The utterly manipulative way in which one paper reported Liverpool v Arsenal

By Tony Attwood

Newspapers and websites love to present themselves as the neutral reporters of events.  The world is out there, they suggest; they merely tell their readers about it.

But in fact newspapers and websites are the opposite: they are the manipulators of reality, manipulating the stories they tell in order to maximise their own audience and to push their point of view – invariably without the audience realising they are being manipulated.

In the case of reporting Arsenal, the story is Arsenal is rubbish.   The club stupidly lets talented youngsters leave and buys ludicrously overpriced players who don’t deliver.  The fans are in thus quite rightly in revolt over this not least because no progress is being made.

This can be seen in virtually every report about Arsenal.  Take for example this opening sentence in an article published after the defeat to Liverpool yesterday…

Another trip to Anfield, another heavy defeat for Arsenal.

So begins the Guardian’s article headlined “Anfield again proves the mirror that reflects Arsenal’s ugliest failings.”  It was writte by Jonathan Wilson, and it made me ponder.

Now Jonathan Wilson is no amateur outsider who needs to establish his credentials or can be accused of sloppy writing.  He is a regular commentator on football – albeit on Eastern European football and tactics.  He wrote “Inverting the Pyramid”, a book about football tactics that won the award for Football Book of the Year in 2009 and he edits “The Blizzard”, a journal about football writing.

Which means this guy knows what he is doing and each word is undoubtedly carefully chosen.  Which is what makes the use of “heavy” and “ugly” so interesting.

The “argument” (if that is not too strong a word) in the piece is that Arsenal’s lineup played into Liverpool’s hands.  But nowhere is there any explanation concerning why the “failings” of Arsenal were “ugly”, nor how a two goal defeat is a “heavy” defeat.

And this is important because these words appear in the headlines, and because of the way language is used creates a mindset.   The phrase “heavy defeat” and the words “failings” and “ugly” are of course all both negative and personal opinion, but the intention is for the reader to assimilate them and accept them as true, without asking, “if a two goal defeat is a heavy defeat, what is a three goal defeat?”

Indeed I don’t recall the Liverpool 2-0 defeat to Crvena Zvezda in the Champions League on 6 November last year being called a “heavy defeat,” although the writer, being an expert on East European football would know all about that game. And if was, what should we have called the 3-0 defeat to Barcelona?  “A pheonominally heavy defeat” perhaps.

In fact it is the way in which the language is manipulated that tells us the agenda of the writer and the publisher, and the fact that this is written by an award winning writer and published by a newspaper that likes to see itself as publishing accurate writing composed for a free-thinking intelligent audience, that gives us a real insight into what is going on here.

Now it is easiy to ask “Does it matter?”  I think it does, because each and every one of these misuses of words and phrases is another brick in the wall on which is written all the negatives that we hear each day about Arsenal.  The wall upon which also was written the story that Arsenal had a transfer budget this summer of £40m.  It was a story all the media followed with glee, and a story which has since caused them much embarassement, which is part of the reason for wanting to knock Arsenal now.

The fact of the match yesterday was that Arsenal lost and were never in a position where they looked like winning.  And if we want to find words to describe defeats, then we might say defeat by one goal is a defeat by the narrowest of margins, two goals is a defeat, three goals is a clear defeat, four goals a major defeat and so on.

So this wasn’t a heavy defeat.  But was it “worrying”?  But what is a “worrying” defeat?  Presumably one that has Arsenal’s managerial staff worried.   That would I guess have been last season’s 5-1 defeat.    And consider this.   In the transfer window Arsenal bought in six new players, to Liverpool’s four.  None of Liverpool’s four players was either in the opening XI or on the bench for this game.  Meaning the squad is settled and experienced from last year’s games.  Arsenal included three of their summer signings, plus one youth player now in his first season of regular games.  So over a quarter of Arsenal’s team is new and getting the hang of the squad, the system, the Engish refereeing approach, the crowds, the manager…

How can such a defeat be “worrying” especially with Arsenal, this morning, sitting second in the League?

Of course at this point you may be saying, “why is he banging on and on about a single word?”   And the answer is because this putting down of Arsenal by the media is what goes on all the time.   And when the Guardian denies that one club is treated differently from any other, as one of their writers did this summer, we have shown this is not the case – Arsenal get far more negative stories than the other clubs.

And indeed if you have followed our historical analysis you will know this has been so at least from the 1920s onwards.

Overall the media has three aims

1: To build an audience for its views, often both to help make money, and to enhance its audience by becoming seen as having one particular viewpoint which fits with the audience.  (That is, create a viewpoint, get the audience to believe it is the natural and obvious way to see the world, and thus keep the audience with you).

2: To manipulate that audience into its way of thinking because the message is put across all the time.  See it or hear it enough and it starts to be obvious.

3: To ensure the audience does not think it is being manipulated but rather accepts what the medium says as the truth; the obvious way of seeing the world.  In short if the audiecne can be persuaded to see the media as unbiased – merely reporting the facts, rather than pushing a line – then it believes.

As to why the media wants to knock Arsenal by calling their performance “ugly” and the defeat “heavy” – this has become the habit that helps the audience identify this as an Arsenal-knocking journal.  It is the style and approach that led to the £40m transfer story put out by Arsenal Supporters Trust being picked up by most of the newspapers, and because of this constant negative background noise, many blogs and a few other informal grouping of supporters, from Arseblog to Le Grove, incorporating Black Scarf Movement along the way, all signed up to the paper AST put out denouncing Arsenal via a pack of lies.

The attempt to get us to embrace the media’s story about Arsenal, as about everything else from flower arranging to Brexit, is constant.  Only by questioning every example we see can we even start to attempt to see the world as it is, rather than as we are told it is.

27 Replies to “The utterly manipulative way in which one paper reported Liverpool v Arsenal”

  1. Nicely written piece about the media’s motives but they are ratings whores and you shouldn’t worry about it. The defeat was “heavy” when you look at the difference between the teams in their ability to move the ball around the pitch but not in the score line certainly.

  2. The report in the Guardian was completely at odds with reality. Anybody not at the match would think that Arsenal were the better team and hard done by. I don’t recall the writer having any inbuilt bias but it was one of the most bizarre match reports I have read.

  3. Interesting that Arseblog, having allied itself with Arsenal Supporters Trust over the £45m transfer issue, now allies itself with the Guardian, as per its tweet “not much to like about that for me. We know there’s a gulf in class, you can’t be stupid at Anfield. Luiz was stupid twice. Emery’s game plan and subs questionable for me” – and of course that tweet was then republished in the Guardian. An interesting partnership.

  4. Brilliant man. Arsenal is loved the World Over. And there were a lot of positives from yesterday s defeat. When Man U goes to Anfield….wonder what the headlines will be.

  5. It is difficult to pick a title for the game indeed. May be “Liverpool ease past Arsenal” or “Arsenal bow to Liverpool in biblical scale concession.” or “Emery showed his coaching skills are not top lebel.” or “The song of unchallenged full backs.” Or “football crossing exercise at much anticipated top PL game.”

    It is really difficult to pick the title for that game, because the score line is not big enough and the the inside performance is shameful. Most Arsenal fans including me accept correct referee decisions and fair media analysis, even if it is not in favour of us. It is sad to try to divert shameful performance like that to soft penalty and media negativity issues because it legitimatize past and future referee and media bias against us.

  6. the reporting is all very curious as most articles neglect to mention that on the first “goal” by them there was a Liverpool player who clearly had David Luis in a headlock. This is clear on the replays and yet Video Assisted Rigging did not intervene. If I recall correctly this is the third incident in a penalty area where arms or hands have been round the neck of a player without sanction. These failures highlight problems with the entire Video Assisted Rigging that will continue whilst there is no accountability for the Pigmob. If nothing is done football will die

  7. As a Liverpool fan I was very impressed with the Liverpool performance and clearly deserved to win but I would agree with your points on the pathetic sensationalist nature of the the reporting. We ‘suffered’ the same approach in our early days with Klopp as manager. We all know Spurs and MUFC are the media darlings.
    My advice to Arsenal fans is to stick together whilst it was a ‘comfortable’ win in the end for Liverpool the foundations being created at Emery are excellent. Your forward line is phenomenal- your midfield you can begin to see a structure being created and with the likes of Tierney coming in at the back there is a real basis to be positive.
    Stick with Emery Arsenal fans it will come together as a neutral observer you can see that it takes time – we are where we are now because Klopp was given time and support from the fans (ignore media)
    Whilst we won yesterday clearly there is a bit of a hoodoo about coming to Anfield for some reason but this game was nothing like the previous years no matter what some sensationalist bias media reporters may say.

    Ps as a final point please don’t lose any credibility by implying Luiz was fouled on the first goal he was clearly all over Van Dijk and if we hadn’t of scored it was another penalty

  8. A sensationalist headline, to get people to read the article. Unnecessary and misleading, I agree. In fact the article was fairly well balanced once you read the whole of it. You’ve been known to do exactly the same, Tony. Perhaps you were being tongue in cheek.
    Further to that.
    1) To build an audience for its views (tick)
    2) To manipulate that audience into its way of thinking, because the message is put across all the time (tick)
    3) To ensure the audience does not think it is being manipulated, but rather accepts that what the medium says is the truth, the obvious way of seeing the world (tick)

    At the end of the day, you’re in exactly the same line of work.

  9. hi, tony; i think we shouldn’t care too much about most of the “guardian” pieces, their so-called “experts” hate our guts, that’s all, why should we give a farting f..k? this is football we’re dealing with, not politics, or economy: don’t we have clubs whose guts we hate as well, about whom we just couldn’t write anything rational (like saying the spuds have a far, far, far better headcoach than us, for example). still being an arsenal fan after so many years is an irrational part of my life i cherish, so in my opinion this wilson guy has a right to malign us as much as he likes, i even hope he takes pleasure in it, poor man. moreover, in that particular case, i think the part from “By playing a diamond in midfield, Unai Emery in effect surrendered the flanks to the forward surges of the best pair of attacking full backs in the Premier League, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson” to “Joël Matip’s opener came from a right-wing corner, the 22nd cross Liverpool had mustered in the opening 41 minutes, the 19th from a full-back and the 12th from Alexander-Arnold.”; is spot-on, actually. benching laca meant 1) we had no hold-up play upfront 2) robertson and a-arnold had no defensive business to care about 3) as a result, the ball kept coming back, over and over again, in our half, our box, and at some point dangerous set pieces were bound to be awarded – whatever taylor’s/VAR’s failings might be. to top it all, 3/4 of our best defense (bellerin/holding/tierney) were absent (a terrible setback for such a game, to unai’s credit), but he chose NOT to pick lucas in midfield, for an away game at anfield?? come on!! i’ve had a bitter taste in my mouth since yesterday night, a gnawing feeling that our manager doesn’t deserve the brilliant squad he has now at his disposal. we could be treated to a tantalizing XI this year: leno/bellerin-holding-luiz- tierney/torreira/pépé-willock (ceballos)-özil-aubameyang/lacazette; and fear nothing, no one. how many times will “tactical” unai actually pick that sparkling, attacking team? anyone’s guess’s as good as mine, i suppose.

  10. Thank you Lee (and you are quite right about the first Liverpool goal, no problem with that at all).

    Arsenal were outplayed in parts by a better side but Tony is correct, this is a settled Liverpool team that Klopp has firing in just the way he wants, but it has taken time and patience. Their front three (Mane, Salah and Firmino) were nowhere near the finished article when they arrived. Laca, Auba and Pepe have the potential to be as good, better maybe given time.

    It was a defeat and my disappointment at contending the first goal came because up till then I thought we’d done pretty well. You couldn’t say that in the last couple of seasons.

    As for Arseblog Tony, ignore him, he’s drunk the AAA coolaid

  11. You know you’re stating the obvious about the bias of the media but good article nevertheless Tony.

    However, you stated, “Arsenal included three of their summer signings, plus one youth player now in his first season of regular games”. You could have added that we had neither of our first choice full backs available either!!

    @ Lee (LFC fan)

    Your sentiments are very much appreciated. We can only dream of the togetherness that you guys have at Anfield though.

    Sadly, many of our lot are too bothered by having their own egos massaged and lap up the criticism in the media. It creates a very bad environment in which we can already see an “Emery Out” faction forming. They all ‘know’ they could do better so love having the idiots in the media backing up their idiotic ramblings. I fear Wenger’s successes created a generation of fans who can’t manage without having bragging rights of their mates and thus have to vent their anger every time something doesn’t go their way. Believe me, I’ve encountered “supporters” who would moan about the draw if we finished the season W 37, D 1, L 0.

  12. @Lee,
    It is not very often we see this type of commentary from the opposing side, thanks for the balance and fairness they convey. AFC supporters will, I hope, give Unai time to thoroughly blend our team for better performances going forward. The finicky ones are predictable – every AFC player is ‘rubbish’ after just one match.

  13. Some wise words in here.
    I sense a bit of an Emery out theme will spread this season unless we start doing spectacularly, and maybe unrealistically well.
    I never like our team losing, but see this game for what it is, start of season, and we had a new and pretty not yet settled team against a , gk aside, highly effective, and settled team full of confidence on their own ground.
    I don’t know if emery got his tactics wrong or not, it seems most teams get something wrong at Anfield, nor do I know the situation with ozil or if Lacca still has fitness issues or not. I suspect we will see our three create havoc up front this season, but maybe emery didn’t want to sacrifice too much of the middle ground against this team at Anfield. He certainly seems to have a degree of caution about him that Wenger seemed to lack, but how many were calling for just that towards the end of wengers reign?
    Our aims and objectives, and possibly a decent managers further will depend on games other than those at Anfield this season. I think this season will ultimately be judged on being in the ECL next season, not catching the likes of city and Liverpool in the league, they have had advantages we do not, especially city, and Liverpool are several years ahead in their development. remember, in his first season, emery did better than some very exhausted managers.
    For the little it’s worth, I always backed Wenger, even during difficult times when most did not. I hope emery gets the same backing, at least until this developing team settle a bit more, the last thing I want to see is arsenal becoming a managerial merry go round club, which the media, and some of our fans seem to want. I suspect if emery does leave for whatever reason, an initially pleasing ex player will take over, that can work, but doesn’t always, ask a Utd fan.

  14. Above- In his first season, “ Emery did better than some very exhalted managers”
    Though being managers, they might be exhausted as well

  15. Just a little reminder – comments that are nothing but abuse tend not to be published, likewise comments that are sent from non-existent email addresses. I mean, first, isn’t it possible to write in disagreement without being abusive and second, we don’t publish email addresses, so why fake one when writing. It beats me.

  16. No matter what we are connected to Emery, may be replacing him with better coach is the best pragmatic solution.

  17. By big game standard, Arsenal suffering a 3-1 heavy defeat at the hands of Liverpool yesterday at Anfield in the PL is not a matter that should be dismissed with the wave of the hand for it is serious and has implications. This is a fact.

    Therefore, there is no point hiding behind the mask pretending the obvious was not the case. To be doing this will amount to us deceiving ourselves and a disservice to Arsenal who have strongly reinforced their 1st team squad with 4 new player signings during the last summer window with the intention to perform well in the kind of match they played away to Liverpool yesterday. But what did us see Arsenal do against Liverpool yesterday? Their performance in the match was not that different from the ones they’ve performed away to Liverpool in the last 3 seasons when they had lost heavily to them. Whereas, with the recent revamping of their 1st team squad that Arsenal have done with 4 new additions, us are expecting Arsenal will at least return home from Anfield with a point from the match if not the whole 3 points at stake in the match. The annoying thing is Arsenal had numerous opportunities during the match to score through Pepe and Aubameyang and put Liverpool on the back-foot in the match to make them to start chasing the game. But what did us see? it was us who Liverpool succeeded to put to the back-foot in the match to start chasing the game. And in doing this, Arsenal capitulated in the game conceding 2 quick goals as they looked not to have mastered how to chase a game without further conceding when they are in the back-foot of it. And this is where Emery the Gunners head coach has failed to live up to expectations. For, if Arsenal cannot score to equalize which they eventually did anyway, they should not further concede goals to the opposition. His team selection and tactical deployment on the field of play against Liverpool yesterday failed miserably. Therefore, this guy Emery has to go back to the coaching drawing board to reaccess his coaching strategies and improved on it considerably to forestall Arsenal getting embarrassed in the NLD.

  18. I agree with Mark MyWords. The Jonathan Wilson Guardian article was very fair to Arsenal, almost empathetic to the extent of him being a closet Gooner which Red Ted spotted & there were two more today by Paul Wilson which were also pro Arsenal. I’m not really fussed about the national newspapers, we earn our press & we’ve been getting some very favourable reports following the first two matches. If I was going to criticise any sources it would be some of the more disreputable blogs, but don’t like to point the finger at one in particular, they all serve a purpose for certain fan factions, like Untold Arsenal for example.

  19. Just one slightly negative note, perhaps they should consider a specialist penalty saving gk coach!
    We get a lot of pens given against us, we will concede at least another against Spurs, but is there another top club with such poor penalty save stats? Not saying saving pens is easy btw

  20. Lee

    Thank you for such a well thought out and balanced response. Nothing more than I expected really from a Liverpool fan as my friend, a red through and through, had already said much the same to me.

    As I said straight after the match, you were the better team and deserved your win, but as Tony says, we have a fairly new team still getting to know each other.

    Emery’s plan was clearly to hit you on the break, which we did, and but for some wasteful finishing we could of scored a couple more goals.

    It wasn’t to be and 3 – 1 was probably fair.

    But again, in a similar vein to Tony I want to point out another small, but I think telling comment, reinforcing undeserved negativity, from Jonathan Pearce, when he said “Arsenal are going to win nothing with this defence”.

    Now firstly as Tony says, 3 – 1 is never good but away at the European Champions, who are settled as a squad, and haven’t lost at home since 2017, is hardly the time to make such a sweeping statement.

    In addition this was arguably a second string back four. By November our back four could be:





    Now that back 4 may or may not of performed better yesterday, that’s not the point, but mentioning that would of at least put his comment into some perspective because okay we might not win anything with that back 4 but ongoing that isn’t going to be our back 4 is it?

    All I’m saying is a bit of perspective would of helped, but then that wouldn’t do would it when you can just slag us off.

  21. The Guardian hate us.They live for Manure.Doubt I’ve rarely seen a positive right up on Arsenal from them & if o do it’s usually a backhanded compliment.What is a heavy defeat? A two goal margin? Really? Would that be said if the score was 7- 5 ?People need to get a grip.It was a 2nd string back 4,with a number of new additions yet to fully settle in against The current European champions who on in other year would have won the title. have been assembled at an exhorbitant cost over 3/ 4 seasons.what would any sane realistic supporter expect at this early stage lol!

  22. I have not read all the comments but the Arsenal forward line were not clynical in their finishing and that seems to have been forgotten. Auba should have scored with his lob and Pepe should also have lobbed the goalkeeperrather than try to shoot through him.
    Vela showed these players how easy it is when a little intelligence and placement is used rather than brute force.

    Arsenal could have been in a different position with those two conversions. The playing out from the back is now an absolute abortion as there doesn’t seem to be a valve to ease the pressure. The forward momentum must be started earlier with the opponents forward line in the final third. The pass must be made to open space on either wing in the opponents half.

    Perhaps Emery needs to observe his team from higher up as the pressure may not be obvious at ground level.

    OT Its Dean at the Fowl Run so there must be some interesting happenings there.

  23. VAR in todays games – BOUvMAN CITY I think Silva was stood on and how VAR did not give that is testament to the selective vision. THS v New – the dive by Kane should have been punished as he did not attempt to play the ball but moved into Lacelles while falling.

    Both results were fair and deserved.

  24. Our first XI has yet to be together (because of fitness, injury or newness) so it was not surprising to see us outplayed by a very good, settled, Liverpool side, yesterday. And Liverpool was good yesterday. Are we that egotistical that any defeat is to be attributed to us and no credit is given to our adversaries?

    But, it is not as if you have to replace the entire side and the manager to have the initiative shift on the pitch. I am not saying that we are really at the same level as Liverpool or Man City, yet. However, imagine replacing two (2) Arsenal players who played yesterday with a) an injured starter or b) a more experienced or settled iteration of an existing player. Is this possible considering we have Bellerin, and Holding out, Willock, Guendouzi, Torreira are sooo young, and with Pepe, Luiz and Ceballos just arrived?

    As for tactics? Hard to support Emery’s decisions given we lost, however we had some golden chances on the counter and missed…imagine if either of Pepe’s breakaway or Aubameyang’s chip had gone in? Would that have changed anything?

    And the Guardian thrashing us…they are the Manchester Guardian are they not?

  25. FYI Tony, Amy Lawrence has appeared on Arseblog’s arsecast which is a round up on Arsenal events. Arseblog started going negative around 3-4 years before Wenger left and starting to say he needed to leave. At the time Arseblog and Untold were the only rare Arsenal fan sites that were staying positive.

  26. The Guardian? Arsenal haters? Hardly! What about Amy Lawrence? She couldn’t be more Goonerish if she tried.
    I can’t believe the level of paranoia and persecution complex exhibited by some posters and Tony himself.
    Lighten up, everybody. You’re being “played” for reaction and clickbait.
    Shock Jock tactics.
    The best way to manage is not to fall for it. Simple.
    Who, in their right mind, can possibly take it seriously?

  27. As the more intelligent comments have already pointed out: Arsenal are where Liverpool were 2 yrs ago.
    We are rebuilding and played against a team that is the finished article.
    I don’t think we’ll win the Premier League this season, but top 4 is worth hoping for.

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