It’s tough being a football journalist: what are they to say when Arsenal win?

By Tony Attwood

Today the Talk Sport web site says

“A week on from their public bust-up at Fulham, Dani Ceballos and Eddie Nketiah combined to earn Arsenal victory over West Ham.  Nketiah tapped in a goal late on – from Ceballos’ pass – to seal a 2-1 win for the Gunners at the Emirates on Saturday night.”

Last year the station’s website said, “Arsenal ended a dire nine-year run with their hard-fought 2-1 win over Burnley on Saturday afternoon.  The Gunners managed to beat the Clarets with goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, although an Ashley Barnes equaliser certainly gave them a scare.”

The Telegraph is also negative but finds a different cause

“These were three points that could easily have been none for Arsenal. Mikel Arteta’s side will not need to be told that they were fortunate to win against a West Ham United team that had controlled most of the game and created the best of the chances.

“Do Arsenal deserve to be sitting on six points from six at the end of this second round of fixtures? Probably not,”

The Guardian opens with, “Squabbling siblings one week, happy families the next. Last weekend, Eddie Nketiah and Dani Ceballos briefly came to blows at Fulham after a dispute in the pre-match warmup, simmering down before watching Arsenal cruise home from opposite ends of the substitutes’ bench.”

Of course two games mean not very much.   By 19 August last season the table read

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 2 2 0 0 6 2 4 6
2 Arsenal 2 2 0 0 3 1 2 6
3 Manchester City 2 1 1 0 7 2 5 4
4 Manchester United 2 1 1 0 5 1 4 4

and you know where we ended up, so maybe the papers are right to be cynical.  We ended up 8th, 43 points behind Liverpool (in case you had forgotten).

In 2018, the first Emery season, it was all a bit the other way around

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
15 Burnley 2 0 1 1 1 3 -2 1
16 Cardiff City 2 0 1 1 0 2 -2 1
17 Arsenal 2 0 0 2 2 5 -3 0
18 Fulham 2 0 0 2 1 5 -4 0
19 West Ham United 2 0 0 2 1 6 -5 0
20 Huddersfield Town 2 0 0 2 1 9 -8 0

So the notion of a dire nine year run doesn’t mean anything because the first two games don’t actually tell us where we are going to end up.  Going back just one more season, after two games we find

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester United 2 2 0 0 8 0 8 6
2 Huddersfield Town 2 2 0 0 4 0 4 6
3 West Bromwich Albion 2 2 0 0 2 0 2 6
4 Watford 2 1 1 0 5 3 2 4
5 Manchester City 2 1 1 0 3 1 2 4
6 Liverpool 2 1 1 0 4 3 1 4
7 Southampton 2 1 1 0 3 2 1 4
8 Everton 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 4
9 Leicester City 2 1 0 1 5 4 1 3
10 Tottenham Hotspur 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 3
11 Arsenal 2 1 0 1 4 4 0 3

Interesting that in 2017/18 Huddersfield were second in the league after two, and the following season they were bottom after two.

Of course these are only league games, which this stage this season is all we have to worry about since we are not playing any preliminary rounds in Europe – oh except that we also have the Community Shield.  Winning that is not a huge thing – people tend not to remember who won it one year to the next, except if you put our full list of games this season in a table something else does pop up

Date Match Result Score Competition
29 Aug 2020 Arsenal v Liverpool W 1-1 (5-4) FA Community Shield
08 Sep 2020 Ipswich Town v Arsenal W 1-2 Football League Trophy
12 Sep 2020 Fulham v Arsenal W 0-3 Premier League
19 Sep 2020 Arsenal v West Ham United W 2-1 Premier League

Four wins in a row.  Now I know the FL Trophy involves our under 21s and unless it is a game that one of us has gone to (and obviously not this season) we don’t normally cover Trophy games, so you might say this is three in a row not four.  But still it is quite a jolly little run.

So what happens next?

Last season after our two wins we had a defeat and three draws in League and Trophy games, recovering to win only when the Europa League started for us.

But 2018/19 was the one that really got going.  After defeats to Manchester City (at home) and Chelsea (away) we beat West Ham 3-1 (we can always rely on WHAM) and then continued through to make it a run of 12 successive wins in Trophy, League, League Cup and Europa matches.  By the end of the run we were fourth, having crawled our way back from those first two games.

This year we have got Leicester away in the league cup, Liverpool away in the league and then Sheffield United at home before venturing on to Manchester City away in the league.

Leicester is a puzzling one – as you’ll know if you have read our continuing investigations into their strange tactics and the way referees handle them.  Liverpool away of course is the challenge and then Sheffield United at home looks very winnable, given the way their form collapsed last season.

So, in terms of Untold, it will now be time to start looking at those tackles, fouls, yellow card figures all over again.  And of course there is this table

Season Home fouls per yellow Away fouls per yellow Difference % greater chance of away team getting a card
2004/5 9.9 7.5 2.4 32%
2008/9 8.4 6.7 1.7 25%
2010/11 7.3 6.0 1.3 14%
2013/14 6.9 5.8 1.1 19%
2014/15 6.9 6.9 0 0
2015/16 6.3 6.2 0.1 2%
2016/17 6.9 6.7 0.2 3%
2017/18 6.6 6.1 0.5 8%
2018/19 6.6 6.2 0.4 2%
2019/20 8.0 10.3 -2.3 -28%

Last season away teams suddenly had to commit many more fouls to get a yellow card than any time since 2004/5.  If that continues we could be helped in overcoming their unusual tackle-tackle-tackle tactics that so intrigued us last season.  We shall see.

Coming up next: the most amazing unbelievable development in the current Fifa crisis – you really are not going to believe this.  (But sorry, it is not in the English media’s coverage of football).

3 Replies to “It’s tough being a football journalist: what are they to say when Arsenal win?”

  1. “It’s tough being a football journalist: what are they to say when Arsenal win?”

    and also

    It’s tough being a pundit: what are they to say when Man Utd lose?

    I very rarely watch MOTD but as it was Man Utd losing at home to the team who play within earshot of where I work I thought I’d make an exception, and yes they still talk a load of nonsense, but more than nonsense it’s the hypocrisy of what they say that gets me.

    As far as I remember one of the main bugbears of these experts is they want ‘consistency’ from referees and as such surely the first step towards ‘consistency’ is to take ambiguity out of decisions. Or to make as many subjective decisions as possible objective.

    Decisions such as Offside and ball over the line are already objective, and additionally scrutinised by VAR, but still they moan, so the fact that other subjective decisions, such as the keeper moving off his line at a penalty and what is and isn’t hand ball, that have been made more objective, are also now subject to their whinging.

    But isn’t this what they were calling out for? Consistency?

    -If it’s an inch over the line we get the right call.

    -If it’s an inch onside/offside we get the right call.


    -If the keeper steps an inch off the line he’s broken the rules.

    -If it hits the upper are on the ‘T’ shirt part it’s not hand ball.

    VAR cockups accepted, surely isn’t this objective black and white type decision everything you want if ‘consistency’ is what you are looking for?

    Apparently not. Oh no. When the United keeper steps that inch of the line apparently according to MOTD the ref should be allowed to use his ‘common sense’.

    But surely that’s the problem because not every referee has the same version of ‘common sense’. I’m sure if 1000 people were reading this every one of them would have a different, very personal version of ‘common sense’. The moment you bring ‘common sense’ into the decision you bring ambiguity and all the problems of inconsistency that entails.

    Personally I like the ‘black and white’ version of interpretation. as opposed to the ‘common sense’ version that is much more likely to allow De Gea to move an inch off his line whilst penalising Leno for a similar transgression.

    It seems to me they just cant get their heads around the notion that an inch Onside/Offside is an inch Onside/Offside, as frustrating as that might be.

    The underlying problem is still that they want these close calls to go THEIR way, even though THEIR way is clearly against the rules be it only by an inch.

    Out of all those VAR decisions I think just about everyone was correct. The 2 most difficult were the penalty against United. I mean, yes his arm was away from his body but was it in an ‘un natural’ position? You don’t run and challange with your arms by your side. I can see why it was given but I think it was harsh.

    And West Hams first penalty claim. One view clearly shows it could of been called a foul. I believe if the ref had given it it would not of been overturned by VAR, it was one of those. That may of even been the case with the hand ball claim West Ham had, although it did clearly hit that ‘T’ shirt sleeve part of the arm.

    But at least these tweaks to the rules are trying to take some of the ambiguity out of these decisions, which given how ‘subjectively’ harshly treated we usually are, can only be a good thing as far as we are concerned.

  2. Further to the term utilised by Nitram, namely “Consistency”, why was Mike Dean allowed to officiate the match between Everton and West Bromwich Albion this last weekend? Mike Dean is from the Wirral!

    I was under the impression that most of the Wirral or at least that called the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral is in the county of Merseyside, part of the Liverpool City region. (Local Government Act 1972). I was also under the impression that Everton was a Merseyside based club.

    Even though Mike Dean purports to follow Tranmere Rovers, why was he allowed to officiate another match between two teams, one of which is a Merseyside team? Is this consistent with the rules utilised by the Premier League and operated through the PGMOL?

    I remember that in the 2006 F.A. Cup, at the Millenium stadium (13th May), Dean was supposed to be the match referee but the Football Association later replaced him with Alan Wiley after concerns were raised about Dean’s ability to be impartial towards Liverpool, who are based near his hometown in Wirral. What has changed in 14 years other than the PGMOL and the Premier League being the officiating bodies? Is Everton no longer considered a Merseyside club perhaps by these officiating bodies? Or is it felt that Mr Dean is now above any bias towards another Merseyside team, since he supports Tranmere?

    In 2017, Dean was criticised after giving a straight red card to West Ham midfielder Sofiane Feghouli for a coming together with Manchester United defender Phil Jones. Replays suggested that it was in fact Jones who had committed a dangerous challenge on Feghouli and was himself lucky not to have been sent off. Mr Faghouli’s red card was eventually rescinded The manager of West Ham at that time was Slavin Bilic. I think he was also sent off in this game for protesting!

    Mr Bilic was sent off from the touchline in the Everton/WBA game at half-time when the score was 1-1. (From protesting) Everton beat ten-man WBA 5-2.

    I am surprised that Mr Dean was allowed to officiate in this match. Do I assume that this is now the new (Covid 19) norm for PGMOL appointing match officials. Is this consistent with previous practice?

    Apologies to Everton and WBA supporters for mentioning this. I am not anti either set of supporters! Clarification is all that I am interested in.

  3. It’s interesting that the Grauniad state that Ceballos and Nketiah came to blows. I must have missed that. It was a couple of shoves, nothing more. When the “Tank” got involved, the protagonists quickly realised the futility of it all.

    I saw the player ratings in the Sunday Express. All of the Untidy defenders achieved higher ratings than their Arsenal counterparts. I was going to say that you couldn’t make it up, but somebody managed it.

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