A prime example of the extraordinary bias in the media against Arsenal

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…

Date Game Res Score Competition
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.

To show how far the Athletic will go to maintain this stance, irrespective of any evidence to the contrary, they not only chose to use the fantasy world of expected goals to explore how to beat Liverpool, but in their review of the coming season they took no notice of Arsenal’s recent upturn.

The article “Arsenal are ‘back’ but how far can they go from here?” in the Athletic focuses back on the Fulham Arsenal game in October 2018, of which they comment, “with Arsenal desperate to feel something fresh was blossoming, the disciples in the visiting end hailed what was possible under a different coach.   They broke into song: “We’ve got our Arsenal back!”  Feels a million years ago, right?”

And it goes further saying, “That moment at Fulham, where it felt new manager Emery was really onto something, was in fact very fleeting.”

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…

Date Game Res Score Competition
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.

12 Replies to “A prime example of the extraordinary bias in the media against Arsenal”

  1. The reason maybe deeper. My take is that Arsenal was managed by a Frenchman who changed the face of English football and all the negative attributes it once was. That’s strictly a No-No, as the English hated their history of being conquered and ruled by Frenchmen and all their ancestors.

  2. Hello, Tony Attwood,

    I totally align with your submissions. I have personally come to understand the negative feelings people (the media) have about Arsenal. This has been going on and on for many years. I remember when I joined Arsenal in 2003, we were seen as local champions who have never gone to the champions league finals; when we finally got there, we were told we have never won it. When we failed to lift the premier league and to qualify for the champions league, the same persons who called us local champions changed the narrative.

    People just enjoy doing it. If the incoming players are not made to understand what is happening, the moment we start having a poor run (every team experiences that), the media will bounce on us and consequently make the players lose confidence the more. I am not even excluding all those premier league football analysts, they are just full of bias and sentiments.

    The best way to live is just for us to keep going and gradually silent them.

  3. I often point the finger at the Daily Fail who have a real dislike of us. Could it be linked to the days of Sir Henry Norris and taking them to court? Also, our successes of the 1930s during the Great Depression, where the football dominating North irked its antipathy towards us. Remember how often Cloughie used to spout negative things about us. I don’t mind it coming from the media, as people can make up their own minds, plus we can be more engaging with fairer publications. It has always been the referees and officials that have bothered me with their bias. Courtney, Riley, Poll, Attwell and Dean immediately spring to mind.

    PS George Courtney blew for full-time before the 90 minutes were complete in the 1980 FA Cup Final. Not that anybody noticed or that we would have ever scored that day!

  4. The only things reliable in a newspaper, or the media in general, are the sports results and the TV schedule ….

  5. Charlie

    Although this arsenal bashing goes back further than Wenger, even when, especially when, we were successful. Lucky Lucky Arsenal back in the 70’s and possibly even before that, Boring Boring Arsenal in the 80’s.

    When I listen to some of the TV commentaries in Wengers early days I think they really did love him and what he bought to the PL. Andy Grey especially used to wax lyrical about us on a regular basis. But it all changed once we went unbeaten.

    I think it was very much to do with Wenger being French, and more, the team being seen as ‘French’ or more specifically ‘Foreign’.

    All of a sudden it dawned on them that here was a ‘Frenchmen’ showing the ‘home of football’ how it should be done. All of a sudden the mood changed.

    -This is embarrasing.

    -We cant have some Frenchy comming over here making us look stupid.

    -THIS HAS TO STOP !!!!.

    Enter Mike Riley and the media agenda to make life as difficult as they possibly could for Arsenal.

    It continues to this day.

  6. @Spanner,

    most of the time, the date on top is right as well…not that this is some newsworthy information.
    Ah yes, and the page numbers usually are in the right order !

  7. After all these years , I’d be very sceptical if anything good and positive is ever said of Arsenal , other than a sly dig at the owners. As for the press , at least a broken clock is said to be correct twice a day . Am waiting for them to get one right vis a vis the Arsenal !

    Thank god that my life has improved for the better since I stopped reading the news.Add to that the total disdain and ignoring of the so called experts in the media ,and things do seem ok .

    But I do enjoy them trying to big up our opponents , only to watch the shit hit the fan more often than not ,is indeed a perverse pleasure !

    Up the Gunners !

  8. True about Arsenal being bashed by the media, even the so called pundits especially Michael Owen always predicting that arsenal will get beat on match day with so called big teams.

  9. media is virtually Liverpool supporters club followed by Man U old boys.
    Sick of the old dumb has beens in the media talking in endless cliches spouting worn out stereotypes.
    To listen to these guys its all over before a ball has been kicked.

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