How football telepaths embarrass themselves while one Guardian reporter speaks the truth

By Tony Attwood

There is a lovely article in the Guardian in relation to American football which begins, “Sports forecasts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.”

Well yes, I think many of us will go with that.   And when it comes to, “The problem with predictions in this space is that they are comically flawed,” which occurs a little later, I would argue that the word “comically” is both inaccurate and redundant.

So thank you Les Carpenter.  But I have a question.   What on earth do you find to talk about with your colleagues at the paper who write about football, as in soccer?

Anyway, let’s move on a little and consider what others are saying. Take this for example from Football London.

Arsenal fans are all saying the exact same thing about Aaron Ramsey after shock injury news

It is of course gibberish.  I can prove that not all Arsenal fans are saying the exact same thing, because I know Blacksheep and I aren’t saying that.  That’s two for a start, and I suspect most of the fans I know are not saying the same thing.  But I have often thought that bloggetta writers work with bunches of people all saying the same thing.

Meanwhile the Irish Examiner says of Arsenal,

“The ‘death-by-a-thousand-cuts’ nature of the past 12 years has given rise to a haze of numb apathy. This cloud does occasionally lift to give a glimpse of hope before it is again savagely extinguished by another tame and lame performance that once again reminds you that the Arsenal are still the same three players short that they have been for the past 12 years.”

So, three players short for 12 years.  Such as in the Cup Final last year?  Such as winning the FA Cup three times in four years?  Actually, coming in the top four all those years with three players short is an astonishing thing to do.  How many players short did Tottenham have when they came below us season after season?  I’d like to know.

Or let’s try another, this from Just Arsenal

“Wenger tried to play defensive football with one of the worst defenses in the entire league!”

So let’s try the facts.   Here is the league table, but with a slight difference.  It is in the order of goals conceded with the team with the best defence at the top.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester United 27 17 5 5 51 19 32 56
2 Manchester City 27 23 3 1 79 20 59 72
3 Chelsea 26 15 5 6 46 23 23 50
4 Tottenham Hotspur 27 15 7 5 52 24 28 52
5 Burnley 27 9 9 9 21 24 -3 36
6 Liverpool 27 15 9 3 61 31 30 54
7 Arsenal 27 13 6 8 51 36 15 45
8 Newcastle United 27 7 7 13 25 36 -11 28
9 Brighton and Hove Albion 27 6 10 11 22 36 -14 28
10 Swansea City 27 7 6 14 20 37 -17 27
11 West Bromwich Albion 26 3 11 12 21 37 -16 20
12 Leicester City 27 9 8 10 39 40 -1 35
13 Southampton 27 5 11 11 28 40 -12 26
14 AFC Bournemouth 27 8 7 12 31 41 -10 31
15 Crystal Palace 27 6 9 12 25 42 -17 27
16 Everton 27 9 7 11 32 46 -14 34
17 West Ham United 27 7 9 11 34 46 -12 30
18 Watford 27 8 6 13 37 47 -10 30
19 Huddersfield Town 27 7 6 14 23 47 -24 27
20 Stoke City 27 6 7 14 27 53 -26 25

Now before the anti-Arsenal readership get going let me clarify, that no, I don’t think that is good enough.  I think it would be great if we had a perfect defence.  In fact I’d love to see us go through a whole season without conceding a goal.  But the fact is that we don’t have the worst defence in the nor anything like it and starting from a false premise like this we are never going to get a sensible debate.

The piece continues to say that Cech and Mustafi are low on confidence.  And this is known how?  Secret recordings of sessions with the club psychologist perhaps?  Or is it more telepathy of the type revealed in other statements I will come to in a moment.

But first let’s move on and consider a little further the issue of states of mind.   The Daily Canon tells us that “Arsenal fans embarrass themselves after Ancelotti attends North London derby.”  Now how does one embarrass oneself?  To be embarrassed one feels negative self-consciousness.  So to embarrass oneself one has presumably to engender negative self-consciousness.   But then how is embarrassing oneself different from being embarrassed?

What really is happening here is that these blogs are telling us how we feel and what we should and should not feel.  And they can do it because they know what we are both thinking and feeling. Big Brother (ie the Daily Canon) knows all about you, for as they say,

“Most fans seem to be in agreement that the 58-year-old wouldn’t be a long-term solution. Theoretically, he would be someone to come in and keep Arsenal competitive while a manager for the future is found.”   I wouldn’t mind if these guys did a sample of 1000 people coming out of the ground through a variety of entrances and told us what question they asked (so we could check it was a properly neutral question) but they don’t.

They seem to divine this knowledge.   Knowledge that tells them that most Arsenal fans at Wembley “worked themselves up into a frenzy over the news that he was at Wembley on Saturday. You know, just casually watching Arsenal lose 1-0 in the North London derby and play as if we didn’t know what football was.”

What I suppose ultimately is missing is any sense of either a) a grip on reality or b) a sense of humour, or c) an understanding that they are not telepathic or d) a sense that no one actually knows how another person feels.  I suppose in most people such a lack of awareness might cause them to be embarrassed, but I suspect not in this case.

So we are then told that “most Arsenal fans” were  “dreaming and begging the Italian to help their club”.

Thus the writer of this piece thinks he knows what the majority of Arsenal fans at the match were thinking in relation to the rather obscure point that there was an ex-manager in the crowd, and then he finds what they are thinking embarrassing.

Well on that basis maybe he should just stop the mind reading and so be embarrassed less.

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25 Replies to “How football telepaths embarrass themselves while one Guardian reporter speaks the truth”

  1. I think they maybe referring to three players short of winning the league. But of course nobody knows how many players short we were, if any at all.

    It’s easy to pick these blogs apart. And the papers too. There’s an awful lot of conjecture in football. People quite enjoy it.

  2. They’re all idiots, Tony.
    Thanks very much for the defence table. I will now be able to argue with the local Spurs fan in the fish shop when he says we have the worst defence in the premier league. Just to say, I DID argue but now I have facts to back it up.

  3. As Tony says – nobody’s happy about it, but it is simply a lie to say, as this bloke did, that it is among the worst defences in the Premier League. That’s the point. As it happens, we are sixth in the league and our defence is seventh. Let’s hope we rise in the ranking on both counts.

  4. No Rupert. Some people quite enjoy it. Some people find it tedious. Some people find some of it tedious and some of it interesting. That’s the problem with a lot of commentary on football. Gross over simplification of complex points in order to reach a false conclusion. If it was that simple every journalist and blogger, instead of telling others what to do, would be able to go out and take over a nearby lower league team, and get them promotion after promotion.

  5. Someone on here did some elementary stats on here, on a recent thread arguing, that given chance variability, we are indeed not significantly different to the worst teams in the league. Sad.

  6. Ferg

    Hmm, you post an update while I am posting. The fact there is a high value mixed in with the lows, and vice versa complicates a simple partition of the table by goals conceded.

    I was only using 2 standard deviations, which is not really being rigorous anyway.

  7. I am sick of hearing Arsenal keep making the same mistakes today, what bloody mistakes?
    If they mean defenders then Man U, Citeh and Chelsea have made more mistakes yet they carry on buying until they get a half decent one, Arsene has to stick with his decisions so that makes him stubborn
    And that other shit statement we need two more players, what a cheap way to make yourself look intellectual since the over use of the word ‘Absolutely ‘.

  8. @Tony, yes I know I should have said some people quite enjoy it and obviously some don’t and so on.

    Of course it’s complex, you could go on a mad reductive spree regarding the performance of any team. For instance player A of team A may have had a terrible curry the night before a game and therefore plays badly. The fans don’t know it and they crucify him. With that he never eats curry again but unbeknown to him there is a spice in his favourite curry that actually enhances his performance so he’s never quite up to scratch, his form dips and therefore his confidence drops and so on.

    I know that’s a little frivolous but you get my point. Nobody knows what goes on with a player, manager, coach etc. Therefore judgement of any performance is spurious without the full facts. And as we are rarely in possession of the full facts I’m not sure how we can reach any conclusions. Sounds a bit facetious but I think it’s true.

  9. Ferg


    I was actually asked if I wanted more bandwidth, and I turned it down. For most of what I do, what I have is enough.

  10. Ha. Very good
    Just reflecting on your comment earlier. The timeline is revealing.

    On theme tho, I don’t think Poisson made allowances for the degree of bias that have been evident this season.

  11. Ferg

    I am back on the family “farm” (40 acres). The only equipment I have is a 6 foot mower meant for fairways on a golf course. The land has been ignored for 40 years. I have weeds everywhere, including aspen and willow growing where I don’t want them. A hundred feet of aspen is a fair windbreak, 10 feet of aspen will be destroyed by the winds we get here. The upwind neighbours are cutting down their trees faster than I can grow ones on my side. I want to rehab the land according to principles of permaculture. All of the farming around here, assumes the only viable way to farm is a monoculture.

    I need the internet to get data to the farm. I don’t need it for videos or music.

    Poisson assumes events are independent. PGMO makes events not independent.

  12. @Tony, I was actually agreeing with you. Guess I said it badly. But yes I think your post is right. There is desert of facts and incorrect assumptions. And people do get misled by it all.

  13. While examining the the body of Mr. Schwartz, a mortician notices that Schwartz has the largest penis he has ever seen.

    “I’m sorry, Mr. Schwartz,” says the mortician, “But I can’t send you to be cremated with a tremendously huge penis like this. It has to be saved for posterity.”

    The mortician removes the penis, places it in a jar and puts the jar in his briefcase. When he gets home, he decides to show it to his wife. “I have something to show you that you won’t believe,” he says, removing the jar from his briefcase.

    “Oh my God!” she screams, “Schwartz is dead!”

  14. @Knobby, all the managers who are supposedly better than Wenger, with the exception of Guardiola, have had awful results this season. Did we lose 3-0 at home to Bournemouth? In fact some of the weaker teams we’ve lost to have gone and beaten our main rivals. Chelsea have lost to Watford and Bournemouth. Swansea beat Pool and have had a revival. And now Newcastle have beaten Utd, as did Huddersfield, so we might struggle there. It’s not easy to win against anyone, even City could beat Burnley away which we did.

    Plenty of defensive mistakes at all the major clubs.

  15. My apologies Rupert. One of the many problems of running this blog and the Arsenal history blog, and actually having a job, is sometimes I do rush things in the morning in order to a) get the post that I want to have published, published, have breakfast, and get ready for work. Still I go on holiday in 2 weeks so that should help!

  16. The way I see it with all these writers in the media (including blogs) are much like a slice of all writers in that all have their style and in amongst them there are several (in all fields of writting not only with regard to football) that tend toward fiction, others horror, or thrillers etc…The mind boggles at the variety of writers and scream writers for that matter (they maybe thinking that they are making a movie – Bollywood style.

    Now of course we mustn’t forget the writers of true stories…where by they write about REAL events and the story about those REAL events.

    Personally I am of the type of reader/spectator of writings/movies/documentaries which are based on true events and not dramatized versions of those which may include some type of DRAMA/INTRIGUE…and other such distractions from the truth.

    There are of course sections of audience who like the other forms as mentioned above and are right into drama and fiction. I guess these bloggetas and so called media, cater for a segment of audience as the one just described. Each to their own I guess 😉

  17. @Tony, it’s OK. Thanks for the apology. Could do with a holiday myself, winter doesn’t half drag on.

  18. @ apoarmani

    It is absolutely fine that some people like fiction and others non-fiction. Like you, I prefer the latter. The problem is that many of those who read the fiction actually believe it to be true and use it as a basis for what they believe is a factual debate. Those people are a pain in the arsenal.

  19. As Terry Henry has correctly summarised in the media today, our away form is indeed embarrassing. Seven from eight is very poor and something must change. However, with regards to goals conceded, it’s also a problem when you let in too many goals during matches you don’t lose.
    We’ve managed nine clean sheets this season which gives us exactly the same placing as in the goals conceded table above, but there were four high scoring matches – against Everton, Liverpool, Palace and Leicester – in which we won three and drew one, but which yielded 10 goals for the opposition (over a quarter of goals conceded so far).

    I don’t have the stats for unforced errors in these matches but it remains a fact that Arsenal need to buy a new world beating goalkeeper and centre back before next season, otherwise these problems will persist.

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