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Arsenal and the broken telephone: the perfect example of non-debate

By Tony Attwood

Yesterday evening, working through the multiplicity of comments that had come into the site, I spotted one in particular which seemed to me to be a perfect case of “that sums it all up” as they say before each game.

The writer in question picked up on Walter’s comment about referees, and he (the correspondent) said that in his opinion we had not done too badly in terms of refereeing, certainly no worse than other clubs.   There was also also of course the regular stream of comments from people saying “you can’t go on blaming the refereeing” or words to that effect, most of which we now don’t publish.

It is like a broken telephone, because on this site there is a vast amount of analysis and evidence (the largest amount of evidence published anywhere in relation to this) seeming to prove that there is something very fishy about refereeing – including of course the analysis of the first 160 Premier League games this season, complete with video evidence.

Now I say “seeming to prove” simply because there is always room for debate – but that debate has to surround the existing evidence.  Now since PGMO don’t publish their evidence, and no other website has taken up the challenge as we have of such a detailed analysis that can be examined and itself debated, (with all the video evidence of all the major decisions also included), the only evidence there is, is the video evidence that we have presented.

What we have is a situation in which a lot of people have their own opinions, and then use them to argue against the views expressed on this site – without bothering to produce anything that is remotely like real statistical analysis of the type we use and without bothering to do a detailed analysis of our analysis.

But of course that is only phase one of the broken telephone syndrome – a syndrome that leads one to believe one is talking to another person in a meaningful way, when in fact there is no such conversation taking place at all.

For beyond all the statistical analysis of referees, plus the historical context and the lessons that can be learned from that, there is all the other analysis presented here which suggests very strongly indeed that simply removing a manager and/or buying lots of new players at all does not help matters at all in the majority of cases where it is tried.

There are all sorts of reasons for reaching this conclusion, such as:

1: The removal of managers from other clubs has more often than not resulted in either a continuation of the current situation or a further decline in the club’s fortunes.  The number of upturns has been smaller than the number in each of the other two categories.

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2: Only 25% of high profile high cost purchases of players actually come good in their first year – which means evaluating Arsenal’s recent purchases on that basis may not be particularly helpful, and using new transfers as a way to turn the club around quickly is more likely to fail as a strategy rather than succeed.

3: It is difficult to think of many examples of situations in which fans being in revolt (even a tiny minority of fans being in revolt) actually leading to an improvement in on-the-pitch activity.  Mostly the reverse is true.  The more that fans protest the worse it gets.

If you are a regular reader you will know that the list can go on and on and on, but let’s just stop there and ask instead, why are people doing this?

The answers are:

a) they are ignorant of the facts and figures and despite this ignorance are continuing with their protests

b) they have serious evidence that we have not seen which shows that recruiting new high profile players can turn a club round and that criticising the club and/or the manager does not do damage which will last for a long time.   And they are choosing not to present this.

c) they actually want to damage the club.

d) they believe that a small number of examples to back up their case (eg a small number of managers who have made a positive difference to a club upon arrival) counters the bulk of evidence.

Or they have a more philosophical point, related to natural rights.  “Arsenal is a big club and so has a natural right to win the league,” which is an argument that has no logic.

All of these scenarios are rather bleak, and the debates surrounding all of these are perfect examples of the broken telephone syndrome – where one can imagine there is a conversation going on, but in fact there isn’t.  Yes, of course people can believe that opinion is worth as much as evidence, but the non-religious non-mythical world has been built on rationality and science, and that is where our analyses are based.

When attacks on the club and its players do have a positive outcome history shows it is because there is a very strong personality within the club who is willing and able to take on the negativists and counter their outpourings.

However those people who have stood up and taken on the negative fan base and the media are few in number but include Jack Humble, Sir Henry Norris, Herbert Chapman, Tom Whittaker, the board of Arsenal around 1970 – but here only for a short period, and… Arsene Wenger.

Mostly, however, Arsenal is brought low by the sort of onslaughts we have seen of late, and that sadly is the most likely outcome now although there is still a chance of the club coming out unscathed.

Having the sort of view that I hold is generally considered to be part of empiricism – and it is worldview that has been around for 500 years or so.  Of course there are different approaches to knowledge, such as “what I see with my own eyes” and “seeing is believing”.   These approaches allow people to see an event, and then draw conclusions from it, rather than seek further evidence.  It is a very comforting view of the world, because it leads to an immediate conclusion that one is right, and that this rightness is obvious.

But all the progress in our world, the computer I write this on, the car I will get into later on this morning, the treatment that I shall have for an injury to my foot sustained last weekend, and the knowledge that the sun does not go around the earth although it appears to do so each day, all come from a combination of seeing with analysis.

In the end is just a matter of choice as to how one sees the world.


PGMO and referee accuracy

Referees’ organisation repeats its 98% accuracy claim: but how on earth do they get that figure?

The Untold Analysis of Refereeing in the first 16 weeks of the 2016/17 season – all matches

160 PL Games – the video evidence

8 comments to Arsenal and the broken telephone: the perfect example of non-debate

  • Goonermikey

    If I was wrongly charged for an offence I would certainly prefer to be tried based on the evidence rather than unsubstantiated opinion. Similarly, I would prefer to trust the judgement of experts rather than journalists, pundits and a bloke down the pub.

  • Norman14

    This is a general analysis – it’s NOT pro Arsenal, it’s not an excuse.

    Length of added time according to Sky Data and PGMOL numbers.

    Sky Data have come up with figures that when nicely rounded, come to 200 decisions each game.

    17% of 200 = 34.

    So, that’s 34 decisions that require action by the referee in a game of 90 minutes. That’s a stop in play, roughly every 3 minutes?

    What is a goal or a substitution classed as? – technical or “other”. How long is added as extra time for those “decisions”? How much time is wasted at EVERY free kick, corner, goal kick, corner, goal and substitution? How much time is added? How much correct time for injuries is actually added?

    I understand that 30 seconds is added for each substitution and each goal. Therefore a game with 6 goals and 6 substitutions attracts a minimum of 6 minutes added time. That’s without time wasting at corners, free kicks, goal kicks, throws in PLUS time added for injuries (whether the physio is called upon or not).

    So, if we deduct 12 from 34, that leaves 22 further decisions which result in lost time. Let’s be generous, and use a fuzzy number of 15 seconds per “action”. That’s another 330 seconds – or 5 1/2 minutes to add on.

    Conclusion: in a game with 6 goals and 6 substitutions, the “average” time added should be 11 1/2 minutes?

    Respond to that Sky Data and PGMOL!

  • Norman14

    Apologies. The 17% is the suggested percentage of decisions requiring intervention.

  • Stanton

    I am going to try to offer a different perspective which perhaps still seem overly critical. It is probably true that Arsenal is screwed up by refereeing however at a certain point, the team just have to try to overcome the bad refereeing and get results if they want to become champions. It cannot be doubted that Arsene Wenger is a great manager and the team is high on talent however as a whole, year in and out, the team is just simply not consistent enough with consistency being the mark of champions. Thus it may be beneficial for both the team and for Arsene Wenger to each get a fresh start, a good example of this is Chelsea this year under Conte. Obviously, this does not guarantee results but is definitely worth a shot if the team is to progress and be competitive in winning the league and not being reliant on fortune of other teams to determine if they finish 2-4th each year.
    Each new transfer purchase to the club is a gamble whether it is a high profile or low profile name and things often do not turn out as hoped, however, I think that the main aim is to muddle things up, inject new blood and fresh impetus to the squad, provide new ideas especially if the new addition is a new manager. This intangible aspects is thus difficult to analyse purely using stats or results.
    At the same time, while stats are rather indicative but they can also be misleading for example is a player accumulate goals against only particular teams or at only particular periods of time, thus it may not be a good gauge of consistency or output in clutch matches.
    Finally, I have to comment that as a big club, the club obviously has no natural right to win, however, the fervour and expectation of fans to do so is naturally going to be there for the club to be competitive, consistent , however over the last few years, the team has no be consistently competitive enough in both the league and the champions league to even have a shot of victory which is disappointing.
    The question is thus whether, affairs is the club is shaken up e.g. manager or team even with great uncertainty over what is going to happen or stay the same and continue to hope that the manager can fix things and the team can start performing up to their potential.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Goonermikey – 22/03/2017 at 10:07 am – In some countries the courts are so badly fucked up that not only could be fixed up for some non offence , but those defending you legally may even join you in jail !
    Often the police raid their offices to uncover some new evidence that they were not able to obtain . And then the court would render it inadmissible on some ‘technicality’ or for withholding evidence .
    Sigh !

  • Gunz

    Err, nice opinions. It’s good that you used evidence to back up your beliefs. Did you read the article?

  • Oldham Gooner

    I always come to visit Untold’s website purely because of the positivity that radiates from each article. Whether it’s tackling crowd psychology and overly simplified pessimism towards the club, manager, and our players or confronting populist media narratives that thrive on slating our club like the bunch of bottom feeders that they are.

    I wish more Gooners would learn the history of our club that this site has written about many times. It gives some fans like me a context to have hope for the future as well as the present, and recognise challenges the Arsenal faces without caring for comparisons with other clubs.

    I support the manager, players and the team in solidarity with Untold and every Arsenal fan in some way; it hurts when they lose but defeat and perceived decline doesn’t equate to despair for me. I hope Arsenal always win, and I want the best from our principled, and attractive team’s style of play.

    Change is inevitable at every club but I won’t presume to judge any of that. I just want to stay a sentimentally, grateful fan so as to cherish the club’s highs untarnished, while we endure some lows. C’est la vie.

  • Norman14
    Have a read of the analysis over at Statsbomb. Added time is one of the greatest mystery goings.

    Next to how possession stats are next to meaningless if they don’t take into account how long a team time wastes with the ball: