By Minze A’duble
As we were told in the build up to the Fulham game, “Arsenal’s squad is an incoherent mess.” That was the phrase conjured up by Sam Dean, a man with a whole two years experience as a football writer now working for the Telegraph.
Of course not everyone was quite so ludicrously idiotic – I mean it does take a prize turnip to write something like that after just two years “experience” (I use the word lightly) as a “journalist” (word used even more lightly).
For example in the Guardian Nick Ames (whose “published content” list is over 500 items long) wrote, “a solid start for Saliba would inspire confidence that Arsenal’s regenerated backline may be able to banish the ghosts of several years’ incompetence.”
Which is a challenge – if you call your subject matter incompetent you need to be pretty damn competent yourself.
As we know, Arsenal’s “incoherent mess” performed well but there was no “solid start” for Saliba largely because, well, you see, he didn’t play. Sadly thus far neither journalist has issue a full apology, neither has explained their false predictions, and as far as we know neither has resigned.
But that latter fact is not unusual. No matter how big the errors, how false the predictions, these days football journos simply don’t resign. They just go on making weirder and wilder predictions.
Typical of the error-ridden pre-season previews was the 1500 words of erudition from Statsbomb which along with every other report I read prior to the game failed to notice that Elneny was an Arsenal player who had played in the last two matches and was performing a magical role. Instead the journalists, amateur and professional alike, spent much of its space telling us things like “Arsenal’s squad have been an army of misfit toys for a while now. They have talent, but the elite players seem to play the same positions (Aubameyang and Lacazette), and there are almost no peak age players (24-27) in the squad. From a squad building perspective, it has been messy for years.”
Given the way Auba and Laca played against Fulham I would have thought an apology was needed.
The last person we saw perfect the midfield role that Elneny is warming to was Gilberto Silva, the invisible wall. So maybe that’s the journos excuse – they didn’t notice him.
I am not, of course, saying that Elneny is at the level of the ex-captain of Brazil, but I am saying there is a viable half way house between ignoring the fact that the player played in the victorious Community Shield side, and in the only warm up friendly for the season we were able to watch, and going overboard about the player. I would argue that going overboard about Elneny is worth a bash because he performed the role so well, but that’s just me. It is the notion of utterly ignoring a player who has performed well, before the game, and then to cover such gross ignorance, refusing to say anything of note about him after the game.
It is this manipulation of reality to suit the journalists’ own ignorance that I find frustrating. They seriously want us to believe that the fantasy world they have been creating is in fact how the world is. When it most certainly isn’t.
What we were told was that Arsenal’s team had been put together quickly and had a complete lack of experience at playing together. Yet from the Community Shield game to this opener, against two very different oppositions (one the recently crowned league champions, one freshly promoted in the play offs) Arsenal did very well.
And then no apology or explanation appears to have been offered. Because… well journalists of this calibre don’t apologise, don’t explain, and as a result treat their readers with contempt.
So let us stay with the Guardian’s Nick Ames and understand what he is really up to with this sort of reporting, and this lack of apology. Unlike anyone at Untold, he’s a professional journalist, and so should have abilities and standards far above anything we have. We should be able to read his work, take note and learn how the professionals do it.
And on that note, off we go.
In 2011/12 Arsenal came third in the Premier League. Would we consider that a team with incompetence in the backline could do that? I suspect not, not least because many professional journalists call this the best team in the world.
Arsenal let in 49 goals that season. Gross incompetence? A weak league? The latter can’t be true because no journalist that season that I read told us that the PL was poor, and that other leagues were better.
In 2015 Liverpool let in 48, and came sixth in the league. Were they accused of incompetence? Of course maybe they were, but I can’t find any mention of it anywhere so I suspect not.
In 2019 Manchester United let in 54. Were they condemned for incompetence? Once again, if so, I can’t find much mention of it.
Last season Arsenal let in 48, one more than Tottenham. Tottenham were not called incompetent in defence at least not in anything I could find. So is that the dividing line? 47 competent, 48 incompent? Again I looked for mention of incompetence in defence for Tottenham and what I found was a piece on 6 November 2013 which had the headline Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas hits out at ‘incompetent’ critics” – that was in the Standard.
Now it always seems to me a shame that more managers don’t take the media on – as in my own modest way we are trying to do in Untold Arsenal, but maybe the media think it is not worth it, since they never take any notice. Or maybe the incompetence lies with the journalists?
We shall continue with this consideration in the next article which will appear shortly.
- Fulham v Arsenal: the injuries, the team… and time to forget the journalism
- “Arsenal’s squad is an incoherent mess” So what do we do?
- How Arsenal has taken on the media, and the club is winning
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate