Why the media is always so negative about Arsenal

By Tony Attwood

“Can you do an article on how the media benefits from being Anti Arsenal, as opposed to any other club? Is there an anti-Arsenal secret society embedded in the media?” asked Dublin Gooner.  So I will try and answer this in one article.

But please note, this is a very quick summary.  There’s a lot more on this throughout the Arsenal History Society blog – although writing this makes me think I ought to write a much more complete history of the anti-Arsenal approach of the media.  When I have time!

The central tenants of the media when it comes to football are

1: There must be a constant stream of news about the top teams.  If a reader comes onto a newspaper website looking for news about one of the top teams, and there is nothing, then she or he will give up and look elsewhere each day.

2: It is easier to find ceaseless news stories that knock a team than it is to find positive stories.  This is just the nature of criticism – one finds out what is wrong and suggests how to put it right.  Saying something is wonderful can only be said once.  But there are 100 ways to say what needs to be improved – which means saying what is wrong.

This is not just true in football, it is true in all sports and the arts.  Arsenal beat Tottenham 5-0 and we can rave over the goals, the tactics, the players, but once done, that’s it.  Next week it might be a 1-0, which is not so exciting so the negativity begins again.  So there are always more negative stories than positive.

3. On broadcast media it is much easier to criticise than praise.  Saying a pass or shot or save was brilliant is ok, but it doesn’t go much further than that.  But talking about misplaced passes, missed chances, lack of defensive cover can go on and on.   After all the average league game has around 2.3 goals in it, so having described the two or three goals, what else is there to do?  The answer, talk about all the mistakes, all the pressing that didn’t lead to goals, all the misplaced passes…

In short it is the nature of the game, as a low-scoring sport, that much of the time, goals are not scored – which is a failure of sorts.  So when the pundits and commentators describe the game they are talking about the failure mostly.

4.  Historical perspective is not liked.  We live in a culture of now, now, now.  Most people don’t really know that much about their club’s history, so that’s not considered.  

5.  Which leaves us with negativity – the goals missed (which greatly outnumber the goals scored) and other negatives.

So football coverage tends to the negative, but the question is why do they pick on Arsenal?

Historically this goes back to Arsenal’s sudden rise to fame in 1931 winning the League for the first time with a record number of points, having missed relegation but just three points the season before.  What’s more Arsenal were the first team from the south to win the league, and up to that point the view in the papers was that footballers in the south were incapable of winning the league, because of the distractions of the soft southern lifestyle.

In fact if we look at  the decade before Arsenal won we can see just how that expectation was maintained.  During the 1920s the winners of the 1st Division were

  • Burnley (for the 1st time)
  • Liverpool (for the 3rd and 4th time)
  • Huddersfield (for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd time)
  • Newcastle United (for the 4th time)
  • Everton (for the 3rd time)
  • Sheffield Wednesday (for the 3rd and 4th time)

So what we have is a total dominance of the north, with the same clubs winning over and over.  Arsenal winning in 1930 was an aberration.  There were only four clubs from the south in the top division, Arsenal, Portsmouth, West Ham, Chelsea, and none of them had ever won the League.  Football was primarily a northern and midlands thing – which of course was where it had started.

Then suddenly in the 1930s Arsenal won the League five times and the FA Cup twice – not just unprecedented success for a southern team, but unheard of success for any team.  In one decade they had almost caught up with Aston Villa, at the time the record holders in terms of titles.  And Arsenal had gained their five titles in just eight years!

With most football writers of the era coming from northern or midland backgrounds the prejudice against the soft southerners getting this sort of success was huge.  Softie London Arsenal had to be cheating. No other explanation.

This carried on after the second world war when, over a quarter of a century after their promotion in 1919 Arsenal were, for the first time, accused of doing dubious deeds to get elected in 1919.  So began the second big story – the softie southerners had only got their success by cheating.  It was the only explanation.

Knocking southern softies became popular in the papers and Arsenal took the brunt being by far the most successful southern team, and since then it has just become part of lazy football journalism.

Football journalists are basically just making things up, (transfers of which only 3% happen, nonsense tactics etc) and so Lucky Arsenal fitted the bill, and became the prime football news stories in the 1930s, and it has just carried on ever since.

Then when Mr Wenger came to the club, the most appalling rumours circulated about him.  He saw off the journalists, famously standing on the steps at Highbury and taunting them to mention the story which they called “the rumours”.  He saw them off, won a famous victory, and the media has never forgiven him, nor Arsenal since then.  The media as one upped their desire to knock Arsenal – and since then it has just become habit.  It is what they do.

If you have not read it you might also enjoy

1 October 1996: the origin of the journalist v Wenger campaign.


12 Replies to “Why the media is always so negative about Arsenal”

  1. Thank you for trying to explain it but alas I feel you will fail to convince those that do not want to be convinced.

    Personally I find it unbelievable that anyone who watches, listens to or reads about football cannot see the disproportionate amount of negativity that surrounds our club compared to everyone else.

    Of course other teams receive negativity but none to the extent that we do.

    And what makes it so much worse is that so much of it is unwarranted, whilst others that you would of thought warranted some criticism, at least more than us, don’t get it.

    2 massive examples are Liverpool and Spurs.

    Spurs have won jut 3 trophies in 36 years. Since season 84/85 Spurs have won 2 League cups and 1 FA Cup.

    Arsenal have won more than that in the last 7 seasons alone, winning 4 FA Cups since 2014.

    For this to happen there is absolutely no other reason than Arsenal being a vastly superior and better ran club than Spurs.

    Spurs are from the same part of London as Arsenal with similar crowd bases and histories, yet we have left them in our wake, and still, despite constant negativity, win far far more than they can even dream of.

    Yet it is Arsenal that is the badly run club. It is Arsenal that are endlessly criticised.

    One of our own fans in an earlier article was complaining about how we had been getting worse and worse over the last 10 years or so. If only Spurs could be as bad as us then maybe they might win 4 FA Cups in 7 terrible years.

    And Liverpool. They went 30 years between titles and you hardly heard it mentioned. Once we hadn’t won the title for a couple of seasons we couldn’t walk on the pitch without it being mentioned.

    Until Klopp finally bought some success to them Liverpool had gone 11 years with just 1 league cup and again we hardly heard a word of criticism. We went 8 without a trophy and you would of thought the World had come to an end, and we had the excuse of zero nett spend and 3 of the biggest spending clubs in the World to deal with.

    As I say, of course both Spurs and Liverpool got periods of stick, but nothing on the relentless scale that we receive, and I’m sorry but as I said, anyone who cant see or hear it must be deaf, blind or both.

  2. It’s because arsenal isn’t giving the brown envelopes and jealousy.

  3. The media and other clubs have had an agenda against Arsenal for over 100 years. This due to our values and traditions which standout from other clubs.

    Our values and traditions are exactly what the British media football pundits mock us about.

    Innovation, victory through harmony, developing young players from all over the world, quick passing football, looking after the footballing and local communities.

    The most important thing is pride, being proud of these values even through difficult periods like now. When we try to do things the United, Chelsea and even Liverpool way; we’ll fall further.

    The British media have perennially and gradually put Arsenal fans in a state of gloom and low vibrancy towards the club. The people who control the footballing media in this country are largely affiliated to Liverpool and Manchester United, two clubs who have always tried to defame Arsenal because they’ve always felt uncomfortable about a club from the South holding such virtuous prideful values.

    Arsenal fans need to wake up. I didn’t like how through the ESL saga last month were upset, mocking the squad and manager for not speaking out on social media like players from other teams.
    The club have always done things their own way in its entire history. I’m proud with Bellerin and Holdings response. It gives me pride that Arsenal were the first club to sincerely apologize.

  4. Journalists , referees ,VAR ,FA and premier League officials all hate Arsenal please confirm

  5. Coach Kerr

    Very well said. I especially like the following:

    “The British media have perennially and gradually put Arsenal fans in a state of gloom and low vibrancy towards the club. The people who control the footballing media in this country are largely affiliated to Liverpool and Manchester United, two clubs who have always tried to defame Arsenal because they’ve always felt uncomfortable about a club from the South holding such virtuous prideful values”.

    Of course we are not perfect and make mistakes, but I believe we do indeed at least try to do things the right way, and when we don’t we tend to put our hands up and at least try to put things right.

    I don’t know if it’s me but we seem to of gained a few new posters recently, with very good contributions. Great to see.

  6. Hi,

    Great read and It makes soo much sense and quite a few of the presenters in the past on MOTD like Hanson and co were northerners and I can see how the north and south devide as affected Arsenal. And almost like reviews on products sometimes the negativity often spreads further as you say so makes sense too.

  7. Nitram: re your comment “I feel you will fail to convince those that do not want to be convinced.”

    This is true of course, but it is not my intention. My reason for being here and running this site is to offer a point of discussion and exploration for those who are willing to accept that the media propogates one particular view, but that view is built to suit their historic prejudices and the need of their industry.

    The idea of Untold is simply to be here for those who think there might be something wrong with the way football is reported. Hence the name “Untold”.

    I don’t suggest we can change what’s happening, but by understanding it, and explaining it, we might be able to develop the discourse somewhat.

  8. Slightly OT – The Chelsea Womens team – the greatest loves of the media were going to do something historical that no other English Womens team has done – win a quadruple.

    Barcelona Women won the Womens European Champions League 4 – 0 against Chelsea.

    Incidentally there was an Arsenal Ladies team that went the whole season winning all but one drawn match in 2007 ending up with 5 or 6 trophies including the European Cup. A team that had very little press and were runners up to the Ryder Cup team in the BBC Sports Team of the Year.

    Respect for women in sport? there wasn’t any!! Arsenal Ladies are the greatest Football team in historical records but hardly mentioned.

  9. I think all us on here know the medias anti- Arsenal agenda has been happening for 100 years. I would say its bias but when one looks back at history there’s only one thing you can call the constant negativity towards this club. An Agenda and I think it even goes beyond the sporting media, but that’s for another time!

    It’s impossible waking up our entire fanbase and I respect the fact that different fans hold a variety of opinions. However I feel supporters who know the truth must protect the clubs values and stand up to this unrelenting Arsenal attack. Im going to start a YouTube channel in the summer to put things straight and expose how the footballing media has contributed to Arsenal’s current predicament. Would be great if some on here supported by subscribing.

  10. “……this site is to offer a point of discussion and exploration for those who are willing to accept…..”

    I know what you mean and I do admire your stoicism because I had always thought the idea of debate and discussion was not only to engage with those that agree but to hopefully engage with and maybe convince those that don’t.

    I have long since learnt that it doesn’t work like that.

    The amount of times I have spent a morning researching facts, data and statistics to support a premise, only to receive a 2 line response from someone telling me they “know what they see with their own eyes”, or worse for them to disappear completely only to return with their 2 lines a week later. Not an iota of statistical support for ‘what they see with their own eyes’ mind you.

    I’m trying to learn from you though. I try to just post my thoughts and supporting data and just hope it opens peoples eyes to what is going on. Unfortunately sometimes I get drawn in. I always regret it.

    Fortunately we have a lot of very good regular posters, they know who they are, and some new ones, that express their thoughts in similar analytical ways, which is why this particular site is as amazing as it is.

    Which neatly brings me to:


    What a great example of exactly what we are talking about.

  11. No one is easily convinced that a sincerely held belief is false. So here’s another way to look at bias.
    The more passionate we are about Arsenal the more distorted our perception of all things Arsenal will be. If you don’t have at least one Arsenal tattoo on your body, are you really a true fan? So seeing anti Arsenal bias in the media is a badge of honour. If you can’t see it, you’re obviously at best a fair weather fan:)

  12. More industrial-grade effluent from the media:-

    Peter Crouch in the Daily Mail – “As it stands, Leicester are miles in front of Arsenal on the pitch”.

    That could explain why we beat them 3-1 at their place 11 weeks ago.

    Hey, Crouchy. Shut it.

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