By Tony Attwood
In the past week or so we’ve been investigating the way in which the media treat Arsenal.
- Why the media is so critical of Arsenal: it all goes back to the two Arsenal men who were banned from football for life
- Do other clubs get the same level of constant sniping and negative reporting or is it just Arsenal?
- Why are people so negative about Arsenal? The first answers
- Are Arsenal treated differently from other clubs by the national media and the bloggettas? An analysis of reports.
- 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.
|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
|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…
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|
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:
|7||West Ham United||38||16||14||8||65||51||+14||62|
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.
- Let us just enjoy things a bit more instead of moaning and wishing the worst on others
- Why are the media so critical of Arsenal? How the habit developed over time.
- Arsenal Youngsters in South Africa for the under 19 International Tournament
And just published from the History Society
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 3 – referee home bias
- The real live facts that the media won’t ever touch (part 2)
- Could this be the best PL season ever for Arsenal in terms of goals?
- Why, with football, it is important to ask what is not being reported
- 2022/23 Women’s FA Cup – Arsenal Women v Leeds United. Match Preview