How football has its meaning stripped away, leaving us supporters to sort it out for ourselves

 By Tony Attwood

There is something strange about the way the media treats the Arsenal.  Like the Telegraph giving a rating of Arsenal player performances in the game and giving everyone seven out of ten except Ozil with nine, Alexis with eight, and the two central defenders with six.

And why?  Well, we don’t quite know.  They are just numbers, take it or leave it.  I’d have given Ozil 11 out of ten, just for making me feel so happy in the stadium last night.  I enjoyed the build up to the game in the pub with my mates, I enjoyed my pint of beer, and the walk to the ground, and (unless we lose) I enclose the chatter on the walk back to the station and the train journey.   That performance last night added something extra.

I guess this is why so much football journalism seems so far out of kilter to me – because football is watched by fans for whom the game matters very much, but is commented upon in the media by people who like to consider themselves experts, and as such objective, beyond the passion and engagement.

They long ago moved away from the original notion of football reporting (that of telling us what happened) but that is what they did at the start.  If you want to see how the press started out reporting football we have a transcript of the Arsenal v Newcastle game from 1893 on the Arsenal History Society site.

Now almost everything is criticism, with just the occasional game seen as being of high skill.

So even when someone takes a picture of the players in the dressing room after a game this is a chance for criticism as with the Telegraph’s headline “Rio Ferdinand criticises Arsenal’s celebratory dressing room picture saying: ‘Wait until you have a trophy’.”

Most of these guys have won a trophy – the FA Cup.  Some have won the World Cup.  But it is not just the ineptitude of the comment that grates, it is that the comment is unnecessary, because the people who makes comments like this have by and large simply never been supporters in the way that myself and my friends who go to the Arsenal are – the quite probably the way that you are.

In fact they don’t actually know what support means.  In their desperate attempt to have an expert opinion (be it delivered in the eternal “5 Things We Learned from…” articles or pontificating on TV) they totally lose any sense of what football is about.  Support.

Because without us, there would be no show.

Yes the guys could go on and play on the local playing fields, but that wouldn’t be quite the same.

Supporters are the essence of professional football, and yet we are treated like ignorant prats who can be patted on the head as some sort of funny group of schoolchildren behaving in odd ways.

In one sense it used to be a lot worse – both the clubs and the media treated us with contempt.  Now I don’t feel that Arsenal treat me with contempt – I think they have made great moves towards recognising who and what we are in recent years.  (It’s not perfect, but it is a lot, lot better than it was in, say, the 1970s.)

But the contempt and disregard has been taken over by the mass media who somehow see us as strange little beings who can (along with the game we love) be manipulated for their own profit.

Filling up mass column inches in newspapers and hours on TV and radio with “experts” telling us that our team is rubbish, is the cheapest way of getting by, for the media.  But there is never the slightest indication that any of the people involved actually know what it is like to be a supporter; people to whom the outcome of a game really, really matters.

It doesn’t have to be like this of course.  Although there are many blogs that ape the style of the newspapers and the approach of TV pundits, there are others that do seem to me to reflect the view of real fans.  Indeed I like to think that this blog does that, given that it is written by people for whom each Arsenal result really, really does matter.

And yet there are thousands of blogs which write their “Arsenal fans will be worried that…” approach as if somehow they have gained the ability and the right to interpret what is going on in ours heads.

One thing I can tell you for certain is that much of the time I’m not at all sure what is going on in my head – so how the hell do they know?

So I come back to the marks out of ten for Arsenal players.  Ospina got seven out of ten.  So what was he supposed to do to get ten out of ten?  He conceded none.  He didn’t make any absolute mistakes, as far as I can see.   For me, as a fan, he got ten out of ten.

This is typical of the huge disconnect between the media who want to analyse and speak for us, and the real fans who live on a completely different planet – the planet where football is not a way of making money, but a way of passing time with friends, a way of generating great excitement, a way of feeling happy or sad.

The commentators strip all of this out of the game and leave us with an “analysis” that is so far divorced from my experience of each match, that they could be talking about knitting.

Occasionally someone gets close in his/her writing, as with David Fifield today in the Guardian saying, “This team is irresistible.”  But much of the time, they don’t have a clue.

Recent tales from Untold and the Arsenal History Society

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 


Why the predictions of Arsenal’s season have thus far been soooo wrong

CL Arsenal – Ludogorets: 6-0 with an Özil hattrick

Arsenal against Ludo. The teams and the score.

Time to get the old board game out as Arsenal play Ludo

Players used vs league position, and the range of top scorers so far in the league.

How the media twisted Arsenal v Swansea and Liverpool v Man U

Arsenal in December 1934: two steps forward, two steps back.

Former Arsenal player John Barnwell talks about his years at Highbury


20 Replies to “How football has its meaning stripped away, leaving us supporters to sort it out for ourselves”

  1. I remember going on a management training course a long time ago now where at the end we were all given t-shirts printed on the front with the words “No one’s perfect” and on the back with “but a team can. E”.

    This Arsenal team is approaching that perfect level at times. When one player slips up his team mates cover for him and that is the essence of a team game. The team can be better than the sum of the individual parts. Mark Alexis and Theo pops up, mark both Alexis and Theo and Özil pops up. Cover all three and The Ox or Iwobi pops up. If our midfielders lose the ball the centre backs are there and at the back we have great goalkeepers.

    Teams that rely solely on their big stars can’t cope when they don’t perform. Thankfully that isn’t the case with Arsenal this year

  2. Tony
    These are the guys who were predicting doom before the season began,its just that the Arsenal team is playing so well leaving them with just bogus marks.the moment we draw or loose agame all hell will break loose and unfortunately the aaa will 4get the last 7 games.

  3. Thanks a lot Mr Attwood.

    For me, Rio Ferdinand spoke out of jealousy. He wishes his team played on Tuesday or yesterday instead of tonight. The unspoken benefit and privilege of achieving top four with amazing players who actually JUSTIFY their price tags.

    I am a gooner. I own my mind and how I think and feel after each Arsenal match is entirely independent of the sad thought processes of someone with absolutely no true relationship with my legendary team. Moreover, if the Moaning One can foolishly and tactlessly label an honest Living Legend as a ‘voyeur’, what does that make a prat who claim unauthorised access to my brain? Oh I know! A Wishful Telepathic Idiot!

    Ah, there I’m done ranting.

    Why is Sunday suddenly too far for me? ¤smiles¤

  4. Mr Attwood,
    Please take a closer look at the dark side of TV punditry, namely racism. Why on earth would BT Sports employ Rio Ferdinand? Is this a (not so) subtle way of implying that coloured people are stupid? Well, we’re not (the vast majority).

  5. I think the whole business of awarding ratings doesn’t mean much. Because unless it’s the result of the consensus of a number of knowledgeable people, it’s just one person’s opinion.
    And insofar as goal-stoppers are concerned, you could say that a low rating meant not only that he had little to do, but it was a compliment to the defence in front of him. 😉

  6. Ospina probably loses a point or two for his inaccurate distribution and underpowered kicking out. He also made a rash charge out which was nearly a disaster. Made some great saves though.

  7. @ Leon,
    You may be surprised to hear that Cech, of late, has been guilty, IMO, of poor distribution and over-powered kicking.
    Too many kicks have gone out of play.
    I’m sure though, that both are working on the problem. 😉

  8. It’s the way they (media) go about it though. Need to talk about Arsenal this morning? So they bring in some ex Spud who sets about dissing every body – Theo, Mesut, the team and the club. He more or less called US bottlers. FFS, from a SPUD!

    I felt like emailing Sky Sport News with “it’s happened again…”

  9. Like all one-time assessments, the pundits’ ratings are ;

    1) Totally subjective,
    2) Dependent upon untenable comparisons with other players,
    3) Always biased towards erring on the side of prudence,
    4) Based on a 1-10 system that has NO relationship to reality or to any known measurable criteria,
    5) Treated individually rather than as an overview of the entire team performance,
    6) Lacking ANY statistical validity or reliability ( do they actually measure anything and are they repeatable?)
    7) Written to elicit conflict and disagreement rather than unanimity and honesty.

    Since the whole is greater than its parts, a true assessment is what Adrian Clarke does at the end of each game on

  10. Even though there is still some animosity towards Arsenal, it does appear that the wind has turned in favour of Arsenal, by some of them at least, but as proven right here on Untold, this is not the case.

    We have to be careful, they are wooing us with words and in the said same sentence disrespecting us.

    Tyrone Fox
    “coloured” ?
    Havent heard that since the 60s. My mum use to say that and could not get her head around us saying “black”.

  11. @ omgarsenal – October 21, 2016 at 12:13 am – regarding your comment –
    ” 4) Based on a 1-10 system that has NO relationship to reality or to any known measurable criteria,..” , here is my assessment of myself vs ‘them’ as a supporter !

    A PERFECT 10 ! Damn ! Who’d have guessed ?

    a]. I don’t read any newspapers or their sports reporting – 1
    ‘them’ read all the newspapers especially the sports section – 0

    b]. I don’t bother to listen to /watch the sports news/shows – 1
    ‘them’ listen to and watch everything on tv/ radio – 0

    c]. I don’t read any other blog or site other than UA . – 1
    ‘them ‘ , if they read at all , theyt follow ‘them sites ! – 0

    d]. I don’t watch/listen the pre /post or half time prattle. -1
    ‘them’ don’t miss a thing – looking for gems and nuggets -0

    e]. I don’t listen to the match commentary -its like poor subtitles -1
    ‘them’ listen as they cannot see for themselves without it -0

    f]. I watch alone to enhance my viewing pleasure – 1
    ‘them’ watch with similar empty vessels- louder the better -0

    g]. When Arsenal lose or draw , I feel down but never angry . -1
    ‘them ‘ cheerfully rejoice when Arsenal lose or drop points . -0

    h]. Having lost ,I have never kicked,assaulted or beaten kin or pet – 1
    ‘them’ – you guess is good as mine ! – 0

    i]. No matter what happens , I go to work and be productive . -1
    ‘them’ – Eh,… wot ? -0

    j]. Believe the AW is the answer to all things Arsenal -1
    ‘them’ – ???????????????????? -0

  12. Walter
    Get ready for the real ozil after all the unecessary criticism at the begining of his arsenal career.
    l bielive this guy is in bergkamp class if not higher.
    next season we might even do the invisibles again

  13. Maybe one of ‘them’ brilliant enough could come with a smart retort or their own list !
    Not holding my breath !

  14. @Pete October 20, 2016 at 5.04pm

    Thanks buddy for the correction, I thought we play on Sunday. Now I gear up for tomorrow.

    My wait can be borne now. ¤smiles¤

    COYG, we’ve got to borrow goals from Boro and never must we lend any to them, tomorrow.

  15. This would be so me , after points dropped !

    Wife: ” I’m heading to the store. Do you want anything? ”

    Hubby: ” I want a sense of meaning and purpose in my life. I seek fulfillment and completeness to my soul. I want to connect to God and discover the spiritual side to me……”

    Wife: ?

    Wife adds wine to the grocery list !

  16. I asked my friend , “What is the secret behind your Happy Married Life?”

    He said “You should share responsibilities with due love and respect each other. Then absolutely there will be no problems.”

    I asked “Can you explain?”

    He said “In my house, I take decisions on bigger issues where as my Wife decides on smaller issues. We do not interfere in each other’s decisions.”

    Still not convinced, i asked him “Give me some examples”.

    He said “Smaller issues like, which car we should buy, how much amount to save, when to visit the super market, when and where to go on vacation, which sofa, air conditioner, refrigerator to buy. Monthly expenses, whether to keep a maid or not etc. Are all decided by my wife. I just agree to it ”

    I asked “Then, what is your role?”

    He said “My decisions are only for very big issues. Like whether America should attack XXXX ; whether Britain should lift sanctions over country YYYYY ; About BREXIT ; whether country ,ZZZZZ should be formed or not; whether Dhoni should retire from Cricket , Whom should actor ABCD should Marry ; Whom AW should buy for Arsenal etc etc. and do you know what ?
    My wife NEVER, objects to any of these important decisions”…

  17. In a ladies KITTY PARTY MEETING , the host asked a question , ” When did you last say ‘I LOVE YOU ‘ to your husbands ??

    One said ” Today.. ”
    Another said ” 2 days back…..”
    Someone said ” …1 week ago. ”

    Host : ” Now, all of you please send a ‘I LOVE YOU ‘ message to your husbands.

    Who ever gets an AWESOME reply will get a SURPRISE GIFT!

    Everyone sent ‘I LOVE YOU ‘ messages to their husbands.

    After sometime,the husbands replied and their replies are as listed below..

    Husband 1 : ” SWEETY…., are you ok ?”

    Husband 2 : ” You have not cooked dinner again haven’t you ?”

    Husband 3 : ” Darling, have you run out of money, again ?”

    Husband 4 : ” What’s the matter??”

    Husband 5 : ” Are you dreaming or am I?”

    Husband 6 :” Did you like someone’s Jewelry at the function you attended today?”

    Husband 7 : ” I am already stressed at work and you are sending silly messages like this…! Don’t you ever use your brain ?”

    Husband 8 : ” How many times have I told you not to watch those mushy daytime serials ?? ”

    Husband 9 :” Oh, ho ! Did you have another accident with the car ?”

    Husband 10 : ” Should I pick kids from school today also?? ”

    and the WINNER is……..

    Husband 11 : ” Who is this ? Sending messages from my wife mobile phone ??”

    ( Husband 12 -BG – ” What happened ? Arsene refused to sign his contract extension , didn’t he ? ” )

    Add on your personal responses below….

  18. the media seem to want to put the negative aspect of any situation on arsenal – jason burt on radio 5 i do not want to big up on arsenal they have had fantastic periods before and failed instead fantastic periods mean there are always in with a chance

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