Arsenal four times as likely to get negative media reports as Liverpool or Chelsea

By Tony Attwood

In the past week or so we’ve been investigating the way in which the media treat Arsenal.

  1. Why the media is so critical of Arsenal: it all goes back to the two Arsenal men who were banned from football for life
  2.  Do other clubs get the same level of constant sniping and negative reporting or is it just Arsenal?
  3. Why are people so negative about Arsenal? The first answers
  4. Are Arsenal treated differently from other clubs by the national media and the bloggettas? An analysis of reports.
  5. Why are the media so critical of Arsenal? How the habit developed over time.

I don’t want to go on hammering away at the same topic ad infinitum and bore everyone stupid, but I do think that Richard Morgan’s piece in which he analysed a vast raft of articles about football to compare negative and positive views (item number 4 in the list above) was a particularly helpful addition to the evidence.

Today, in case you are still interested in this perspective I want to throw in something else, which seeks to link my earlier historical pieces with the current day.  My starting point is, “Who is the most successful manager of all time at Arsenal?”

Obviously the answer is Arsène Wenger with six cups and three titles.

But, the naysayers will argue, he has been at Arsenal longer than anyone else so he has had more chance to win things.  So we might ask, who is the most successful manager at Arsenal in terms of percentage wins during his managerial career?   That must be harder for Wenger because he has worked at the club for so long.   And indeed when we look at the highest percentage win level we do see Pat Rice at the top – because he only managed four league games.  After him comes Joe Shaw who took after the Arsenal team upon the sudden death of Herbert Chapman, and managed that side for the rest of the season.  

These two men had high win percentages, but over a very short space of time, and indeed in Joe Shaw’s case, he managed the side for 23 games that had just won the championship two seasons out of the previous three.

But to be complete I’ve kept them in the chart below which comes from the Arsenal History Society’s detailed analysis of all the Arsenal managers throughout the history of the club in the Football League.

Pos. Name From To Played Win% Top 4 Honours
1 Pat Rice Sep 1996 Sep1996 4 75.00
2 Joe Shaw January 1934 May 1934 23 60.87 1 1 League
3 Arsène Wenger October 1996 1120 57.20 19 3 League
6 FA Cup
4 Thomas Mitchell March 1897 March 1898 26 53.85
5 William Elcoat April 1898 20 Feb 1899 43 53.49
6 Harry Bradshaw August 1899 May 1904 189 50.79 3*
7 James Punch McEwen April 1915 April 1919 2 50.00
8 Herbert Chapman June 1925 Jan 1934 403 49.88 4 2 League
1 FA Cup
9 George Graham May 1986 Feb 1995 460 48.91 6 2 League
1 FA Cup
2 Lg Cup
1 CWCup
10 Tom Whittaker June 1947 October  1956 429 47.09 3 2 League
1 FA Cup

Indeed the only manager who comes near to Wenger in the modern era is Graham – who like Bertie Mee having achieved great things then left the club in decline, finishing just six points above relegation in 1995.

Now George Graham had a hard time of it with the press – particularly in 1990/91 when his sensational team which came so close to being the first Invincibles were crucified by media following the incident with Man U which led to the club being deducted two points.  An incident which was not 1% of the horror show of Chelsea/Tottenham last season which resulted in no point deduction.

But what has happened now to Arsenal is not just the attack on the club for perceived big events in the past, but also the everyday drip-drip-drip of innuendo and misleading statements that is now part of the norm.  

I want to take just one example here – you can check how commonplace this sort of thing is by referring back to Richard’s article mentioned above.  Here’s the opening sentence of an article from the Guardian written before the first friendly in the US this summer.

Francis Coquelin could be set to operate as a makeshift defender for Arsenal as Arsène Wenger looks to handle a number of injuries heading into the new season

Now let me stress that this was before Coquelin maybe or maybe not got a knee injury in the game against the MLS All Stars.  

The part of that sentence that I want to question is Arsène Wenger looks to handle a number of injuries heading into the new season.   And I would ask, how do you understand that comment?  How do you understand “a number of injuries,” particularly in the context of the fact that there has been a lot of publicity about Arsenal’s vast injury level and the club’s incompetence and inability at handling them.  “A number” doesn’t really imply any old number, but a fair sized number.  Five or six maybe?

And in thinking of this we are probably influenced by headlines such as 

Arsene Wenger is to blame for Arsenal’s injury crisis and MUST take responsibility

from the Daily Mirror on 30 November last year.  Such stories are commonplace, and have been for years.  But the analysis of the figures shows that Arsenal’s injury figures are directly comparable to other clubs.  For example in the piece in January this year The biggest lie of all we listed the number of days lost through player injury in the season for the top clubs in the table, at the time:

  • Arsenal 465 players days lost
  • Leicester 184 player days lost
  • Manchester City 769 player days lost
  • Tottenham Hotspur 668 player days lost
  • West Ham 583 player days lost
  • Manchester Utd 752 player days lost

So Arsenal’s injury crisis then, when seen in context, was not really a crisis at all. But back to the Guardian: Arsène Wenger looks to handle a number of injuries heading into the new season.  

The number of injuries at this time was…

Wait for it…

It was…

One.  Per Mertesacker.

So how does the Guardian seek to excuse this?  Well, it doesn’t.  One is after all a number.  Arsenal has a number of injuries and the number was one.  But the headline of course is designed specifically to mislead.  They don’t even say that the number of injuries is one because they cleverly immediately go on to change the subject and we get…

while fellow centre-backs Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny were also left behind as the squad flew to the United States for two pre-season fixtures.

Gabriel is ill while Koscielny is on an extended break having reached the final of Euro 2016 with France. That means Calum Chambers is the most experienced central defender on the tour, with the new signing Rob Holding also likely to play a major part in both games – starting with the MLS All-Stars on Thursday evening.

So let’s try and unravel this.  First all clubs have a number of players in various positions – and ideally some players who can play multiple positions.  Second, one can’t buy top players and then say to them “you are there just in case the first choice man gets injured.”  You can get youngsters to do this, or players late in their careers, but not current top line internationals – that is just nonsense.  (Although as the Euros came to an end several papers ran Arsenal crisis stories saying that Arsenal must enter the transfer market now, because Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny would not be back in time for the Liverpool game – which was also nonsense).

The fact that Liverpool had 12 players in the Euros (to our nine) and three of theirs made the semi-finals, was not mentioned either.  So there was no context at all.

But back to our defence.  We have…

  • 2 Mathieu Debuchy – full back
  • 3 Kieran Gibbs – full back
  • 4 Per Mertesacker – injured
  • 5 Gabriel – ill but recovering
  • 6 Laurent Koscielny – extended holiday
  • 16 Rob Holding – full back, centre defender
  • 18 Nacho Monreal – full back, centre defender
  • 21 Calum Chambers – full back, centre defender
  • 24 Hector Bellerin – full back
  • 25 Carl Jenkinson – full back
  • 34 Francis Coquelin – defensive midfield, centre defender

Now injuries don’t just happen at Arsenal – so starting the season without our ideal pairing is not ideal but we know that other teams will be without players too – and the only way we can judge this is by looking at the figures across other teams.  Arsenal’s injury list is a bit above average, but in line with other teams near the top of the league.

And in passing we might notice that Arsenal spent the summer rebuilding the Emirates pitch (not just relaying it) to introduce new technology and ideas in reducing injuries still further.

But back to the crisis – we have one player injured, and one away on extended leave, and one ill, but recovering.  And we have just signed a young player who did rather well playing in the whole game against MLS.  Plus we have Nacho who has played in the centre, and Calum Chambers who was brought into do this job.  And Coquelin who we are told has been training in that position.

That’s how it goes.  But the Guardian headline takes that one injury, and turns it into an absolute crisis, which is what the press does all the time when it comes to Arsenal.

If we return to the earlier article that compared how clubs are treated by the press and extract the percentages the figures are quite remarkable…

The Media Negativity Table

Club Stories Negative stories Negativity position Percent negative
Manchester U 256 14 4 5.5%
Arsenal 215 27 5 12.6%
Liverpool 211 6 1 = 2.8%
Chelsea 198 6 1 = 3.0%
Manchester C 193 16 3 8.2%

Thus we can see that Arsenal are four times as likely to get negative stories than Liverpool and Chelsea.  Liverpool and Chelsea are always being talked up as possible champions, and yet a look at the league table at the end of last season shows this:

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GDif Pts
1 Leicester City 38 23 12 3 68 36 +32 81
2 Arsenal 38 20 11 7 65 36 +29 71
3 Tottenham Hotspur 38 19 13 6 69 35 +34 70
4 Manchester City 38 19 9 10 71 41 +30 66
5 Manchester United 38 19 9 10 49 35 +14 66
6 Southampton 38 18 9 11 59 41 +18 63
7 West Ham United 38 16 14 8 65 51 +14 62
8 Liverpool 38 16 12 10 63 50 +13 60
9 Stoke City 38 14 9 15 41 55 −14 51
10 Chelsea 38 12 14 12 59 53 +6 50

I think the evidence is utterly overwhelming, whether we look at the overall picture, the historic analyses, or contemporary events, the British press is much more biased against Arsenal than they are against other clubs, and much more biased against Arsenal than Arsenal’s position and performance deserves.

This is what the aaa and their allies in the bloggettas pick up on and regurgitate.  And they do it without evidence or logical deduction in the normal scientific meaning of those words, because that is what the press feed them and what they regurgitate.

Combine this with the constant pushing of the notion that signing a centre forward who can score 20 goals a season is the only way to win the title, signing expensive players is what Arsenal needs after such a disappointing season, changing the manager is going to bring success, spending more money on players is necessary, and that the regular promotion of players from within the club is never to be counted when looking at the team, and you have the current situation.

And it continues day after day after day.

Recent Posts

And just published from the History Society

17 Replies to “Arsenal four times as likely to get negative media reports as Liverpool or Chelsea”

  1. British press and media is also biased against the leader of the Labour Party. As well as all their usual pro-Tory motives, no doubt the fact that he supports Arsenal is a factor.

  2. Tony, with respect, I think you’re overlooking injuries to: Jenkinson, Welbeck & Sanchez. There was also an issue with Santi which may have been resolved by now.

  3. John L

    I also can’t stand Corbyn, and it has nothing at all to do with his support for Arsenal.

  4. Arsenal currently have three players with long term injuries: Mertesacker, Jenkinson and Welbeck. That could be the “number” the Guardian meant.

    “Thus we can see that Arsenal are four times as likely to get negative stories than Liverpool and Chelsea.”
    A two day sample that includes unreliable click-bait blogs is not definitive proof of British Press bias.

    “Liverpool and Chelsea are always being talked up as possible champions.”
    Always? Where’s your proof?

  5. It’s something that needs more highlighting and attention because it’s mainstream media laziness and bullying. Sky are a major part of the negative programming that comes out of the media. People are looking to be told how to interpret reality and football is included. Personally I’m tired of the negatives that are exaggerated around wen get and arsenal but I don’t think it will change even if we win a league. The media hhas it’s targets and we get is an easy one.

  6. I think the bias has do with how the journalists themselves feel about the treatment of press by Arsenal FC. Wenger’s and AFC’s approach of not telling anybody about transfers and internal stuff makes them less friendly towards Arsenal because they have a difficult job to do now. In a way, Journalists and blogs have the same mindset of AAA fans like you mentioned.

  7. I think most media took the best advantage to criticize us mainly to increase their ratings.

  8. Everyone thinks the media are against them. There’s a guy I work with who supports the Spuds, always banging on about an anti-Spuds bias in the media.

    Just look at how the media reacted to England’s defeat in the Euros, especially the Sun’s hatchet job on Raheem Sterling.

    The thing is, bad news sells papers, good news doesn’t. A story about X club in crisis is going to be more interesting that a story saying Y club are all perfect and rosy. It’s how journalism works.

    This site has often (rightly) criticised the press for being unduly negative and also for making up transfer gossip. That’s fair enough, but it’s a point so obvious it’s hardly worth making.

    And on the subject of ‘days lost through injury’, obviously that doesn’t take into account how important those injuries are. On that table, a week of injury to Stoke’s second-choice left-back is counted equally with a week’s injury to Cazorla.

    Arsenal statistically may not have as many injuries as other clubs, but it’s the injuries to important players that’s the main point here.

    The Spuds may have had more injury days than us, but tellingly, the likes of Kane, Erikssen etc. stayed fit, and the bad injuries were to fringe players like Mason, Bentaleb and N’Jie. I would suggest our first XI was very much plagued by injuries, in a way that other clubs weren’t, which isn’t reflected on the ‘days lost to injury’ table.

  9. I get CNN the American TV news Channel which like Fox TV has a Republican bias.

    They showed both party conferences live. I was asleep much of the time these conferences were taking place.

    I watched/listened to CNN reports on the Trump Republican and Clinton Democrat speeches.

    They were negative to Trump ( so CNN was fair). Was it? They praised Clinton’s speech, they said it was good. You see they showed beyond all manner of doubt that CNN can be unbiased in its reporting except with Clinton’s speech they did something that they didn’t do with their report on Trump’s speech.

    CNN told us that Mrs Clinton was as good as previous speeches to conference there have been much better ones we were told.

    Why the comparison? The broadcast was meant to be a news item not a comparative history lesson.

    I mention this to point out how subtle criticism by the media of those it dislikes can be.

    They would have had a lot to answer for if they had openly said the speech was not good so they threw the idea in as different aspect of the speech without any evidence for their.

    What we read and hear in the media about Arsenal is the opposite the openly constant repeating implying it is bad as in ‘haven’t won for x years’.

    To day the function of the media is not to publish news but to publish opinion and to publish popular opinion for that gives it the biggest following and secures advertising.

    When the purpose was to publish news then it was extreme good news or extreme bad news that sold so it is with opinion.

    I should add in fairness to the Guardian on line that I was able to read the speeches in full. Much appreciated.

  10. Tony,
    In your summary of Arsenal Managers, why has George Allison omitted?
    He led Arsenal to the only instance when the Club successfully retained a Championship.
    His record stands unbeatable to this day.

  11. Off topic but ArsenalU19s are currently two nil up against Sporting Lisbon in their second game in the Durban Cup. 68 minutes played.

    1893-1897 committee
    1897-1898 Thomas Mitchell _ _45 _23 _ 8 _14 _106 _ 79
    1898-1899 William Elcoat _ _ _9 _ 6 _ 2 _ 1 _ 21 _ _8
    1899-1899 Arthur Kennedy _ _ 15 _ 8 _ 3 _ 4 _ 31 _ 17
    1899-1904 Harry Bradshaw _ _235 118 _44 _73 _403 _237
    1904-1908 Phil Kelso _ _ _ _152 _63 _31 _58 _225 _229
    1908-1915 George Morrell _ _309 113 _74 122 _392 _428
    1915-1919 James McEwen _ _ _ _2 _ 1 _ 0 _ 1 _ _7 _ _3
    1919-1925 Leslie Knighton _ 286 105 _63 118 _367 _401
    1925-1934 Herbert Chapman _ 411 204 _97 110 _879 _616
    1934-1934 Joe Shaw _ _ _ _ _ 23 _14 _ 3 _ 6 _ 44 _ 29
    1934-1947 George Allison _ _279 129 _74 _76 _534 _327
    1947-1956 Tom Whittaker _ _ 430 203 106 121 _802 _568
    1956-1958 Jack Crayston _ _ _81 _34 _17 _30 _148 _151
    1958-1962 George Swindon _ _186 _76 _43 _67 _336 _330
    1962-1966 Billy Wright _ _ _182 _70 _43 _69 _336 _330
    1966-1976 Bertie Mee _ _ _ _539 241 148 150 _739 _542
    1976-1983 Terry Neill _ _ _ 416 187 117 112 _601 _446
    1983-1986 Don Howe _ _ _ _ _117 _54 _32 _31 _187 _142
    1986-1986 Steve Burtenshaw _ 11 _ 3 _ 2 _ 6 _ _7 _ 15
    1986-1995 George Graham _ _ 460 225 133 102 _711 _403
    1995-1995 Stewart Houston _ _19 _ 7 _ 3 _ 9 _ 29 _ 25
    1995-1996 Bruce Rioch _ _ _ _47 _22 _15 _10 _ 67 _ 37
    1996-1996 Stewart Houston _ _ 6 _ 2 _ 2 _ 2 _ 11 _ 10
    1996-1996 Pat Rice _ _ _ _ _ _4 _ 3 _ 0 _ 1 _ 10 _ _4
    1996- _ _ Arsene Wenger _ _1120 641 261 218 1922 1013

    Fields are:
    Goals For
    Goals Against

  13. 1893-1897 committee
    1897-1898 Thomas Mitchell _ _106 _ 79 __ 2.81s
    1898-1899 William Elcoat _ _ _21 _ _8 __ 3.41s
    1899-1899 Arthur Kennedy _ _ 31 _ 17 __ 2.86s
    1899-1904 Harry Bradshaw _ _ 403 _237 __ 9.28s
    1904-1908 Phil Kelso _ _ _ _ 225 _229 __ -0.27s
    1908-1915 George Morrell _ _ 392 _428 __ -1.78s
    1915-1919 James McEwen _ _ _ _ 7 _ _3 __ 1.79s
    1919-1925 Leslie Knighton _ 367 _401 __ -1.74s
    1925-1934 Herbert Chapman _ 879 _616 __ 9.62s
    1934-1934 Joe Shaw _ _ _ _ _ 44 _ 29 __ 2.48s
    1934-1947 George Allison _ _ 534 _327 __ 9.98s
    1947-1956 Tom Whittaker _ _ 802 _568 __ 8.94s
    1956-1958 Jack Crayston _ _ _148 _151 __ -0.25s
    1958-1962 George Swindon _ _ 336 _330 __ 0.33s
    1962-1966 Billy Wright _ _ _ 336 _330 __ 0.33s
    1966-1976 Bertie Mee _ _ _ _ 739 _542 __ 7.78s
    1976-1983 Terry Neill _ _ _ 601 _446 __ 6.77s
    1983-1986 Don Howe _ _ _ _ _ 187 _142 __ 3.51s
    1986-1986 Steve Burtenshaw _ 7 _ 15 __ -2.41s
    1986-1995 George Graham _ _ 711 _403 __ 13.1s
    1995-1995 Stewart Houston _ _ 29 _ 25 __ 0.77s
    1995-1996 Bruce Rioch _ _ _ _ 67 _ 37 __ 4.16s
    1996-1996 Stewart Houston _ _ 11 _ 10 __ 0.31s
    1996-1996 Pat Rice _ _ _ _ _ _10 _ _4 __ 2.27s
    1996- _ _ Arsene Wenger _ _ 1922 1013 __ 23.7s

    Fields are:
    Goals For
    Goals Against

    Sorting on this adjusted goal difference, I would say the bottom of the list has James McEwan, Stewart Houston, George Swindon, Billy Wright, Stewart Houston (again), Jack Crayston, Phil Kelso, Leslie Knighton, George Morrell and Steve Burtenshaw as not very effective managers. Nominally struggling to score as many goals as the opposition.

    Bruce Rioch, Don Howe, William Elcoat, Arthur Kennedy, Thomas Mitchell, Joe Shaw and Pat Rice all seem to be able to statistically outscore the opposition, but it is close to being even with them too.

    George Graham, George Allison, Herbert Chapman, Tom Whittaker, Bertie Mee and Terry Neill were pretty consistent in outscoring the opposition.

    And then there is Arsene Wenger.

  14. I ran across one particular list of the Top-20 managers of all time, Wenger not even listed. Only 5 had the goals information provided:

    Guardiola 28.7s
    Hiddink 23.3s
    Herrera 15.6s
    Trapattoni 24.0s
    SAF 36.6s

  15. Am reading Stan is very good friend of Trump so does Arsene not like Jeremy? My Hawaiian friends are all supporting Pep for new season as they say no one excited anymore with Arsene. I think maybe Liverpool win PL but Arsene come good second if not Tottenham. Hawaii love Jeremy but maybe not Arsene anymore.

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