Arsenal stars risk being solid, and other oddities of football lingo

By Tony Attwood

For some people an examination of the way language is used in reporting football is a matter of supreme tedium.  I know this cos I get lots of emails telling me so.

But I stay with the topic because I do completely believe that anyone who wants to manipulate thought and opinion does it through their use of language.  Language is never neutral.  Rather language is a weapon.  Sometimes an overt weapon, sometimes one that is hidden.

However language does have its values, as when it can give us the odd laugh as in

Surely these 2 Arsenal stars risk being solid this summer (Transfer Tavern)

And I wouldn’t normally have bother to mention it after I had had my little giggle, but I did click on the article and found that under the phrase about Arsenal solidity I was told, “With that in mind, our landlord takes a closer look at what TWO players this summer face the Gunners axe…”

For what it is worth the landlord of the mythical pub says the stars who need to go are Cech and Welbeck.

If anyone wanted to talk that could be a talking point, except that if one looks further into the muddied waters on which the Tavern’s foundations wobble we find that this article is almost completely repeated elsewhere on the site but for Newcastle wherein we are told “If certain players don’t pull their socks up in the final hurdles of the campaign, then our landlord believes they could be move on. Here he takes a look at TWO, in particular, that might not make the cut…

So it goes on, and by the time they get to Chelsea the poor old landlord is getting a bit tired and is reduced to telling us that “Bakayoko has become something of a liability in recent weeks…”

The point is that this is cut and paste journalism is now taken to an extreme.  Invent a story for one club and replicate it through a few more and if you get bored, call each one a “talking point”.

With this particular website it turns out that is just the start, because lurking in these murky backwaters we have

  • Les Reed made a huge transfer mistake not bringing these 2 stars to …
  • These 2 Chelsea players need to improve or risk being sold in six …
  • If Pellegrino starts these 2 Southampton players tonight, Brighton will …
  • Surely these 2 Chelsea stars risk being sold this summer …
  • If Mourinho persists with these 2 flops, Tottenham will batter…

This turns the talking point into a cement mixer.  Throw the words in instead of the limestone and out it comes at the other end, binding the blog together in a way that makes us forget that it actually contains nothing but binding.  Do it enough across enough sites and its becomes akin to brainwashing, stopping all serious debate and reducing everything to goo.

Of course other sites and newspapers are not always so crass and obvious, but even so they do use shorthand techniques.  Which brings us back to the phrase “talking point,” seen on almost every website almost everyday.

Indeed it is one of those phrases that one hears so often the temptation is not to think what it means, but just accept it.   But check the dictionaries and three separate definitions emerge.  It can be

  • A fact or feature that aids or supports one side, as in an argument or competition


  • A subject of discussion.   A talking point is an interesting subject for discussion or argument.

Now this gets confusing because journalists deliberately mix up the two meanings, so the reader thinks he or she is looking at a piece which an exploration of a subject of discussion but actually is pushing one side of the argument. (Or in the case of Football Tavern just using a computer to machine out variable sentences using the same basic format.)

But let’s take another example.  The article “Carabao Cup final – talking points” on the BT Sport website is clearly using the meaning of the phrase as a “subject of discussion”.  Unfortunately although the piece was published long after Manchester City’s defeat to Wigan it seems to focus on bland repetition to the extent that no one can rouse themselves enough to correct the mistakes.   Take for example

Whilst Guardiola’s revolution at the Etihad Stadium could yield as many as four trophies, his first season ended empty-handed.

It is the sort of error even I couldn’t make, and I tend to hold the all-time mistakes championship title, largely because when it comes to writing Untold, I don’t have a proof reader.

Likewise the phrase “Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played only twice since joining from Borussia Dortmund on transfer deadline day,” can hardly be construed as a talking point in either of that phrases guises.  It is the bland becoming ever more bland until it disappears down a bland hole (a journalistic equivalent of what happens when a star contracts on itself).

The fact is that “talking point” like so many phrases that turn up on football blogs and websites is just now part of the machine code – a phrase thrown in when nothing else springs to mind.

And there is a point in this complaint, because the further and faster downhill football commentary slides with its total lack of interest, lack of investigation and love of unsupported claims, the worse we are served, and the easier it is for clubs and authorities in football to get away with anything they want to.  We are not well served by this awful kind of journalism.

Opinion is fine but there needs to be information as well, because without information on which to base opinion we have nothing.   Indeed that was really the point of my piece yesterday evening: What do you know about Henry Norris? And how do you know it’s true?

Talking points would be good if that is what the media gave us.  But using the phrase “talking point” to cover utter blandness and repetition in the end gives us nothing but pap.  As football fans we deserve better.



3 Replies to “Arsenal stars risk being solid, and other oddities of football lingo”

  1. Now that Pep Guardiola’s Man City team has been ousted from the quadruple win this season, and looking will be ousted again from the treble win this season as well when they play against Arsenal in rhe Carabao Cup final match on Sunday at Wembley, I’ll on the background of this Cup final match that’s involving Arsenal make my Europa League Cup last 32 2nd leg match between Arsenal and Ostersunds at the Ems on Thursday night.

    My 3-2-4-1 Arsenal Europa League Cup match starts and bench against Ostersunds.

    Wilshere Elnney Willock Iwobi

    Ospina Mavropanos Sheaf Maitland Dragomy Nketiah

    my first team 3-2-4-1 Arsenal starting XI against Man City in the Carabao cup final.
    Oezil Ramsey Xhaka Mkhitaryan

    Cech Chambers Holding Elnney Wilshere Nketiah

    My bench for both teams are not complete. But I believe Le Boss will complete them for me.

  2. Tony and Samuel

    The Man City result in many ways reflects what the author Tony is saying. Language.

    It is interesting that when Arsenal win three FA Cups in 4 years, it is virtually ignored. Well ignored as an achievement. Indeed, apparently the FA Cup is nothing special to win, anyone can do it. Well Man City couldn’t. The Man City owned by a Country that has spent half a billion trying to win something worthwhile. Okay, they will win the league but this was little Wigan against the United Arab Emirates.

    When we lost to Nottingham Forest, it was a scandal and an absolute disgrace. The media, the Jeremy Kyle lookalikes on Arsenal Fan TV and all our ex players said so. Yes, despite being credit with 3 FA Cup trophies in recent seasons, Wenger is a disgrace and he is not taking the FA Cup seriously. A trophy that apparently means nothing.Well Spurs haven’t won it for 27 years but don’t let that stop you. Harry,Danny & Dele are doing their best to dive their way to it, knowing home advantage in the semi-final and final should make them favourites now. Still, 27 years is a very, very long time. If Spurs do win it, don’t worry this will be a very important trophy.

    Language and Narrative. With a dose of rank hypocrisy.

  3. I watched Wigan, the face nearly everything. On the other hand City approached it methodically and almost naive of th history of this competition.

    It wasn’t always on the cards, that tiny place, David had come again for Goliath and his 18 men worth £1bn.

    Pep saw it before the sending off, he was watching the game unfold and knew, he risked losing if his team did it stop playing as ignorant they had a god given right to progress. But then Ant had other ideas, an drew Delph gave him the holy grail, reckless and uncontrolled in a challenge for the ball, which endangered an opponent in a game which cried inequality. Yes a red, not a red on 100 other days, but always a red and bright as flame flickering in a night sky, on this particular Monday.

    So the three best attacking teams are all out of the FA Cup, leaving Dpurs, Chelsea and United to battle tit out, as clear favourites. But ignore you asked me, I would say there is a clear case for suggesting someone else might win on.

    Spurs best Chelsea most days, a few more days than United. But the contest amongst the three is daily even, but none of them are dismantling anyone on most days, although that title goes to Spurs if anyone.

    But what came out of this was more importantly, the poor stewarding, again! A sure ban for Sergio, a huge thawn in our side, a suspension for the make shift LB, and Solva not quite fit. With Dane also coming back and Kompany still not up to making the cut. Laporte was good, but they were very average.

    The league is a taxing marathon and those 18men seem to be flagging.

    Spurs face a replay and Chelsea are limping about. Can Arsenal break the hoodoo, will we take advantage of our adversaries slips?

    Well we play again. Midweek, before we have a chance to further dent City’s pride and bring them down to earth with a certain bump.

    Meanwhile Hector is being mimicked for more player, corporates sabotauge.

    As Giroud benefits from the ability of those around him and regular supply. Le Drogba!

    Toby? Max?

    Jan or Jack? To centre back or not to centre back? Anyone got a full back or two, preferably British an drew U21! Arsenal have some, ok! Lets speak to them about signing someone.

    So ok Liverpool have to win the CL, ManU and Spurs have to share the FA Cup with Chelsea. City need to beat us without a LB and their best CF and not quite match fit, Silva an drew Sane. With a less physical presence in central defence.

    My cup team is a midfield 3 of Jack, Ramsey, Elneny.

    Niles at LB Hector RB am deathly Koscielny and Monreal as the CB pairing.

    Ozil and Mikhi behind PEA17

    Ospina. We win by a respectable margin with that line up, you don’t need to even give them a game plan.

    EL, play anyone I didn’t mention, the younger the Bette.

    Now I’m late for a Barca demonstration of class, v child traffickers!

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