How the daily media assault on Arsenal is seriously damaging the club

By Tony Attwood

For a club to succeed over time it needs to build a positive reputation.  In fact it has to build several positive reputations.  The club needs its fans, its players and all its support staff to believe in the club and feel that it is travelling in the right direction.  And it needs this because only with such a reputation will it retain its best players and coaches, and be able to bring in new talent in the future.

Unfortunately for Arsenal there are two forces out there who work against this aim all the time: most of the media and some of the fans.  The media stokes up discontent and then some fans repeat it without considering the plausibility of what they are saying.

The method the media uses is incredibly simple: it takes a supposed fact about the club, and runs it on its own, without any comparison with any other club.  Such as “Arsenal has had a shocking 50 players sent off in the past eight years.”

That fact (if it is actually a fact, and it could well be just made up) is invariably presented without any comparison.  50 players sent off seems a large number but it is meaningless unless we know how many players of other clubs have been sent off.

What’s more, the figure implies that the sendings off are all reasonable, when in fact they could be an indicator of biased refereeing.  Indeed the number could represent a totally circular effect: the newspaper claims 50 players have been sent off, suggesting that this is a shockingly high number, and as a result referees start to think Arsenal is a dirty team, and so become more likely to send Arsenal players off – because every other referee is doing it.

So Arsenal find themselves with players being sent off.  That then has consequences.

First, the defensive players might well start to reign in their game and become more cautious.  And remember there is no evidence here to suggest that the number of red cards Arsenal is getting is excessive, or indeed true, but the effect can still be started.

Second players from other teams will start to overplay injuries from tackles, in the belief that referees are more likely to send Arsenal players off.

Third, referees get the idea that Arsenal is a dirty team, and so tackles that might or might not be deemed worthy of a red card, then get a red card.

As a result of this, the media headlines scream, “Yet another red card for Arsenal” and so the myth has started to become reality.  In short a media make-believe tale has actually ended up defining Arsenal’s style of play as well as defining how referees react to Arsenal.

Now if you think this is all fantasy and newspapers don’t behave in this way, just making up numbers and supposed facts, consider the headline from this past week which read, “Arsenal chief Edu broke transfer promise to player after deadline day decision.”

That was in the Mirror and is potentially very damaging to Arsenal.  In player negotiations all sorts of promises are made and if a club gets a reputation of lying when trying to sign a player, then transfers become harder.

In this case the Mirror made the claim twice, saying later in the article, “Arsenal chief Edu broke a transfer promise he made to one player as the window slammed shut on Monday night.”

The actual story is that Torreira went to Atletico Madrid but failed to impress and has started just three La Liga games.  So the paper says,  “Torreira was keen on leaving and moving back to Italy, where he enjoyed some of his best years with Sampdoria. A number of clubs were interested in the midfielder, including Torino and Fiorentina. And Edu was keen on allowing such a deal to go through after insisting Torreira’s happiness was the priority….

“However, Atletico dug their heels in and prevented Torreira from standing any chance of cutting his loan short.”

Thus the headline is quite wrong – even in the Mirror’s telling of the tale there was no promise broken, because it was not a promise that Arsenal could make.  The player willingly signed a contract with Atletico, and Arsenal don’t have the power to break that contract.  And Edu didn’t promise to do so.

But the headline is what will be remembered.

It is my contention that Arsenal suffer from this negative fantasy publicity far more than other clubs, simply because newspapers and blogs copy each other – and they do this because it is easier than investigating, considering and researching.   So the idea spreads, Arsenal lie to their players, Arsenal break promises, Arsenal are a dirty team etc etc etc, and in the end through media spreading of the tale, they become perceived reality.

We could fight it, if supporters refused to believe this and bloggers actively challenged the mainstream media (as Untold tries to do), but without that, we are constantly at the mercy of the anti-Arsenal negativists.

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12 Replies to “How the daily media assault on Arsenal is seriously damaging the club”

  1. This is such a good post and full of all truth. The media has been largely silent on Bruni Fernandes’ recent tackle on Xhaka or how Tottenham have failed to garner points recently. We must unite as fans not to amplify this negativity.

  2. sadly we live in a world where piss weak stenographers have taken over from journalists. There has been a real decline in news articles which these days are little more than word count expansion of the limited information one finds in the header. With the attention span of the younger people said to be shorter than that of the average goldfish and all public debate reduced to lazy three word slogans I do not see much hope for change. Now that personal interaction has been severely restricted, the Newspeak world rides the wave of Covid-1984 and all its distractions because we couldn’t possibly have people asking why in response to alleged facts.

  3. There is little or no news for papers to print . Anything that is important is covered by rolling news programmes and even they are being over taken by social media .
    All they can do is print opinion pieces and printing Arsenal stories sells copy.

    We have been told that the word Arsenal produces more clicks on News Now sites than any other club . Should we be flattered ?

  4. Until the club grows a pair & stops this attitude of holier than though with a stiff upper lip & takes the gloves off we will always be lambasted by the media.Who are traditionally dominated by journos & commentators with a strong northern bias with the exception of Tottenham.It’s been going on for decades & peaked under wenger.Arsenal as a club very rarely either through the team or manager & least of all through its main directors call out injustices or misinformation.

  5. i watched a clown on one of the talk show bend over backwards to avoid saying the ref who gave Luiz the red card was a moron. his two sidekicks kept saying “it’s the rules” in as pathetic a performance as i have ever seen. these toadies have long resented Wenger and the club for being too classy for them. there is a great deal of resentment in the way the media present their so-called facts. the mirror is a classless rag and so are many of the blogs.

  6. The question is, how does the media benefit from being negative about Arsenal, versus say Spurs?
    Journalists follow narratives that fit with the agenda of whoever pays their salary. They repeat sound bites and cliches that fit the narrative. They mercilessly attack anyone who questions the narrative. It’s not just football, and it’s not just Arsenal.
    The media knowingly print lies and knowingly repeat lies. They have agendas and interests to serve. Everywhere we are surrounded by vested interests which filter and distort what they communicate. Blogs, I presume, want clicks.
    I just don’t get why the media would want to have an anti-Arsenal agenda. Bad news and negativity may sell better than the opposite, so a tendency to focus on the negative, be it Arsenal or anything else, is to be expected.
    But please explain how our corrupt and lying media benefits from an anti-Arsenal bias.

  7. The Luiz appeal has been turned down but Southamptons Bednarek has had his appeal upheld.
    A total farce as both of the incidents were as similar as you could get. How can the outcome be different for two almost identical situations?
    Absolute proof, if any more were needed, that we are dealt with more severely than other teams.

  8. The media got the needle when Arsene Wenger threatened to sue the tabloids if any vile stories were printed when he took over. As for the club? Do they not have a legal team? It’s plainly obvious that Arsenal are being treated badly by incompetent or not so legal referees and Football association.

    In all honesty, if the European super league ever gets started? I’d welcome it. Barcelona’s and the Bayern Munich’s of this world would probably get refereeing bias too.

  9. The special bunch of independent add on cheats that look at appeals sell spectacles but do not have brains. They are so damned bent that the game is below the floating debris that the media feed us.

    It is time for Arsenal to take this matter to the High Court.

  10. When Arsenal completed their second League and FA Cup Double in 1998 my father and I delivered a Black Wreath to the offices of the Daily Fail and offered our commiserations for what must have been an awful state of affairs in a very difficult time for them. We hoped they accepted our sincerest condolences.

  11. Supersingh, I think that there is a rule that says that clubs cannot take legal action against other parts of the football establishment but must always work through football’s own processes.

  12. Dublin Gooner – I think it came about in the 1930s, when Arsenal became the first London club to have serious success. Until then, other than a small amount of FA Cup success, the big boys of the League were in the north. Arsenal then developed a different model, based on simply having a very big ground and filling it. Chelsea had done this first with Stamford Bridge, but Arsenal added the extra ingredient of buying in the best manager in the country, and so building on the huge crowds that would turn up at Highbury. Thus in the 1930s Arsenal became the dominant team and even though that success was not continued after the war, Arsenal were a big name club. The northern clubs thus hated Arsenal and the journalists jumped on the bandwagon. They could still say nice things about other London clubs and not upset anyone because they didn’t win things, but they could keep the north onside by slagging off Arsenal.

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