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May 2020
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Daily Mail calls Untold “revisionists”, but doesn’t quite get the word’s meaning

By Tony Attwood

For most journalists, there is no “why”.  Their job is to report the facts, they will tell you.  Unfortunately, this leads to the notion that there is no change, except for the occasional movement of a player from one club to another.  Life goes on.

Because of this the fundamental as always the same as ever was, so nothing needs explaining but can just be taken as read.

Thus Newcastle’s take over by Saudi Arabia does not warrant an explanation, because rich kids buying football clubs is the same as it ever was.  The issue of the battle between Bein TV and the pirate Beoutx TV run by Saudi Arabia is not worth the mention, when discussing the purchase of Newcastle, because why Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund would want a mid-ranking Premier League club that is certain to lose them money, is not considered, and certainly not investigated.

But think about it.   Saudi Arabia is rolling in money, but one day oil will either run out or, when we move fully to electric cars, and turbine-powered electricity stations, it will not be wanted. (In fact it is not wanted much at the moment, with some oil prices moving into negative, but that’s another matter).   So yes it must diversify.  But into a mid-ranking football club that hasn’t won anything for years and years, and has one of the most run-down training centres anywhere?

No that makes no sense in terms of an investment.  But it makes a lot of sense in terms of the cold war going on between the Arab nations.

Jonathon Liew in the Guardian yesterday had a bash at finding a way out of this by writing, “Remember that sport in its purest form is its own reward. That sometimes the journey is as important as the destination. And that at its outset, even a life-destroying meteorite first appears in the night sky as the most brilliant light.”

Err, well, maybe, but I am not quite sure I follow that except as a bizarre attempt to obfuscate the issue.

The media works hard to ignore the issues of ownership within football clubs, just as they can’t seem to get the hang of the fact that it is not very likely that football is going to be able to finish this season (in Europe and locally) and then start next season by September.

Indeed when one looks at a series of big black headlines of the type the Daily Mail loves one begins to get the idea of what is really going on…

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With that, as a major part of today’s news, one begins to despair but at least it prepares one for the fact that they have also decided to re-write the history of Arsenal under Mr Wenger with this diatribe:

“The wonderful vibrancy of his first decade from 1996 to 2006 – the two Doubles, the Invincibles, the Champions League challenges, a team simultaneously of debonair style and doughty substance.

“Then the downward trends of the next decade and more – spineless, rudderless teams, the bottle jobs, being preyed upon in the transfer market, the ritual humiliations to Barcelona and Bayern Munich in Europe and only the occasional cup triumph to pierce the gloom.

“And yet, as we look back two years on, can we truthfully say that Arsenal are in a better place?

“Mind you, no revisionists are arguing that things would be better had Wenger never left. “

So what’s wrong with that “analysis”?

First, it omits the rather annoying fact (from their point of view) that Arsenal decided to build a new stadium and pay for it in a short space of time, and that Mr Wenger’s funds were thus greatly reduced.

Second, that Chelsea came along and, in the words of David Dein, Abramovich “parked his tanks on our lawn and began firing £50 notes at us.”  And that was before Manchester City came along and used the oil wealth of a nation to overturn everything that Chelsea was doing.

And then third, the Arsenal board, including a representative of the Hill-Wood family who were part of the coup that overthrew Henry Norris in the 1920s (Henry Norris the man who was busy selling the club to the fans at £1 a time) and sold out to Kroenke, a man notorious for making money out of his sports franchises rather than putting any in.

Three rather important facts, airbrushed out of history so that the Mail can say

“Mind you, no revisionists are arguing that things would be better had Wenger never left. ”

In fact that is not the message of Untold Arsenal, although it is possible that it might have been the case.  The fact is that clubs that change managers and spend a lot of money on players rarely do better on the pitch immediately.  And that is a fact because if you look at the transfer sums spent and the position of clubs the following year, the big spenders do worse than they did the year before.  Not always, but mostly.

Still, I suppose it is nice that the Mail recognise our viewpoint enough to give us the title of the Revisionists.  It’s a bit inaccurate because we argued all the way through that Mr Wenger should not leave, so we have not actually re-written history.

And just in case Adam Shergold, who wrote the piece in the Mail, is reading, here’s the Collins dictionary definition of a revisionist.

“If you describe a person or their views as revisionist, you mean that they reject traditionally held beliefs about a particular historical event or events.”

Since Mr Wenger only left two years ago, I am not sure you can have “traditionally held beliefs” about his departure.  Tradition takes longer than that.

But it is interesting that they (and the rest of the media) still don’t want to write about why Saudi Arabia is buying Newcastle.  Or why when the Mail got its way and Mr Wenger left, the club’s performances did not improve.  But as ever, these are details, and they should never be allowed to get in the way of one’s point of view.

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