Journalist’s wild anti-Arsenal rant unravels after simple fact checking

By Tony Attwood

Sort out Arsenal’s weak backbone, resolve their torrid away form and finally discover Nicolas Pepe’s mojo: The issues Mikel Arteta MUST fix as he prepares his side for the restart

Such is the headline in the Daily Mail’s piece by Jonathan Spencer and of course anyone familiar with the Mail will know what is coming.  A list of Arsenal failings.

Obviously it is clear that by being ninth in the league at the moment (or “languishing ninth” as seems to be the preferred term of journalists these days) Arsenal are doing far, far worse than they normally did under Mr Wenger and we’d all like to see a return to higher league positions.

But the Mail’s language suggests, as do all reports these days, that Arsene Wenger had lost the plot years ago, Unai Emery was a disaster and Mikel Arteta is sorting things out but there is a long, long way to go, and a lot of problems to resolve.

That may be how people feel.  But do the facts actually back that up?  Here is how the managers compare.


“It has been a huge issue for over a decade now…”  says the Mail.  I wonder.

The first question is how to measure “defensive woes”.  The obvious way is to consider how many goals we let in, and the obvious benchmark must be seasons when we won the league.  In 2001/2 we conceded 36 goals coming first, in 2002/3 we let in 42 goals coming second.  In 2004/5 36 goals coming second again.  I’ve omitted the unbeaten season when we did concede fewer (just 26) because that was a unique season.  That might be an ambition, but at the moment unrealistic.  Let’s focus on winning the league again before we start looking for another unbeaten season.   Somewhere between 36 and 42 as a total number of goals conceded would seem a reasonable target.

In the last decade our defence has let in more than 42 goals five times.

In 2010/11 we exceeded the total by one.  In 2011/12 by seven.  In 2016/17 by two.   And in the last two completed seasons by nine.

So is letting in nine more goals (roughly one every four games) than the benchmark, “having a torrid time?”

I don’t think so.  Of course I am not saying conceding nine more goals in a season than we did in a title winning season is a good thing, but in reviewing the issue I would not say “defensive woes remain”.  But the problem is, by this lazy, slack and inaccurate writing, the Mail in general and J Spencer in particular suggest that we need wholesale changes in the defence because we are having a “torrid time” letting in one more goal every four games, than we did when winning the league.

Readers of the Mail may then start to believe this, especially when the same approach is repeated by other newspapers and bloggers all anxious to knock Arsenal, but lacking the will-power to check if the original story was accurate.

So the Mail says everything will continue to be awful unless “something drastic changes”.  But this approach of just looking at the defence is simply not accurate enough to base an entire footballing policy on.

Last season after 28 games we had let in 38 goals – but were fourth.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 28 21 6 1 64 15 49 69
2 Manchester City 28 22 2 4 75 20 55 68
3 Tottenham Hotspur 28 20 0 8 55 29 26 60
4 Arsenal 28 17 5 6 60 38 22 56

In fact the problem has occurred this season, not across the last decade.   So why does the Mail want to suggest it is a decade long problem?

Largely, I guess, to suggest that the Mail’s journalists know a thing or three about football, and if only they were allowed to run the club we’d be ok because they can see, we need to sort out the defence.

The Mail does get closer to the truth with its next headline “AWAY FORM CONTINUES TO HAUNT GUNNERS” but it is noticeable that now suddenly they drop the “10 years”  and instead compare just the last three seasons.   

This failure of the away form is something Untold has been detailing since it started, but it has nothing to do with ten years, which suggests that Mr Wenger was a disaster ten years ago when he was still delivering Champions League football year after year and suffering the “Fourth is not a trophy” abuse.  It has coincided completely with the crowd turning on the manager and the team.

After this they criticise the departure of Ramsey, and the fact that we don’t score so many goals from midfield.  But really, does it matter where the goals come from?   Let’s compare how many goals we score overall and see if we are lacking goals.

Season Goals Pos Top scorer Top man’s goals
1997–98 68 1 Dennis Bergkamp 22
1998–99 59 2 Nicolas Anelka 19
1999–2000 73 2 Thierry Henry 26
2000–01 63 2 Thierry Henry 22
2001–02 79 1 Thierry Henry 32 (Golden boot)
2002–03 85 2 Thierry Henry 32
2003–04 73 1 Thierry Henry 39 (Golden boot)
2004–05 87 2 Thierry Henry 30 (Golden boot)
2005–06 68 4 Thierry Henry 33 (Golden boot)
2006–07 63 4 Robin van Persie 13
2007–08 74 3 Emmanuel Adebayor 30
2008–09 68 4 Robin van Persie 20
2009–10 83 3 Cesc Fàbregas 19
2010–11 72 4 Robin van Persie 22
2011–12 74 3 Robin van Persie 37 (Golden boot)
2012–13 72 4 Theo Walcott 21
2013–14 68 4 Olivier Giroud 22
2014–15 71 3 Alexis Sánchez 25
2015–16 65 2 Olivier Giroud 24
2016–17 77 5 Alexis Sánchez 30
2017–18 74 6 Alexandre Lacazette 17
2018–19 73 5 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 31

The headline “MIDFIELD NEED TO FIND SOME SPARK” is nonsense if one looks at goals.  There is nothing wrong with our goal scoring.  Last season we scored as many goals as we did in the unbeaten season and more than we did in Wenger’s first title season.

Indeed fiddling with the midfield could well unsettle the attack – and maybe that is the Mail’s idea – come up with “improvements” that will cause Arsenal to sink further and cause more upset among the card waving AAA.

So it goes on.  While making out that they are suggesting improvements, what the Mail is actually doing is coming up with a formula that would dismantle the bits of the team that are working, while leaving the problematic areas untouched.

It really is either a piece of sublime stupidity, or an incredibly clever way of getting Arsenal supporters who can’t read statistics to start another card waving revolution and demand another set of changes that will then bring about yet another decline in Arsenal’s league position.

12 Replies to “Journalist’s wild anti-Arsenal rant unravels after simple fact checking”

  1. Really. Your blog is the online 100 % positive and fact checking Arsenal blog. That’s why I love it. But there is one thing that really is absolute bullshit and you are doing it all the time: defending Emery and saying he was good. Yeah, his win percentage might be good, but you absolutely ignore everything else, everything he has done bad. He completely destroyed Arsenal’s brand of football to a disgusting, passive style. Many players turned against him and openly talked about his confusing tactics and bad man management. He gave us the worst run of pl games in more than 4 decades. And is the reason why we are where we are now and why the players had no more self esteem or determination. Yeah, he had a decent start and won us a lot of games, at the beginning. But this was absolutely due to Wenger’s legacy and work. You could see how Emery destroyed our team more and more and we got worse and worse. That’s why PSG and Sevilla fans do not have a single good word for this brick. If you ask me, we should have kept our legend Wenger at the club until Arteta was ready to replace him and Wenger wanted to retire himself. This way Arteta would not need to pick up the pieces Emery left at the club. Even you must have seen how bad we played under Emery.

  2. Theghostinside: I am not sure that I defend Emery. It is true I don’t attack him but that is not the same as saying I defend him.
    Although I would agree that we should have stayed with Wenger.
    But if I had to guess I’d say the reason why so many players seem to have had enough of Arsenal and want to move on is because they are fed up with the constant negativity of the media and some fans towards the players and the club.

  3. Yet another negative rant about Arsenal in the media.

    Yes, our defensive record isn’t great, but just taking the bare statistics, without context, undermines any conclusions that can be drawn from them. As usual it takes Untold to do the hard work and provide such context, and expose yet another cynical media ruse to attack us.

    Now this is the point. I would like to be able to say ‘that’s the problem with these hacks, they simply cannot be bothered to do the hard work’ but it’s actually worse than that.
    It’s not that they ‘cant be bothered’ to find out the facts and to put them in to context, it’s that they simply don’t care about the facts or the context. The whole idea of the article is not to ‘enlighten’ but simply to ‘mock’ and ‘agitate’ a fanbase that they know is all too ready, willing, and able, to embrace every negative word, no matter how ludicrous, at the drop of a hate.

    Somebody mentioned recently how it saddened them to say how he envied the way Spurs fans have stuck by their team despite 1 FLC in 20 years and no titles for nearly 60 years. I too have said similar about the way Liverpool fans stuck with their team through thick and thin, without feeling the urge to fly banners over their stadium.

    But of course neither of those clubs has had to endure the ceaseless media negativity, designed to agitate them into revolt, that we have.

    The problem is, if our core fan base had stuck by the team/club a la those 2, perhaps the media would of given up and chosen another target. It’s the old chicken and egg scenario. Do the media attack us so because they know our fans will swallow their rantings hook line and sinker, or is it the case of them just picking up on a particularly disgruntled fan base.

    Either way it is self perpetuating and I see no end to it any time soon

  4. Tony you have to realize the Mail is owned by the same clowns who own fox news in America. Their method is the same: Identify a group of not-so-brights and feed them a made-up story line with few facts sprinkled in. Rinse, repeat and voila! Loyal readers or listeners who don’t have a mind of their own. It’s hard to beat them at that game as they are relentless. It’s written in their dna and their business plan.

  5. mike in atlanta

    “Their method is the same: Identify a group of not-so-brights and feed them a made-up story line with few facts sprinkled in. Rinse, repeat and voila!”

    I totally agree, but it doesn’t answer the question. Why Arsenal?

    Is it that Arsenal have more ‘no-so-brights’ than Spurs or Liverpool ? I doubt that.

    Is it only Arsenal fans that don’t have ‘a mind of their own’ ? I doubt that.

    Yes, every club gets it in the neck occasionally, but none get the relentless ‘knocking’ we do. Why is that?

  6. Nitram, the answer is obvious we have a minority of our fanbase, who were spoilt under Arsene Wenger and believe it is easy to a achieve what was done during twenty of the twenty two years he was in charge.

    Stats will tell you that AW had a better defensive record of just over one goal conceded during his time and yet we are told GG was the defensive genius – bear in mind that AW’ stats include CL opponents, yet this is never even mentioned or considered.

    Fans who think they are entitled to see success every season, are the ones that the Daily Mail etc are aiming at, because they know what these fans are – trophy hunters, not supporters of our club

  7. ken1945

    A very plausible explanation, thank you.

    Doesn’t make suffering these fools any easier though.

  8. Nitram,

    Totally agree – this site has at least got more of the supporters than the fans, as I am recognising once again.

  9. Lol… The spin doctor at it again. So last season at this stage we were 4th, conceded 38 goals.. Liverpool had conceded almost a 3rd of that with 15, Man city just over half of that with 20, totenham had 9 less with 29, but the arsenal defence was perfect and it’s the media that are fools… Lol

  10. Definitely bizarre according to untold logic. I wonder what they are smoking at untold HQ

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