by Tony Attwood
We live in a world where there is a great drive to simplify anything and everything. It happens everywhere from the President of the United States, who said today, “No politician in history has been treated more unfairly,” through to Untold Arsenal where, if we make a point about referee errors, we get comments from people telling us that this is all fantasy – without actually bothering to look at the evidence that we have provided.
Everything it seems must be simple. Knowledge, logic, the gathering of proper evidence – that’s all nonsense because everyone can see it all and understand it all just by looking. No one needs data, no one needs theory.
It’s all a very odd world, and the only good thing that comes out of it is that people who get suckered into this no-evidence, no-theory world tend to get screwed by it – something that annoys me and amuses me in equal measure.
Let me give an example.
A TV company runs the story that a particular player is being offered by club A to club B. The piece doesn’t say that club B is actually interested although the implication of the story is that Club B certainly is interested. The piece also doesn’t say that the transfer is really going to happen – it is all “according to reports”.
Then a gambling company offers quite good odds on Club B signing the player; you can bet on other clubs signing the player, but Club B is the favourite. The story spins around Twitter and various bloggettas. More and more people are talking about the possibility.
The odds shorten and eventually the bookmaker stops taking any more bets. The player never goes to Club B. In fact there was never any chance of him going to Club B. The book maker makes money, the punters are screwed.
Of course there are regulations covering such things, and if the bookmaker set out to do this that would be (in the UK at least) illegal. But I am told it might not be illegal in Gibraltar however, where a lot of famous gambling companies are based. (I honestly don’t know if it is illegal in the colony or not – but I do know their regs are different and much from and much more relaxed than those within the UK.)
My point is that the whole process is based on reducing complex situations to simplicity, and in doing so it treats football fans with contempt. “If Wenger goes Arsenal will do better” might be true. But it might not. Certainly before Mr Wenger came along the club was more used to long spells mid-table with occasional flirtations with relegation, rather than long spells in the top four, with occasional rises to the top and picking up the FA Cup. But that broader picture is ignored. Then as justification we are told that “Arsenal is the most expensive club for tickets,” which is completely untrue – unless you happen to want a box and a seven course meal.
In this world of simplicity “We want Wenger out” is raised from being a mindless chant to a philosophical treatise on the future of the club.
Let me try another example. I saw this headline in one media outlet today:
Where would Arsenal be without Alexis Sanchez? Mid-table most likely, and certainly nowhere near securing a place in next season’s Champions League.
It is one of those questions followed by an answer that seems completely logical and reasonable if you take it in quickly. But if you pause and look at it, then it makes no sense at all. If Arsenal didn’t have Alexis we would have someone else as the prime tormentor and goalscorer. We would play a different style, and a different formation. Ozil would be deployed in a different manner. We would have used the manner in a different way.
Let me try out another one on you.
Arsenal fans’ lazy attempt at an anti Tottenham chant last night shows the power shift…
This seems to suggest that just by listening to one chant from one group of supporters on one occasion we can make a judgement about the relative merits of Tottenham and Arsenal, particularly in relation to next season. Spelled out it is utterly bonkers. One chant by one group of supporters does not predict where a club will be after the next transfer window and with Tottenham playing at Wembley. And I can say all that without trying to analyse what the “power shift” is that the writer mentions but never explains.
On the other hand I have made the prediction that Tottenham will struggle next season because of their ground move. I’ve tried to explain this by looking at the evidence from the other clubs who in the last 20 years or so have moved, while trying also to find logical explanations as to why clubs that move invariably seem to go into decline.
So to me there is a difference between the notion of Tottenham’s and Arsenal’s performance next year based on one chant, and an analysis of the performances of a range of clubs who have done something akin to what Tottenham are doing this coming season.
Much of this illogicality and gross simplicity can be seen every day with transfer rumours. The current round includes Arsenal offering Hector Bellerin to Barcelona in exchange for Arda Turan and Marc Cucurella. Where this is mentioned it is considered exclusively on its own, and without any other issues such as whether we already have a replacement for Bellerin within the new 3-4-2-1 approach, and whether anyone else would be purchased at the same time – or why indeed the club would sell Bellerin anyway and whether Bellerin has changed his mind and now wants to bugger off at full speed as Fabregas did. Everything is just kept in simple isolation from everything else. And I can say that before pointing out that only three out of 110 transfer rumours last summer turned out to be true.
“Arsenal’s actual attendance against Sunderland was around 45,000, making it one of the lowest Premier League turnouts since the club moved to the Emirates, and leading to renewed calls for habitual non-attenders to have their season tickets rescinded.”
Two questions here: how did the Telegraph know it was 45,000, and who made the “renewed calls”. Was it two guys on their mobiles? We never find out although the “report” (I use the word lightly) does actually acknowledge that the figure of attendees is released sometimes to police for safety reasons – but since we don’t have any police within the stadium precincts that doesn’t happen very much. So it looks like a guess – as witness the fact that they say much later, “The Telegraph understands that the match on Tuesday against Sunderland only attracted just above 45,000, with the timing and already-relegated opposition part of the explanation, although also the general apathy about the season and a boycott over the prospect of Arsene Wenger staying on.”
Now I thought the match was on Sky Sports 2 as well and surely that might make a difference. I do roughly 200 miles round trip to go to a home game, and so occasionally I don’t make it for a midweek match – and I know that is true for many other people. Work and family commitments mean on occasion it is just too hard to get there. And when live TV comes in, that can affect my decision too. In other words everything is simplified, relevant facts are removed, and we get a sort of Kids-Lite version of reality with all the difficult concepts taken away.
I really do object to being treated like a moron.
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