We’ll have a similar problem with Norwich where they know a single point from this game could make millions of pounds difference after the 38th game.

  30. @Andy,
    We played Sunderland at home in December (mid season) and away last weekend. I was agreeing that most teams in their similar situation will play more defensively against Arsenal both home and away. The teams may play slightly more attacking their places, but difference is rather negligible, maybe another 3-5% possession and 1-3 shots more against.

    Essentially most of the teams in the bottom half of the table will play to park the bus in both legs and the opportunities present for Arsenal will not be a significantly greater amount away compared to home for the goals scored difference.

    Interestingly, most of the goals scored difference between home and away is accounted for by the 5 we scored at Leicester.

  31. @Geekaybee, but surely then if we didn’t have a poor January and February results wise then we would be champions… great reasoning btw…

  32. It is true Sunderland got glowing reports on the radio (in my case) but that was almost out of surprise (fat Sam, bunch of cloggers etc).

    Arsenal’s problem is that they are perceived of as a ‘big’ club by the media, which to a certain extent is their own fault. The narrative develops from the paradigm that assumes ‘big clubs win everything’, so as soon as a ‘big’ club doesn’t the scrutiny is all about ‘why are they failing?’. Spurs are one place and 5 points ahead, but because they are a ‘small’ club everyone goes on about how brilliantly they play, and what an incredible season they have had. In a way Arsenal should take this as a compliment. Unfortunately a lot of the fans take the media agenda to heart, and think that Arsenal should be winning everything. Partly this is stupidity, but also I feel it is partly Wenger’s fault for talking up the chances every single year for a decade and then not delivering. It is exacerbated by the prices Arsenal charge (‘pay the most should win the most’), and the narrative (fully encouraged by Wenger and the club) that the reason for the stadium move was to allow the club to compete at the top table. If that was true, it begs the question as to why Arsenal finish 4th every year and never trouble the betting odds for the CL.

  33. Posted this somewhere else, and although I do think it’s time for Wenger to go it’s all about that thing called perspective again – Jesus! These people are clueless. Firstly Wenger is not going anywhere until he decides, and no amount of protests will change his mind. If anything it’ll make him even more determined to stay. Secondly, this twelve years without winning the League is nonsense. I don’t know how old these people are but they might not be aware that from the 50’s through to the 80’s we won ONE title. ONE! In the last thirty years we’ve won FIFTEEN major trophies. FIFTEEN! Including FIVE titles. FIVE! Three more than Spurs have won in their entire history. FIVE! Our current manager has won THREE titles on his own. THREE! One more than Spurs have won in their entire history. We’ve won THREE doubles. THREE! Two more than Spurs have. Look at Leeds! look at Villa! Look at Wolves! Look at Bolton! All big clubs with a massive history. Shall I go on? – Of course I could also have said we’ve never been relegated in a hundred years, which really does bring things home when you look at those clubs I’ve mentioned.

  34. @Gord,

    What?? No Jaguar E type there??

    This car alone makes our generation feel like we were a few decades late….

  35. Piercesgecs, I agree with you totally, but it just shows the power of the combined media negative spin on all the cry babies, they think that getting rid of Wenger will suddenly stop the negative spin, it won’t even if there is by some chance an upturn in fortunes, in fact if the new man fails the press/sky ridicule/negativity will increase if anything.

  36. @ geekaybee

    My son is 20 this year. Isn’t it incredible? He is considerably more experienced, intelligent, qualified and able than he was 20 years ago…………….

    I despair at the naivety and ineptitude of some of the aaa’s, I really do.

  37. I think the point geekaybee is making (albeit not very well) is that Wenger is getting old and past it. Is he? There are many who think so (called ‘aaa’ in this place), but it is not so clear cut.

    Firstly, a person is not like a car. Most cars last about a decade and you get rid. A person can add experience and wisdom to their inherent ability.

    Secondly, if you were going to compare Wenger to another person, then who? 2 names spring to mind:

    Clough – performance dropped off dramatically. Arguably this was due to 1) falling out with Peter Taylor 2) too much happy juice.

    Ferguson – performance never dropped off. Stopped because he wanted to retire, but could have carried on.

    Of the 2, Wenger is more appropriately compared to Ferguson. The ‘drop off’ in performance is explained by stadium debt, other managers catching up, lack of ambition from the board and (latterly) a failure in the forward department. And this is the crux of the matter: whereas Ferguson bought the treacherous Dutchman and gave himself a last season boost, Wenger sold the treacherous Dutchman, bought Giroud and put faith in Walcott – both of whom have let him down badly. So is Wenger past it? No evidence at all. Does he put too much faith in players? Arguably. Perhaps he is less ruthless than he needs to be, or maybe used to be. Everyone is creaming themselves over Spurs this year, but if Kane was playing in an Arsenal shirt I am sure Arsenal would be about 10 points ahead of them by now.

  38. ‘When AW does go(I do think at the end of his contract) we will have to get a big name in.Big players do not play for small Managers.’

    Paul, as I recall, it was a case of ‘Arsene who’ when he arrived. He became a ‘big name’ at Arsenal.

    Didn’t stop him becoming a legend in his early years.

    And of course we all agree that Arsenal has always been a ‘big name’.

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