By Tony Attwood
Paul Merson has, in recent weeks, become ever more frantic on Sky Sports, telling anyone who would listen that Arsenal are a complete shambles and that Liverpool would beat Arsenal by scoring at least four goals.
This statement on last weekend’s Sky TV presentation was made amidst an outpouring that was one of the wildest yet in a stream of wildness, and seemed to leave Merson in such a state of animation it appeared he was in serious danger of doing himself an injury.
No one on Sky argued against him, everyone happy to accept the ranting and the prediction without any serious evidence.
The question now arises, does it matter to the rest of us? It is after all one man who is prone to extreme outbursts, on a TV station that indulges in a lot of anti-Arsenal rhetoric.
If Merson had been on a youtube channel it would only matter as much as another person on another channel telling us that the world was flat, the moon landings were a conspiracy and that there is no global warming. But here he was doing what he has been doing for week after week, indulging in his own anti-Arsenal vision, attacking without evidence, along to chuckles from his fellow panelists.
The problem is that easily influenced people see this sort of thing and then consider it something that is worth copying. After all Merson gets a lot of attention so why shouldn’t they? It encourages criticism without evidence, without restraint and without remorse when it is shown to be wrong.
That Merson was doing it during an Arsenal run of what is now 14 matches unbeaten suggests one of two things: either Arsenal are doing quite well, or the Premier League has become very soft indeed, since most of the games in this run (nine in fact) were Premier League games. I don’t actually think Merson knows what he means (although that of course is an opinion), but he is encouraged by Sky Sports because they seem to enjoy statements without analysis.
And this is afterall what is put out by Sky Sports day after day. Yes there are some statements of fact, but mostly it is opinion all the way.
Again the question can be asked, does this matter, and again I would say yes it does because it is what has encouraged many people to copy this approach. Make a statement that is (any logical analysis suggests) contrary to reality, and say it often enough and people believe it. It is merely the football version of President Trump calling barbed wire “beautiful” as he did yesterday in the context of people in Mexico.
And yes, there was a time in the past when we would have been expected to beat Liverpool at home, but at the moment there is more uncertainty. Not the certainty of Merson that we will be defeated heavily, but acknowledgement that Liverpool at this time having spent their third of a billion pounds in the last three transfer windows, have got a decent return for their money.
Despite having spent a tiny fraction of the amount Liverpool have spent we were not that far away from beating them – and would have been the first team to beat them this season. Not a bad position to be in just a few months into a season after changing manager.
Of course in the wider public as on Untold there are people saying that we should not have won because a goal ruled offside was not. But the trouble with this argument is that it is not set in a wider context – which in this case would be taking all the league games so far this season, analysing all the referee errors and then seeing if they did all “even out in the end” as the old saying goes. And then, to make sure people are satisfied, provide video evidence of every event.
As far as I know only one group of people have ever done that, the results are still on this site, with the video evidence, and the results of the bias found. The only attempts to suggest that this analysis is wrong has come from a handful of people who have found a few comments they have disagreed with and then drawn the conclusion that the whole analysis is faulty. Which is again not how the contradiction of evidence works in any logical scientific analysis.
What worked for Arsenal yesterday was what those of us who go to most of the games have been waiting for (and something we were putting into our predictions at the start of the season): Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the threesome behind Lacazette. Liverpool got the draw by pulling back and having just 38 per cent of the possession, even less than they had against Manchester City – and that shows the progress Arsenal is making these days in tackling other teams who ended up in the top six last season.
We are far from getting everything right, but Arsenal has proven that the ceaseless, mindless, insane and inane chatter about how Xhaka was so useless he should be given away if no one would buy him, how we will never get anywhere with Mustfai in the team, how Bellerin was an utter liability and should be sold at once, and all the rest of the gibberish stoked by Merson now uncontrolled and without very much grip on reality at all. It went on through the summer with every single player being highlighted as needing to move on because he was not of the quality needed.
That is the danger of having Merson type people ranting on national TV. He influences those who don’t do analyses, who don’t think, who just want to shout something, anything, to get attention.
Anything to get attention. It is like the spoiled eight year old in the playground. Exactly like that.
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