Sometimes the world can take you by surprise.  As long as you are not looking the wrong way


By Tony Attwood

When the media en mass ignores a particular point of view (such as the one that asks why our refereeing system is so secretive, and is organised in a way that is different from most of the rest of Europe) I am on safe ground.  I know where I stand.  For this is part one of the two parts of all media football coverage.  The mass media chooses the agenda; the “talking points”, the “five things we learned”, the “analysis” (a word now synonymous with “opinion”) and leaves the “missing points” – the bits they most certainly will not cover.

So we don’t debate the structure of refereeing in the PL because it is not a topic on the accredited agenda.  Last season we didn’t debate VAR because it was only something done by funny foreigners.  Now suddenly everyone is getting in a tiz about it because we are trialling it and it is becoming messy.  Seemingly no one has bothered to see how Germany got on with it this year.

Occasionally however the media blinks and instead of ignoring a topic totally because “it is not what the public is interested in”, it actually does delve into that topic a little.  Then  things start to get interesting for it is here that we can get an insight into how the process works.

This is what makes “Pundits are good for the game even if ex-players’ censure can feel out of line” by Liam Rosenior so interesting.  In this article he claims,”Former professionals such as Gary Neville educate not only supporters but also younger players while continually raising standards in terms of objectively analysing matches.”  In other words the experts bring objectivity, and this helps all of us.

The notion is thus that we are moving towards greater objectivity. And, Mr Rosenior says we need this because, “millions of fans [are] expecting not only great games but informative, insightful analysis during and after matches because of the money they are paying to watch.”

So this is a justification of the media and its two pronged approach – it chooses what to cover, and then chooses how to cover it – because it has experts who can do this objectively – even though it doesn’t allow outsiders to have an influence on what is covered and how it is covered.

And indeed it seems to suggest that the media and its pundits should be applauded for so-doing because the fans need the “insightful analysis” that results from expert punditry.  If the pundits were not there we wouldn’t know what was going on (and so presumably might start thinking that a match was fixed rather than expecting the notion that a match will happen and everything will always by hunky-dory.)

Thus the great danger of the media trying to respond to a criticism of its position on a topic like football can be seen at once, for the writer continues to speak of Neville by saying, “he’s being paid to give his expert opinion and call football matches as he sees them.”

So suddenly we have to ask which one is it?  Is he an expert in the way a man who studies volcanoes is an expert – a person who can bring detailed scientific knowledge to the table and use it to explain to non-experts what is going on – including understanding the limits of his own knowledge?   Or is this a person who simply has an opinion rather like Donald Trump has opinions.

But Neville responded to the gathering criticism of his comments by saying that we are getting an “analysis of analysis”, by which I suspect he meant that people were starting to deconstruct what he was saying to see if there was real analysis therein, or whether it was just a multiplicity of personal opinions bound together to make the statement sound as if it was a) serious and b) an analysis.

However the social sciences have evolved across the last 100 years in order to find ways of allowing people to do reliable analyses into the complex world of human behaviour.   But because football pundits reject this we end up simply arguing as we might over a figure skating competition: was that a seven for the twirly bit with the spinning jump, or an eight?  Was the player trying hard or wasn’t he?

In fact we learn about the sort of pundit  Liam Rosenior wants us to have.  Not a common everyday person who watches a match and has an opinion, but someone who can at once see what is going on and give us underlying causes.  A man with specialist knowledge and insight.

But such experts have been severely criticised, as for example when the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP stated that  “people in this country have had enough of experts.”  But Mr Rosenior implicitly rejects this and suggests we benefit from these experts.

For they are “not only commenting on what is happening on the field of play but why it is happening”.  Powerful experts indeed.   They can tell us about the causes of human behaviour which has been the holy grail of sociology and psychology since the sciences were founded.   And it has all been done while ignoring a multiplicity of other possibly important factors.

But science teaches us that if you don’t look for a particular underlying cause for a series of events quite often you simply won’t know it is there.

Liam Rosenior starts from the premise that nothing is amiss, everything is ok and because of that he misses lots of interesting questions, and key point simply because he is content always to look in the same direction as everyone else and ignore the fact that there are other directions in which to look.  But simply claiming that someone is an expert doesn’t make him so. All this argument does is attempt to convince that everything is ok.

And if history teaches us anything, surely it teaches us to be wary of anyone who suggests that by and large everything is ok.

For those are the most dangerous people of all.

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21 Replies to “Sometimes the world can take you by surprise.  As long as you are not looking the wrong way”

  1. The last time i checked we played a match yesterday. is this not an Arsenal site again? No analysis whatsoever of the match.
    So once we lose the next thing is to talk about the media, pundits and the ref?
    This is becoming pathetic

  2. I don’t read anything Gary Neville has to say. He was a monumental disaster when he tried his hands at football management. And since then, nobody has given him a second call. So what’s he got to say?

  3. Tony,
    Thank you again for another well written article. These so-called ‘experts’ come for ‘two-a-penny’ and do their paymaster’s bidding, so I don’t expect them to give a balanced review of the football matches they are commenting on.

    Does playing a zillion football matches make of you an expert on football? No, but that is all these jokers bring to the table as qualification. To be truly considered a credible pundit I would think that they’ll know a lot about, coaching, playing, preparation for matches, diet, sports psychology, defending, attacking, tactics and strategies, team selection, people management, team building and a few more other things that go into the spectacles that they are commenting on.

    We are seeing the cumulative effects of bad refereeing of AFC matches taking its toll on the players and the Club. What is the Club itself doing about these issues? Unless they are complicit in some manner then the guys upstairs should get off their ‘what-you-call-it’ and earn their pay before their investments go down the chute.

    Making Arsene take the rap for these failings is a huge manifestation of injustice, like a man of integrity that he is he is bearing it all with stoic heroism. I still maintain that the wheels of the FA, EPL and PigMob’s collective acts of omission and commission will fly off one day soon to their eternal regret. To every act or inaction there is always a corresponding reaction. Pick one end of a stick and the other end comes along.

  4. I find it amusing when ‘experts’ like Jamie Carragher who played for almost 20 years without once winning the Premiership is calling for the resignation of Arsene Wenger for not winning the Premiership in the last 14 years.

    The count of when Arsenal last won the EPL started after five years, that was in 2009 but I am yet to read it anywhere that this year makes it the fifth year that Manchester United, the richest club in the whole world, last won the league title.

    Liverpool and Tottenahm that are doing ‘so great’ compared to,Arsenal have never won the EPL even once since inception in 1992, yet it is okay by the media as they have remained competitive by constantly avoiding relegation every season. Tottenham have not been in the Final of any tournament since 2008 when they won the League Cup, yet they have done better than Arsenal.

    When Wenger said qualification for the Champions League was like a trophy, he was lampooned by the media. Arsenal miss out of the CL for the first time in 20 years then it became more important than winning the League Cup.

    While not denying that we need more work to be done, I blame a good number of the fan base for their fickleness in allowing the media with hidden agenda and ulterior motives to manipulate them into thinking the world is about to end as we go through this most challenging patch.

    The club have been most active in turning over both the playing and non playing staff over the past 18 months that at any given time in our recent history. A work in progress requires time and patience.

  5. I watched Arsene Wenger sitting on that bench, in a stadium that was built to take us to a new level and realised that we are at a new level. But instead of it being the ultra-competitive one we’d all hoped for, we’re now an also-ran in the Premier League, and it made me feel sad and a bit angry at how this has been allowed to happen.

    We moved in there in 2006 and while things were changing in the football landscape, with the emergence of billionaire, sugar-daddy owners, the Arsenal of back then was a club with huge ambition. You don’t embark on the kind of project we did and leave behind your beautiful, historical home on a whim.

    It took so much work to make it happen, and Wenger was one of the driving forces behind it. While nobody could really foreseen the way the ownership model would shift so radically, he knew that for us to be truly competitive at the highest level of European football we had to get bigger, we had to modernise, and that’s exactly what we did.

  6. Played: 28
    Won: 10
    Drawn: 7
    Loss: 11
    Win %: 35.71
    Goal For: 39
    Goal Against: 39
    Goal Difference: +1

    Gary Neville’s managerial record at Valencia. Talk is cheap.

  7. I’m all for experts commenting objectively on aspects of the game for which they are adequately qualified and experienced. But when we get people like Neville telling us what the manager should do when he was an unmitigated disaster in that role it is beyond absurd. The analogy is a nurse telling a cardiac surgeon how to do his/her job just because they are both health professionals who worked in a hospital. The only thing that’s worse, of course, is when the patients think they know better than the surgeon just because they regularly watch Casualty on TV…………………

  8. The appointment of a Head of Recruitment and ‘Definitely not a Director of Football’ are welcome, but they come years too late. If we’re going to judge Arsene Wenger for his work – and we absolutely should – then let’s not be blinded to the fact that other people are culpable too. People who have hidden behind the manager and let him take all the bullets during difficult times.

    I haven’t forgotten that, nor should anyone else as we see them try to re-position themselves as the potential saviours and men to make the decisions about what’s best for the future of this club we support. I’ve seen what you did, and didn’t do, and your leaked photos and internal power-plays don’t mask that.

    And so, as I saw Arsene sit on the bench I thought that this must have been so far from the vision he had when the Emirates was built. He can’t possibly be blind to this, and ultimately he’s the manager, he’s spent the money since the shackles came off, and the decline has continued. That’s on him.

    From a team which competed for the title every season, to one which was always comfortably in the top four, to one which had to fight for the top four, to one which is now sixth and unlikely to get beyond that. We can all see the direction we’re going in, and now it’s time to do what it takes to change that.

    This is a huge club with massive potential and we’re under-performing in such a big way. The need for something different is obvious, and it feels like those above are abdicating their responsibilities again, content to let Wenger remain in the firing line as long as possible, afraid to stick their heads above the parapet lest they be held accountable in any way. Anyone heard anything from any of them? No, of course not.

    I don’t take any pleasure in seeing a once brilliant manager like this. He looks a broken man and it’s not nice to see. I find it hard to see him struggle on the pitch and off the pitch, but I while I won’t absolve him of his responsibilities when it comes to our current situation, he’s not the only one at whom fingers should be pointed because there are people who can do something about it, and don’t.

  9. @Yommex

    Spurs played LC Final in 2015, lost to Chelsea 2:0. Other than that, you’re pretty much spot on.

  10. Well said Yommex. The club look like it’s in transition for post-AW and is currently in a bad period, as supporters we should do our bit and try to support and encourage the staff to perform better, not abuse and insult them. Whether AW stay or go it’s irrelevant, supporting the club mean supporting the club through the good times and the bad. Criticise by all mean, but do it in a respectful way.

  11. Yommex

    You wrote: “Tottenham have not been in the Final of any tournament since 2008”.

    ….Apart from when they were in the final of the League Cup in 2009 and 2015, you mean?

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The reason why Arsenal get criticism for their league performances is because their league performances have fallen far below the incredibly high standards that Wenger has set for the club. And what seems to be the majority of Arsenal fans know it and are not at all happy with it. Consequently, that is the narrative that the media runs with. By contrast, Spurs have no such recent high standards to maintain. This is the best team that Spurs fans have witnessed in a generation or two, so Spurs’ fan base is almost uniformly happy. And the media runs with that narrative too. The media narrative for each club is opportunistic and based on each club’s circumstance. That’s all. And narrative for each club would change in a heartbeat if their circumstances were to change. The new narrative is waiting, with journal itching to write it. It already shadows whatever praise Spurs currently receive, with constant caveats about Spurs having won nothing and how they are likely to lose all their best players and their manager imminently.

  12. Yommex
    02/03/2018 at 2:31 pm

    Goal For: 39
    Goal Against: 39
    Goal Difference: +1

    ???????? Neville maths! Goal difference is 0

  13. Terry – Watching Wenger sit on the bench is not really unexpected. The media have ways of depicting anything in a bad way. They do not report with honesty – that includes my BBC (it is what I pay fees for & own).

    The sadness comes from analysis like yours where you try to take the height of financial growth & expect it to be reflected in the competitive arena. The financial goal posts changed while we grew. There are clubs that do not need to build stadia as theirs have been ‘donated’ as has their success on the field of play. Donated by the FA & its PGMOL, by the corrupt secretive select bunch of whistle blowing morons.

    If the football set up were a market, the law would not allow it to function. It is not a market but a true set up as in prepared with purpose to fool the public. The tides of play are controlled & the ‘describers’ are selected to show a calm ocean. What we see are the currents moving beneath surface yet no one outside of Untold seems to want to calm the ocean before it all drains into a desert.

    Wenger is smarter than you seem to believe. He has had to make mass changes to ensure quality while respecting those who he had to let go. His squad may appear unbalanced but his teamwork will rise above individual weakness. All of this, still, despite the PGMOL & their media collaborators.

  14. Menace.

    I had noticed that odd goal difference calculation earlier. But why point it out, when I got disappointed with all the comments in the first half being negative. And then today, I see a few more comments published, and I didn’t care to see if everything was still negative.

    And after all that, the predicted winter storm we were supposed to receive, didn’t show up. There is almost no snow in the fields here, it is all in the ditches right next to the roads. In places, we have drifts to 10 feet. Next to the road.

    But, Neville math.

    In terms of logic 0 and 0 is 0.
    0 and 1 is 0.
    1 and 0 is 0.
    1 and 1 is 1.
    (For all the people that use the word ‘and’ instead of ‘add’ 🙂 )

    Arithmetic (base greater than 2):
    0 add 0 is 0.
    0 add 1 is 1.
    1 add 0 is 1.
    1 add 1 is 2.

    Arithmetic (base 2)
    0 add 0 is 0.
    0 add 1 is 1.
    1 add 0 is 1.
    1 add 1 is 10.

    PGMO math (G(0,1) is a Gaussian deviate of 0 mean and standard deviation 1)
    0 add 0 is G(0,1)
    0 add 1 is G(1,1)
    1 add 0 is G(1,1)
    1 add 1 is G(2,1)

    Neville math
    0 add 0 is G(0,1)/G(0,1)
    0 add 1 is G(1,1)/G(0,1)
    1 add 0 is G(1,1)/G(0,1)
    1 add 1 is G(2,1)/G(0,1)

    In common terminology, dividing by 0 can lead to an answer of infinity. A definition of a Cauchy distribution is a ratio of 2 Gaussian distributions, where the denominator has a mean of 0. So not only can the numerator be on either side of 0 in these examples, the denominator can also be other side of 0 and since on average you are dividing by 0, you haven’t a clue as to what the magnitude is. As both numerator and denominator can have either sign, you can’t say anything about the result.

    This is just the same as analysing Neville. He presents a “mean” result, but you have no clue as to which side of the fence he is on, or how far off his “mean” is from the real result.

  15. Hello Terry, are you Arseblog? I’d be surprised given that his name is Andrew but perhaps you are here incognito? If you aren’t Mr Arseblog (a mighty fine blogger) then you are strongly reading his thoughts verbatim. If you don’t know what ‘verbatim’ means then please look it up.

  16. Hello Terry, are you Arseblog? I’d be surprised given that his name is Andrew but perhaps you are here incognito? If you aren’t Mr Arseblog (a mighty fine blogger) then you are strangely reading his thoughts and repeating them verbatim. If you don’t know what ‘verbatim’ means then please look it up.

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