By Tony Attwood
There is a standard approach to transfers which virtually all journalists and their hangers on in the bloggettas agree to follow runs thus:
- Arsenal could sign this amazing player
- Arsenal seriously interested in this amazing player
- Negotiations ongoing concerning this amazing player
- This amazing player is not that amazing after all
- Besides the player who is no longer considered amazing would bring huge amount of baggage
- Player previously thought to be amazing player is not the player Arsenal need
- Other club ready to hijack Arsenal deal for player who is once more considered amazing
- Arsenal’s failure to sign amazing player down to dithering
- Arsenal’s failure to sign amazing player also down to unwillingness to spend
- Window closes but no one mentions that amazing player didn’t move anywhere. Rumours start that Arsenal are planning to sign amazing player.
The journey is unchanging, and with only three out of every 100 transfer stories actually resulting in the transfer happening, the journey from one to ten is vital if someone other than the journalists who invented the story, is going to be blamed for the story not happening. (And not getting the blame is a fundamental part of journalistic activity – which is why 97% of transfer rumours cite another media outlet as the source).
And apart from blaming someone else, the process has a further great benefit: it means that the same story can be used over and over and over. As long as the alleged sources (there are no sources of course it is all made up) are changed, the same story can just go round and round.
Of course occasionally other stories do pop up into the headlines such as the notion that Mesut Ozil is going to Oxford.
That clever headline comes from the Daily Mail, and the Oxford in question is the university thereof, and the story is the unlikely tale that Mesut has agreed to address the students’ union in English on a subject which is yet to be agreed. It seems unlikely not because Mesut is not a deep thinking and interesting man, which he seems to be, but rather because he is quite a private guy who doesn’t normally do this sort of public appearance, and rarely speaks publicly in English.
So, leaving aside the “Mesut to Oxford” tale, we are by and large left with a feeling that somehow it is the duty of the club to fulfil our hopes and dreams, and that the club is a failure when it does not do so. The club is no longer a football club but a fantasy fulfilment operation stuck in an endless loop of fantasy and failure to fulfil the fantasy.
This approach leads to the raising of all sorts of extraordinary expectations. I remember the correspondent a while back who claimed that it was perfectly reasonable to expect and indeed demand that Arsenal should be challenging to win the League up to the last few weeks of each season. And more recently we have seen the view put that it is quite reasonable for supporters not to waste their money going to Arsenal until Arsenal reach that sort of level.
These approaches to what is deemed reasonable are sustainable because they are accompanied by the notion propagated by the media and their hangers on that in order to achieve these lofty ideals, constant criticism is what the club needs and that only constant criticism will get the lazy sods who run the club off their overfed backsides and get them to take action to give Arsenal fans their reasonable expectations.
In short, Arsenal has stopped being a football club but has become a hub for the creation of and expression of dissatisfaction, upset and dismay in a way that is doomed to failure while maintaining the repetition of the aberrant behaviour.
The performances are not good enough, the wrong players are signed, the right players are not signed, and every other club does things right whereas only Arsenal gets it so wrong. We need to criticise this in order to make things right, and when that criticism has no effect we need to do it again, because it didn’t work last time.
This has now been going on for well over ten years (it was certainly in operation when Untold started ten years ago) and it has, as yet, had no effect other than keeping itself going. And this raises another issue.
If the club is a source of such distress to so many people, and if the constant complaining about it clearly doesn’t make things any better, either for the club or for the people who complain, why do people keep on complaining?
Now we have had the debate here about whether a definition of insanity is doing the something, seeing it not work, and then doing it again and again. We have even debated who first made the remark.
And we’ve shown that the process of doing the same thing over and over and seeing it fail each time before doing it again, is not a valid definition of insanity, but it is an extremely ineffective and wasteful way of operating. Yet still we see the practice continuing. Every day it seems people complain endlessly about the way Arsenal, its manager and its players are behaving, but none of this complaining makes things better.
Now it is true that sometimes complaining does have a purpose. I complain about the PGMO, the FA, Fifa, the false story of Arsenal having the most injuries, the leagues that have one or two teams that win most of the trophies most of the time, the franchising of the Abu Dhabi football brand across the world, the blaming of England’s footballing failures on having foreigners play in England and so on.
And over time there has been, I believe, a little bit of movement on some of these issues, with them getting a little bit more coverage in the media than before. Last year Parliament expressed no confidence in the FA – so there is some movement. Not much, but some.
But behind the attacks on Arsenal, the manager and the team, there lies a fantasy that suggests that remorseless criticism of the club by its “fans” will make a difference. Likewise, taking the transfer rumours seriously rather than poking a bit of gentle fun at them when 97% of them are shown to be untrue, is also a form of aberrant behaviour.
It has been created and is maintained by the media, which I guess shows just how low they will sink to keep an audience.
- The deal is done. Oh yes it is. Oh no it isn’t. You’re making it up. Oh no I’m not.
- Arsenal’s transfers only confused by the needy media seeking to be at the centre
- Arsenal establish themselves in the Division 1 amidst scandal, profiteering and strikes.
- Everton v Arsenal: a happy video, line-up and what the league table will look like after
- Everton v Arsenal: Injuries, points needed for 4th, and Arsenal the first to 100?
- Everton v Arsenal: extraordinary figures seen in the last 6 games table
- Everton v Arsenal: how this referee treats the home and away team
- Everton v Arsenal and the oddity of referee behaviour