By Dr Billy “the dog” McGraw
Something odd is going on.
The mainstream upmarket media appear, for the moment at least, to have gone soft on Arsenal and are picking on everyone else. The bloggettas however, oft written by robots as they are, are staying with their long term objective of knocking. Such is their programming.
Where the two groups join is, in an absolute demand that new transfers should perform at their highest level at once, whereas the one survey done on the subject suggests that only 25% manage to do this, but by the start of Year II 75% of big money transfers are doing the business.
Let’s take the typical bloggetta knocking. Here are just the first headlines I came across this morning. They are by and large attempts at knocking Arsenal
- Paul Merson questions why Arsenal didn’t sign proven 30-year-old defender
- Sanchez joining United a’once in a generation’bargain, says former Liverpool director
- ANOTHER Arsenal striker could be sold in the summer – Jamie Carragher makes HUGE claim
- Thierry Henry admits he’s sad about Arsenal January transfersThe Sport Review
- José Mourinho reveals why he snubbed Arsenal star Mesut OzilGiants Football News
- Mkhitaryan endures miserable debut as Arsenal slump
- West Brom boss Pardew raps Arsenal over late Evans offer
- Carragher: Arsenal haven’t fixed problems with signings
- Are Arsenal just ordinary?
So now let’s try the newspapers, who are normally pretty much in line with the bloggettas, but now have sauntered out on their own, and instead are shooting at other targets. Just look at these negative pieces…
- West Ham crisis:
- Leicester City Club left to pick up pieces from Mahrez transfer fallout
- Crystal Palace
- Manchester City
- Big-money transfers mean little without basics
- I am overachieving, insists Conte after rout
- Riyad Mahrez faces £200k fine after missing third day of Leicester training over collapsed Man City move
- Why can’t Jose Mourinho get a tune out of Paul Pogba?
- FA still investigating claims Roberto Firmino racially abused Mason Holgate
It is an extraordinary range of complaints and tales of the negative.
So what is going on?
As we know, sowing the negative tales has taught newspapers the sad lesson that negativity sells. And this has been enhanced by the fact that most people who watch football don’t go to matches.
As Bloomberg reported “during the 2014-15 season, the league was broadcasted in 730 million homes, where it reached 3 billion people. But declining viewership since then shows sports’ weakening power to prop up traditional TV. Indeed, compared with the 2010-11 season, EPL audiences are down 22% per game this year. The fact competition among top clubs is currently fierce – with just three points (or one win) separating the second- and fifth-place teams – should compound this anxiety further.”
Turning to Business Insider, they reported that in 2011/12 the average BT Sport audience for a game was 500,000. Since then it has dramatically upped its bidding, and is now spending far, far more, with the aim of getting many more top matches. Its audience in 2016/17 was 600,000 on average, up 20% despite a much, much higher spend. As for Sky they were getting 1.3 million average for a match in 2011/12 but by 2016/17 the average was 900,000. Yet again they are paying far, far more per match.
Down, down, down goes the audience, while the money bid for the games goes up, up, up.
What we also notice is that the number of people watching a match on TV is generally six to 12 times as many as are in the ground. What this vast majority of the audience for a game get is the endless positivity that TV companies are ordered to put out as part of their contract. Negatives are ignored, and it is all good entertainment.
To contrast with TV the rest of the media has gone another way (as far as their contract to publish fixtures allows them to go) and they have focused on the bad side of things to be different from the TV. And because articles on Arsenal generally get a bigger readership than those on most clubs, they get the most negative coverage.
However in many social psychology experiments we find there is a boundary at which point people have had enough of the endless negativity. It is not that they don’t want knocking any more, but rather that they have had enough of knocking that particular thing. That “thing” might be politicians of a certain party, the BBC, the unemployed, local councils, or in this case Arsenal.
The bland TV model of football being fine all the time is ultimately unsustainable because to most fans it is unbelievable and out of tune with the online and newspaper reporting. The upmarket newspapers however appear now to have sniffed out a change in the atmosphere at least when it comes to Arsenal.
Will it last? A bad match on Saturday for Arsenal would probably mean a return to the instant knocking as the up market newspaper experiment is ditched. But a solid Arsenal win could lead to another week of positives, leaving the bloggettas isolated, which would be quite amusing and interesting. For yes, even social psychologists can have a laugh sometimes.
But for now, let us celebrate. Today, at least, in a couple of papers, Arsenal are the good guys.
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