by Tony Attwood
When one reads an article that opens, “Over the past couple of seasons, there have evidently been two hugely dominant sides in the Premier League — Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool,” there’s no need for an eyebrow to be raised. Last couple of seasons – well yes. Manchester City won their first League and FA Cup double (just two more needed to equal Arsenal) and Liverpool got the Champs League one season, and the title the next.) To mention we won the FA Cup would seem a little churlish. We did, but those Man C and Liverpool achievements were bigger, I admit that.
The article then goes to make, what it rather pompously calls “an assessment” of where Liverpool have been beaten “in terms of expected goals by a decent margin. In other words, the opposition might not have won the match — but they did create better chances.”
And from this it is suggested that the expected goals analysis offers “hints for future opponents about how they might cause Klopp’s champions some problems.”
Which really is weird when we consider that twice in Arsenal’s last six games Arsenal have beaten Liverpool, once in normal time and once in a penalty shoot out after a draw. Why go into the fantasy land of expected goals (by definition including goals that never happened) when there is a real-life example on the door step? Arsenal have just done it.
Now of course it might be argued that these are fluke games by Arsenal but let us look at Arsenal’s record between these two victories…
|15 Jul 2020||Arsenal v Liverpool||W||2-1||Premier League|
|18 Jul 2020||Arsenal v Manchester City||W||2-0||FA Cup|
|21 Jul 2020||Aston Villa v Arsenal||L||1-0||Premier League|
|26 Jul 2020||Arsenal v Watford||W||3-2||Premier League|
|01 Aug 2020||Arsenal v Chelsea||W||2-1||FA Cup|
|29 Aug 2020||Arsenal v Liverpool||W||1-1 (5-4)||Community Shield|
Over a period of just over six weeks Arsenal beat Liverpool twice, Chelsea and Manchester City. Along with a win over relegation contenders Watford and a single defeat to Villa. So why is that run not good enough to serve as an example of how to beat Liverpool?
Well the answer is easy. Because it doesn’t fit with the Athletic’s dominant narrative that is Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and quite possibly Manchester United on a day when there isn’t much going on, are the dominant forces in football. Forget any facts that suggest otherwise, that is how it is. Arsenal, no chance.
Now we might ask, what is the definition of “very fleeting.” A couple of games? Five games? Something like that. Ten games would seem to be pushing “very fleeting” a bit far. But 19? Is that very fleeting? Not in the normal world of normal people. But in the world of journalist talk? Yes very likely.
For here is what happened before and after that game at Fulham…
|25 Aug 2018||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||3-1||Premier League|
|2 Sep 2018||Cardiff City v Arsenal||W||2-3||Premier League|
|15 Sep 2018||Newcastle United v Arsenal||W||1-2||Premier League|
|20 Sep 2018||Arsenal v Vorskla Poltava||W||4-2||Europa League|
|23 Sep 2018||Arsenal v Everton||W||2-0||Premier League|
|26 Sep 2018||Arsenal v Brentford||W||3-1||League Cup|
|29 Sep 2018||Arsenal v Watford||W||2-0||Premier League|
|4 Oct 2018||FK Qarabağ Agdam v Arsenal||W||0-3||Europa League|
|7 Oct 2018||Fulham v Arsenal||W||1-5||Premier League|
|22 Oct 2018||Arsenal v Leicester City||W||3-1||Premier League|
|25 Oct 2018||Sporting Clube Portugal v Arsenal||W||0-1||Europa League|
|28 Oct 2018||Crystal Palace v Arsenal||D||2-2||Premier League|
|31 Oct 2018||Arsenal v Blackpool||W||2-1||F. League Cup|
|3 Nov 2018||Arsenal v Liverpool||D||1-1||Premier League|
|8 Nov 2018||Arsenal v Sporting Clube Portugal||D||0-0||Europa League|
|11 Nov 2018||Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers||D||1-1||Premier League|
|25 Nov 2018||AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal||W||1-2||Premier League|
|29 Nov 2018||Vorskla Poltava v Arsenal||W||0-3||Europa League|
|2 Dec 2018||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||4-2||Premier League|
Now yes we know what happened after that, but that is not the point the Athletic is basing its whole case on. Arsenal were on a fine run – and then we lost it. Not because it was “fleeting”. 19 games is not “fleeting”. But because of a lack of flexibility within the team, a lack of cover for injuries, and probably most of all a lack of psychological training in the players to allow them to handle the relentless pressure of the media against them, the oddity of referee decisions, and the speed at which the anti-Arsenal fans who watch AFTV and are in the Black Scarf brigade, who were overjoyed at their success in getting rid of Mr Wenger, then turned on Mr Emery.
And this is the problem Arsenal have. The media don’t reflect reality when it comes to football, they reflect the collected agenda which dictates that the normal procedure is to knock Arsenal all day long because… well, because that is what you do. Don’t worry about facts – just knock Arsenal.
Ignore Arsenal’s record successes (Unbeaten season, 3 doubles, record FA Cup wins, record Wembley wins across the last seven years, ignore the progress, and if necessary enter the fantasy world of expected goals if you have to.
We can only hope that the new players coming into Arsenal have this explained to them by the manager. It doesn’t matter what you do at this club, you will be knocked by the media, and harried by referees. Always, always, always.
Go the whole season unbeaten? Well, yes but it was done before by Preston North End, so not unique. And it wasn’t really unbeaten because Arsenal didn’t win any of the cups. And they drew too many games to be called great.
Beat Liverpool twice? Well, Liverpool weren’t really trying, not after winning the League.
Win the FA Cup more than anyone else ever? Well, no one takes any notice of the Cup any more.
And of course I know we haven’t won the League for a long time. I know that because I go to the matches when allowed. But really, this sort of swatting away of Arsenal in the belief that all football supporters are stupid and don’t actually know any facts about their own club is the sort of pathetic arrogance than now dominates almost all football writing. The arrogance that we don’t know anything and can so easily be misled.
It is dangerous because it spreads. When I ran my little piece about Leicester’s collapse (How the media is still failing to explain Leicester’s extraordinary fall from grace last year), a Leicester fan tried to derail my argument by saying that it was due to an injury rather than an increased awareness by referees of the trick Leicester were pulling. But in fact the injury didn’t happen until much later. The writer probably knew that, but hell, the media ignores factual reality every day so he probably assumed I wouldn’t notice that what he was writing was a total cock and bull story.
The state of football journalism really is awful – and it is spreading. Whether it is the Mirror suggesting that Arsenal were involved in match fixing, or this re-writing of recent history. It is truly awful.
- Arsenal transfers: Gnabry return, White a disaster, Martinez a loss?
- Why do journalists get so fixated on scoring in double figures?
- Buying players does not mean success as last season shows…
- All change with PGMO and the refs.. But what change?
- The last five years proves one big thing: nothing is guaranteed.