Arsenal v Man U: how the anti-Arsenal rhetoric builds up before the game

By Tony Attwood

Since 2013 Manchester United have won the FA Cup once, the Europa League once and the League Cup once.  A total of three trophies.

Since 2013 Arsenal have won the FA Cup three times – so again three trophies.

Since 2013 Manchester United have finished in the top four of the Premier League three times, in the 5th/6th Europa places three times, and once in 7th.

Since 2013 Arsenal have finished in the top four of the Premier League three times, in the 5th/6th Europa places three times, and once in 8th.  Virtually identical.

Across these years Manchester United’s top scorer has scored over 20 goals three times.  Across these years Arsenal’s top scorer has scored over 20 goals six times (Giroud twice, Alexis twice, Aubameyang twice).   In fact in two seasons Arsenal’s top scorer has got 30+ goals (Alexis once, Auba once).  So in terms of goal scorers, Arsenal are clearly on top over this period.

So we can say that across the seasons from 2013/14 onward (a total of seven years, so enough to give some sort of comparison), the two clubs have each had some success without hitting the jackpots of the League title or the Champions League.

And it is interesting therefore that the Daily Mirror has now given a huge amount of space to Roy Keane, noting that Roy Keane has said Arsenal are lacking characters and leaders compared to their title-winning teams, adding that “the Manchester United legend claimed they had become a soft touch compared to the team he faced in his playing days.”

The commentary continues…

“Since Wenger stepped down, Arsenal have finished fifth under Unai Emery, and eighth last season after Arteta took charge of an ailing side in December 2019,” while ignoring the fact that in the past seven years Manchester United have come 5th once, 6th twice and 7th once.

And there is more as they say,

“But criticism of a lack of leaders remained last summer and persisted late into 2020 as the Gunners lost a shocking 10 of their first 14 Premier League games this term.”

(This is of course untrue: of our first 14 League games we won four, drew two and lost eight.  Not good but not a “shocking ten”)

So this “fact” is not only untrue but also  in creating this article the Mirror has done what it does over and over and over and over again – and what other newspapers and some bloggers do as well.  It has given one side of the story only while using false data.  Indeed even if the data wasn’t false it would still be misleading, the false data just makes it worse).

The article is about comparing Arsenal and Manchester United, and of course the long poor run this season (or “term” as the Mirror likes to call it for reasons I have never understood – it is a “season” guys, schools have “terms.”)

But if we are noting Arsenal’s poor run in an article that compares Arsenal and Manchester United we might also note Manchester United’s run in 2019.  Why not put both sides of the story?

Date Game Res Score Competition
10 Mar 2019 Arsenal v Manchester United L 2-0 Premier League
16 Mar 2019 Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester Utd L 2-0 FA Cup
30 Mar 2019 Manchester United v Watford W 2-1 Premier League
2 Apr 2019 Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester Utd L 2-1 Premier League
10 Apr 2019 Manchester United v Barcelona L 0-1 Champions League
13 Apr 2019 Manchester United v West Ham United W 2-1 Premier League
16 Apr 2019 FC Barcelona v Manchester United L 3-0 Champions League
21 Apr 2019 Everton v Manchester United L 4-0 Premier League
24 Apr 2019 Manchester United v Manchester City L 0-2 Premier League
28 Apr 2019 Manchester United v Chelsea D 1-1 Premier League
5 May 2019 Huddersfield Town v Manchester United D 1-1 Premier League
12 May 2019 Manchester United v Cardiff City L 0-2 Premier League

Two wins in 12 games, is not so different from losing 10 in 14.  If one is notable then so is the other.

It is this type of selective evidence taking that has brought football journalism into utter disrepute.  It is the fact that the media does it over and over and over again against Arsenal that makes us realise that there is an anti-Arsenal agenda.  It might not be conscious, for it is hard to imagine that the writer of the piece (Gareth Bicknell – pictured above – who has the billing of the “Overnight sport reporter”) being particularly conscious with a job like that (although that is not his fault certainly), but it is certainly at the very least sub-conscious.

Knocking Arsenal is what it is all about, all the time, and sadly it is this reportage that gets into some supporters minds, and they start to believe it.

Of course it is true that Arsenal have been in a dip since we came runners’ up in 2016.  Since then we have 5th twice, 6th and 8th, but we have won the FA Cup twice, to maintain our dominance of that competition.

This is the problem with the media in England.  They set the footballing agenda – and in doing that they set an anti-Arsenal agenda.  Even when two previously dominant teams have slipped from their autocratic positions at the top, they can’t stop knocking Arsenal without making a proper comparison.

And as a PS here is the position after 14 games

Club P W D L F A GD Pts
13 Crystal Palace 14 5 3 6 19 25 -6 18
14 Leeds United 13 5 2 6 22 24 -2 17
15 Arsenal 14 4 2 8 12 18 -6 14
16 Brighton and Hove Albion 13 2 5 6 15 21 -6 11
17 Fulham 14 2 4 8 13 23 -10 10
18 Burnley 12 2 4 6 6 18 -12 10
19 West Bromwich Albion 13 1 4 8 10 26 -16 7
20 Sheffield United 13 0 1 12 7 24 -17 1

15 Replies to “Arsenal v Man U: how the anti-Arsenal rhetoric builds up before the game”

  1. Well to be expected really.You’re talking about the media darlings.To add fuel to the fire.They’re hatred of Arsenal is well known.Goes back to start of Ferguson’s reign when an extremely physical Man Utd went toe to toe with a very tough Arsenal under George Graham.They hate the way we’ve stood up to them in the past,showing little respect.It irks them & their fan base ( media etc) so if given an opportunity to dig up anything that can denigrate Arsenal they’ll go for it.But perhaps the author of the Daily mirror piece & Keane might need to be reminded where would they be without the endless penalties they’ve been gifted ( along with fergie time) down the years.Doubt they’ll EVER cover that.Hey?😉

  2. I can not argue with any of your comments only add to them. The beautiful game was tarnished when
    Keane and Fergi decided to change it to the bully and dirty tackle game, no matter how good a utd player was the main ingredient of there ability had to be nasty aggression,Keane et al have now changed that to no character. I think it was you that did a survey on tackles per card and
    Arsenal were the fewest tackles so enough said best wishes for Saturday

  3. There were one hell of a lot of dodgy offside calls as well Ole among others benefitted greatly. You know the ones with no Sky replay.

  4. I can’t remember the last time that I spoke to any Arsenal fan and they remarked to me ‘Did you see what they said about Arsenal in the Mirror?’

    I mean who cares about what they write and who cares about what Roy Keane says or thinks. You seem to be affording them more creditability than they deserve, the Mirror is just a glorified click bait site and if we don’t know what they’re all about then there’s no hope for any of us…

  5. @ allezkev

    Sadly the Mirror is just one of many. Tomorrow during commentary there will be many “great crosses” that Man U players are unable to get on the end of and many identical crosses by us which are seen as “what a waste”. Similar analogies will become apparent for various different aspects throughout the game. What is “unlucky” for them will be “poor” by us and what is “excellent” play by them will, no doubt, be “fortunate” for us.

  6. “And it is interesting therefore that the Daily Mirror has now given a huge amount of space to Roy Keane, noting that Roy Keane has said Arsenal are lacking characters and leaders compared to their title-winning teams, adding that “the Manchester United legend claimed they had become a soft touch compared to the team he faced in his playing days.”!

    This notion of us being a soft touch is a dangerous and very effective tool that has been used against us for many years, and it should never be underestimated, because it is extremely dangerous.

    The whole purpose of it is to paint us as soft, and thereby propagate the notion that Arsenal are never actually ‘assaulted’ and any serious injuries we do incur, of which there are many examples, are actually of our own making, seeing as we are too weak to look after themselves.

    As I say, it is a tactic that has been used against us many times, especially effectively on one notorious occasion.

    This piece by Keane echoes closely many articles that were published in the papers in the run up to the infamous Riley performance at OT.

    For 2 weeks there was article after article banging on about how we were a bunch of Southern softies, full of Foreign cry baby’s, and to cap it all we were managed by a whinging Frenchy.

    Compare that to a united team, we were told, that was full of British brawn, who yes play the game hard, but fair, and who are managed by a gritty Scott.

    Yep, we were left in no doubt it was a match between a team of Southern softies and a team pf tough Northerners, and what’s more we should expect it to be played out as such, and of course to be refereed accordingly.

    And that is exactly what transpired. We were kicked off the park and it was all our own fault for being too soft. Nothing to do with that cheating b*****d in black. Nope, those Southern softies just didn’t like it up em and got everything they deserved.

    The Neville’s still boast and laugh about it to this day.

    It’s propaganda. It’s thought conditioning. And sadly it works !!

    Dismissing it as mere harmless ‘click bait’ is to completely lack understanding of how the phycology of the human mind works.

    The fact that propaganda has been used to such an extent over 100’s of years is surely proof of it’s effectiveness.

    Tell someone black is white often enough and eventually they believe it.

  7. Roy Kean was always a thick individual that couldn’t play football but got away with navvy bullying of skilled footballers. His use as a pundit is the equivalent of getting a brick to look handsome.

    The Mirror has obviously tried to get its sales up as without their Piers there isn’t sufficient stupidity. Kean was sent home from overseas because he kept looking for sand and cement to give him a hard image but found that his system couldn’t cope with pizza like his boss.

    Despite the corruption of our 50th at OT the Manchester players never achieved anything sensational like a Whole Season Undefeated.

  8. No matter what Man Utd say or do, I will never forgive them for the Night of Infamy when, aided by a crooked referee, they displayed all that is wrong in the beautiful game……and got away with it.

  9. Keane is no different to Souness Neville or Carragher sitting talking about in their day they would have done what it took to get a result . They all knew that most of the time they could kick their way around the pitch and get away with it Inge Halland and Jose Reyes rip are oniy 2 names that come to mind involving utd so called players . The likes of Martin Tyler doesnt seem to think they did anything wrong when knowing they are in the studio he can be heard saying a tackle Souness or Keane would have been proud of even though some poor sod had just been put out of action for 3 months and Neville or Carragher would laugh in agreement and say welcome to the premier league son.The leaders Keane talks about in his day Viera Petit and Gilberto could play with style and class some thing he never had and never will , they also have World cup winners medals because they were proud to play for their countries and not storm off to go walking their dogs with 4 or 5 photographers in tow.

  10. nicky

    And worse, as I said above, they actually still proudly boast and even laugh about it.

    But at the end of the day they couldn’t of got away with it without a complicit media and a compliant referee. They are who I blame the most.

    But I understand how you feel.

  11. I often speak to United Supporters. They don’t perceive an anti-Arsenal agenda in the media. They do perceive an anti-United agenda, which I find weird, although after their loss to Sheffield they have got a LOAD of bad media, even being only 1 point from the top, which is ridiculous. Most of the country prefers Arsenal except United supporters, who do have quite a lot of fans in the media. But that is changing as the media is changing. If you look at sites like Newsnow for your Team, you get all the good and bad media links but because bad news sells and because bad news creates annoyance, people click on the articles. That’s exactly what most of them are, click-bait, as so many on here have said. I think it’s fairly mixed though, overall. Here people often report the negative articles and not the positive ones, which is fairly normal I suppose because they stand out more, especially when they are full of rubbish, which a lot of them are.

    It’s the refereeing corruption of Mike Riley and his cronies that is the root of all evil in the premiership. Once that is finally sniffed out, punished and prevented and the complicit referees sacked and fined, we can get on with normal life again.

    I somehow don’t think that 125 million Arsenal fans will tolerate a biased refereeing performance today. If we get one, I expect many of them will kick up a storm. The Yanks have kicked corruption out of their big sports and they have increasing power and ownership in the Premiership. If it hasn’t happened already, it can only be a matter of time before they help sort it. We should assume that most of our referees want to do the best job they can. It’s a shame that Mike Riley and one or two others have been so incredibly biased in favour of United. Things do change though and we can be sure they will. It’s annoying that it has been allowed to go on for so long, though. I have faith that most of the Owners want corruption out of the game cos it should be about the sport and not the money. I am not sure how many people agree but I believe that the Kroenke family are passionate about sport and with Stan and Josh, that is the most important thing. Josh has a real passion for Arsenal and his dad is probably delighted by that. They get some stick but They seem to be doing right by Arsenal.

  12. Sally Pally

    I tend to agree that United’s press isn’t what it used to be but it is still way better than ours.

    Yes they are currently sitting 2nd so maybe they have gone OTT regarding the loss against Sheff Utd (I haven’t read a thing) but I must say they still don’t seem to sink to the disgraceful personal and insulting level they do with us after we suffer such defeats. Maybe they do, as I say I haven’t read the papers.

    And as Tony points out above look at the different ways they portray 2 almost identical records over the same period.

    In the Sun this morning it’s mainly positive with back page headlines thus:


    One thing I will say is Ole has nothing but good things to say about us, which doesn’t surprise me as he’s always seemed to me to be one of the good guys. I actually wish him well at United, but not today of course.

  13. Nitram

    With the absence of our 3 best payers this season, we needed a fair refereeing performance and I think we got close to that even if it wasn’t perfect. When I saw the team I worried about a lack of passion what with Tierney, Saka and Aubamayang missing. It is so noticeable that they have maximum passion and energy compared to some other players. Soares has been showing this as well and a couple of others to a slightly lesser extent. Martinelli always does and he needs another game or two to get back to his best, which is amazing. I have no doubt that if the whole Team played with that passion every match, we’d be taking most Teams to the cleaners cos the talent is right up there in this squad. I would say that we have more world class players in their prime than United have but as you say, the United press won them more than 50% of second balls. It seems to me that the whole Team needs the same energy and passion as Tierney and Saka and they also need to get to those interceptions the way United and even Southampton do. They need to play with that swagger that some Teams and players do. I always think that United must have the best sports psychologists and trainers to instil the winning mentality. I think it’s Mike Phelan and not Solskjaer who is most responsible for this effect, as he was under Ferguson. We really need that passion, winning mentality and swagger because the remaining pieces of the puzzle in terms of personnel are in place. I am so chuffed that we have Partey, he is 100% exactly what we need in a lot fo premiership games.

    Anyway, a draw with another clean sheet, all things considered, was a good result and it keeps up the momentum. A win at Wolves and we’ll definitely be right back in the mix for a top four. Here’s also hoping for Tierney and Saka to be fit cos Aubameyang is going to be out another game. Onwards and upwards.

    Sky were very positive about us on the whole, except for Carragher, who before the match said we had no chance of top six. It seemed like a crazy thing to say, although he totally backtracked after the game and said that he meant it seemed that way after our very poor run up to 9 matches ago. They kept banging on about how we were more than a match for United even with our best three players missing. I honestly think we underestimate the fondness and respect that many in the media have for us, even when compared to the media. The Sun was fawning about United but they’re welcome to that!

    Ole does have good things to say about us but he said after the game that he thought United had the better chances, which sounded like an excuse cos we seemed to cause them a lot more bother than they did us. He was right that they had a little more possession but we know from supporting Arsenal, that possession can be a curse and not the key to winning.

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