10 Years of Untold: trying to change football by being different

By Tony Attwood

Untold Arsenal started ten years ago this month, and it started because I was annoyed not just about something I kept seeing on football pitches, but also because it was not being mentioned at all in the media.

But that was only half of it, because I didn’t just want to write about it,  I also wanted to influence the media so that they would mention what I was seeing, and as a result of that, put pressure on the football authorities to do something about it.

So not very much: I wanted to break the censorship rules that seemed to prohibit mention of this topic and through that change football.  Quite a modest desire: changing the world through writing about it.

The issue that persuaded me to start Untold Arsenal was rotational fouling, and I was reminded of this starting point of Untold just recently when I heard a pundit on Sky Sports during the Christmas period mention that he was watching a team engaged in rotational fouling.  Indeed he used that exact phrase.  You still don’t hear the phrase often, and it took a very long time to get mentioned at all, but it got mentioned in the end.

But so what?  Rotational fouling is still not punished by referees.  Or at least not very often.  So has Untold Arsenal actually achieved my ambition of changing football?  That’s what I want to write about over a few articles in the coming days, by way of having my own little celebration of ten years of the blog.

You only have to work with a newspaper or broadcaster for a day or two to realise that decision making as to what is and what is not news is part of daily life.  Sometimes the choice is fairly obvious: 1400 cars destroyed in a rampaging car park fire in Liverpool last night is news.  Whether every large car park in the UK is in similar danger because of design flaws is not quite a story yet.  Why there were a number of cars with dogs left in them doesn’t seem to be a story at all.  Judgements are made all the time.

In fact, as I have so often said, this is the trouble with the media.  It chooses the stories, and then puts its own angle on the stories, and then comments upon the stories from that point of view.  And in this process quite often much of the media works as one either because no one wants to step outside the norm, or more insidiously because there is a body on high, laying down a rule about what can and can’t be said.

So it was that I is what I set out to do in January 2008; to publish articles which raised issues other publications were not mentioning, in the hope that the way football is seen might change.

As for rotational fouling, I think it was one of those things that no one mentioned because no one else mentioned it…

In fact I first used the phrase “rotational fouling” on 15 April 2005, almost three years before Untold began, in relation to the Arsenal v Blackburn FA Cup semi-final, a match I was at and which I wrote up for a fanzine.    I picked it up again on Untold in 2008 along with “rotational time wasting” and thereafter, and then the Arsespeak blog was kind enough to acknowledge ourselves as a source in an article “The father of dirty dirty football in the Premier League”  in a piece on 1 March 2010 which said, s”The Diouf tackle shown above on Almunia could have been another ankle-breaker, and I feel a lot of sympathy for Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey. Untold Arsenal has made much of the rotational fouling employed by Allardyce, and their record on Sunday shows what happens to teams who play against them.”

But what really made me feel I might be onto something was the fact that in 2010 the book “Soccer and Philosophy: Beautiful Thoughts on the Beautiful Game” by Ted Richards was published and it contained this comment on the notion of contemplating winning at any price.  “If we did then we could endorse all kinds of underhanded tactics, such as rotational fouling of the opposition’s star player to avoid any particular member of your team getting carded…”

Then the following year I found “Calculated Violence – The Latest Trick In Anti-Football? which says, “Over the last few years we have seen quite a few new tricks evolved by the exponents of anti-football. Rotational fouling and rotational time-wasting are two of the most commonly seen ones.

There were others, and it would be boring to cite each one, but it got a bit more encouraging and interesting on 25 March 2016 when no less a newspaper than the Financial Times wrote, “Lessons for everyone from the rise of Leicester City”

It commented that the Leicester “players are not above gamesmanship and rotational fouling — taking it in turns to commit infractions so that no individual picks up yellow and red cards — and that is a system, too.”

So the phrase got accepted. Here’s Marton Keown in the Daily Mail on 6 July 2014 talking about Brazil v Colombia:

“Brazil’s win over Colombia was an ill-tempered affair and was notable for both teams trying to stop the other side’s No 10. Neymar and James Rodriguez were both targeted. You could see the teams almost using a ‘rotational fouling’ tactic. Players would put in a tackle on the star man and then let somebody …”

Of course in recent years we have seen the arrival of the bloggettas – the websites that are often run by newspapers, take information from anywhere, write little articles padded out with pictures and packed solid with pop up adverts.  In this regard on 20 March 2015 the Daily Cannon wrote, “Expect Newcastle fouling amnesty against Arsenal” in an appraisal of referee Mike Jones who it says, “lets blatant pullbacks go, even when the player is hauled down by the neck, constantly gets in the way of the play, blocking off space and passes, allows rotational fouling to go unpunished and books Arsenal players for their first fouls.”


Of course none of this means that referees take any notice, but it suggested to me that it was worth carrying on.  I’ll come back to this in a later advertisement.

14 January 2008: Arsenal witness the end of football.  Untold’s first article

Arsenal in March 1919: the London Victory Cup and its consequences

The Predictions for 2018 from Brickfields Gunners

The view of the Video Assistant Referee about the WBA penalty

17 Replies to “10 Years of Untold: trying to change football by being different”

  1. Having found this blog almost from its inception , and mainly that it resound with me that I was not alone in the thinking that something was not quite right in the EPL, I am so glad to have partaken this journey with you.

    Thank you Tony , Walter , Andrew and all of the faithful for making this a great place to hang out and meet similar opinioned supporters . And to bash those alleged fans who deride us at every turn.

    I am adamant that I will follow and defend the manager , the club and this blog to the hilt . And point out the unfairness of it all.

    One day we will be vindicated . Happy Anniversary and keep on rocking !

  2. Thanks Tony,Walter, Andrew,Usama and all the other contributors for their unflinching devotion to this website, the Arsenal and the injustices ever-present in the EPL and elsewhere.

  3. Tonny!
    Sorry to go off-topic; however
    Westbrom Albion is at the bottom of the table yet it gives us hard time,how then are we to qualify for champions league.
    I understand arsenal is financially better than Liverpool and Tottenham; I also know that Liverpool’s players are not extraordinary and so is Tottenham’s but they seem to be winning easily even when there is a couple of wrong decisions against them.
    In my opinion, I think most of our players are not working hard at improving their skills(creativity and efficiency).
    Can’t they learn some skills from other players from teams like real Madrid, Barcelona, bayern Munich, etc.
    I just need you to say something about my opinion because you seem to understand these things better than most journalists out there.

  4. Hello Tony. First and foremost congrats on the 10th anniversary of Untold Arsenal. This site will always remain my favourite in the Arsenal blogsphere. You, Walter and in earlier days, Dogface, have done a remarkable job on exposing the shady nature of refereeing and the mafia like dealing of PGMOB. Admittedly, I haven’t been able to visit on daily basis in the last 2 years or so but I still drop in every now and then. I wish I could be able to contribute more through articles and comments but that’s life and it is what it is. Anyway, keep on the good fight guys. As our last match proved, we still have a long way to go

  5. Dear Tony and the rest of Untold Authors

    I have been reading this site for many years and it really helped me see things differently, i used to be the usual AAA following whatever the media spouted or whatever i read from the blogs, it drove me nuts for no apparent reason other than because i allowed myself to be influenced by what i read. It was by chance that i was looking for Arsenal news regardless if it was negative or positive as I just wanted “my fix” that i came across your blog, it was really refreshing, to see things from a different perspective than what is being portrayed in the mass media. You can say its kind of strange as you do not follow what is popular that is Arsenal bashing but to turns things around and say hey wait a minute if you stop your Arsenal bias this is what is really happening.

    For that I cannot thank everyone at Untold Arsenal enough for this. For a start im less angered by all the bashing, i’ve learned to see things between the lines and or search other sources to see what is really happening.

    I do not think how I can express how grateful I am without this comment turning into an essay. 🙂

    But to Untold Arsenal many more years and thank you for doing what you guys are doing.

  6. Thanks Tony, Walter, Andrew and everyone else for ten years of Untold.

    It is very difficult to change a narrative when the people telling it have loads of money and own newspapers and TV stations.

    But if what you are saying is true – and what Untold says IS true – people will find you, some will change their minds, others will feel stronger in their convictions by seeing others share them, and will have more arguments to use in backing up what they say.

    And who knows, if you stick to your guns and don’t give in, hopefully you will win in the end.

    Happy New Year to Untold! Happy New Year to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger!

  7. Thanks for the ten years.
    Things will change, but initially it will be slow as the FA, EPL and PGMOL guard their vested interests.
    Then something biig will come out, a new man will come in with a promise to change, order out of chaos ,but will behind the scenes will keep the status quo. But there will be subtle change that none of us hear about, and a more responsible attitude will prevail, not because the ruling bodies want that, but because the laws , driven by regulators, driven by EU politicians wanting quick wins in a hostile environment, a sea change in media reporting, an example made of a giant, and whistle blowers that ensue will be the true catalysts for change.
    But could take a few years

  8. This New Year message was sent to me by a like minded .. person. And its so touching that I just had to share it .

    ‘ May the fleas of a thousand camels infest the arse of anyone who fucks up your new year , and may their arms be too short to scratch it ! All the best for 2018 .’

  9. Thank you Tony & Co. for 10 years of what I could safely call revelations, and a coherent theory that explains certain “mysteries” in football. It’s common to find disparate pieces, but putting them together really requires dedication and belief. Here’s to hoping for the equivalent of a Watergate. And, long live Untold!

  10. Here’s another useful phrase to go with rotational fouling, ‘tactical fouling’. That is where the rotational or otherwise organised fouling is built in to the way a team defends.
    Great blog been with you most of the 10yrs

  11. Happy 10th anniversary to Untold Arsenal and a big thank you to Tony and all the authors and contributors for making this website enjoyable and insightful. Keep up the good work.

  12. congratulation untold arsenal. what a beautiful home for the true gunners!

  13. Thank you for keeping me sane when I was on the brink. There is nothing quite like Untold to put things into perspective. The corrupt practice of officials being manipulated to screw honesty and make Arsenal appear to be at fault. It is more than just wanting justice but looking for perfection in a sport that could be the most beautiful entertainment.

    Untold is a window through which like minded Arsenal supporters can voice their opinions on the manipulation that is the FA’s PGMOL. The corrupt provision of fake officials.

    Thank you Brickfields, OMG, Al, Jambug aka Nitram, Mike T and all the commenters that make Walter’s & Tony’s presentation come to life.

    Thank you for coping with my venomous rants against the PGMOL.

    It is time to take our fight into the House of Westminster so that it becomes enshrined in Law that is transparent. With some luck we might see some of the corrupt doing time.

  14. Congrats Tony, well done. I think the concept of strategic/tactical fouling is quite old. Rotational fouling which I’d say is a type of strategic/tactical fouling seems not to be a new art too. It’s in fact well established is sports like basketball, or American football

  15. Hmmm, I don’t know Chem, somehow so many things I write are seen in a different light by you. Some people get what I am saying, but somehow, you don’t. I don’t know why. In this case I am making the point that something that is wrong cannot be put right until it is named, and the naming of it then makes it easier to debate. The tactic may have been around for a long time in association football but I don’t think I’d ever seen it so blatantly used as in the cup semi-final I mentioned. My small contribution was in writing a name for what was happening in a way that some other people picked up in relation to association football. Sorry you didn’t get that.

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