By Tony Attwood
Over the years when it comes to football, newspapers, broadcasters and most recently bloggers have merged their own thoughts and prejudices with the facts, to produce their version of reality. And for years that version of reality has been one in which Arsenal make more mistakes than anyone else as well as fail more than anyone else.
Poor training methods lead to more injuries, good players are allowed to leave where other clubs hold onto their stars, obvious errors in playing style are ignored by managers who by implication are not fit for purpose, fixed managerial views mean the opposition know how to take us out, poor tactics leave us exposed at the back or failing to score at the front, poor players with limited skill or talent are played over and over again when they should be replaced, obvious transfer targets are not brought to the club.
And so on.
At the heart of all that there is a total ignoring of reality. The recent headline, “We’ve got our Arsenal back – But what about our defence?” suggested that the defence is a hopeless mess, which is a bit odd given the recent run of form and the fact that we have the seventh best defence in the league, and we have brought in Torreira to play in front of them. Of course it would be great if we had the best defence in the league but given that Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Real Mad, Barcelona etc can always outspend us, that is unlikely to happen. Besides, we brought five players in, in the summer. More than that and the team would have had a difficult time in learning how to work together. Seventh best at the moment looks, under present form as if it will be fourth best soon, and thereafter possible further improvement.
Meanwhile we get the distractions. For example, day after day, often several times a day, Football London is running the headline “Transfer news live recap: Arsenal seal £70m deal, star confirms Man United ready to make bid” yet if you take the time to scroll down the piece there is no such transfer as implied. It is an exaggeration of the new kit deal. Reading this leads to disappointment and the feeling engendered not that Fooball London (the Daily Mirror’s 40 a day habit) that is letting us down, but Arsenal.
In the background there is the constant questioning of Ozil, and whether he really is injured or ill (there is no evidence that he is not, and the club says he is, but such club statements are the last thing being believed in this environment). There is the endless Ramsey story, with the thought that it is happening again, although last time it happened with a star leaving it seems to me Arsenal came out the winners.
Endlessly Xhaka is rubbished, and the problems within Arsenal are so obvious, it is suggested, that amateur critics can see them often without even going to the game. Take this headline, “Emery has only corrected 2 out of 5 weaknesses needed if Arsenal are to sustain current form” A question then arises: with this level of insight why is the writer not managing – at least in the lower leagues since he knows what to do.
Of course sometimes you do have to laugh. As with “‘We’ve got our Arsenal back’ – What those chants during the Fulham win really mean. Pundit Craig Bellamy does not understand the fans’ singing.”
That really did give me a chuckle. Next he will be saying, “What does Oo to Oo to be Oo to be a Gooner” mean?” Or what about the old favourite “You are my Arsenal” which ends “please don’t take my Arsenal away.” Chants don’t have to mean anything you plonker. They are like flags – a symbolic representation of unity. God almighty, how dumb do you have to be to be a pundit?
Now we have the fanciful expected goals to tell us that Arsenal are not doing as well as we think they are, despite what the scoreboard says. Or (and here is one that really amused me) the current run can be explained because “either our goalie had an exceptional game (which may not last for ever) or the opponents forwards were not in goal scoring form (which may also not last for ever) or both.”
And of course if a latent volcano under Arsenal Stadium erupts that could bring the run to an end also. Or a Russian attack with a nerve agent on the Arsenal dressing room.
And another… not playing Lacazette and Auba together for the whole game is a major failing. Which is I suppose why we have lost so many games of late. The fact is you can play both together, which worries the opposition from the start, or you can play one of them and bring the other on as a sub as the defence is tiring with 20 minutes to go. Both seem to work, and until one hour before the game the opposition have no idea what they are going to face.
One of the articles highlighting a set of changes proposed by the writer ended, “Make these changes Mr Emery and we will be challenging for the title” and yes it is so amazing that once again we have a manager who can’t see the bleedin’ obvious, just as Wenger before him. That is almost as weird as the writer seemingly not being employed as a manager himself since he knows it all. Or George Graham not knowing how to get the team to score goals in the league in his last couple of seasons.
Here’s another: “High profile pundits dismiss Arsenal’s title chances” Well yes, they tend to, just as they were saying until the very end that Arsenal would not go unbeaten all season in the unbeaten season. Personally I’d be surprised if we seriously challenged for the title this season, because of the money available to Man City which they can spend in January if they are not miles out in front, the fact that they don’t have 25 players in their “25” and the abject failure of the PL and Uefa to impose any sort of financial regulation on a club like Man City.
Meanwhile Arsenal is being set up for all sorts of January signings that are not going to happen, so that the club can be blamed. Adrien Rabiot, Miguel Almiron, Nicolas Pepe… Fail to sign them all (even if the manager had no intention of signing them) and we will be failing yet again.
Thus there is, in my view, a constant attempt to manipulate the reality that football fans perceive, for the benefit of the broadcasters and writers. And when they get it wrong, as they so obviously have this season, they just tell us it can’t last because of expected goals or lucky goalkeepers. And as a last resort they will bring back “Lucky Arsenal”.
If we want our Arsenal back, the only way to do it is to support the team ceaselessly, and counter the alternative reality propaganda of the media. As Untold said once before, there is “The Arsenal and The Arsenal” and one can choose which Arsenal one wants.
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