How the media decided that Arsenal’s biggest story didn’t fit the agenda

by Tony Attwood

All the news that fits

Over the years of running Untold I don’t think I have previously seen a case where some of the media has accurately reported an intriguing Arsenal development, only then to back off en masse, and leave what became over time a major newspiece.   But that’s what happened last season.

You’ll know how poor Arsenal’s results were at the start of the season, and how by Christmas we were in the bottom four for goals scored.  After 14 goals we had scored 12.  Only WBA (10), Burnley and Sheffield Utd (8 each) had fewer.

The only thing that was keeping us afloat was the defence – which amazingly even in the doom and gloom of those first 14 games was the sixth best in the league.

But by the time the first third of the season was up we had a defence that had mastered its new way of playing and was already outshining Liverpool and Manchester United in terms of keeping goals out.

And indeed some newspapers did get what was going on.  In an article published on 1 February 2021 in the Islington Gazette Jack Leach run this piece:


The Arsenal defence has been abysmal in previous years, but Mikel Arteta is finally solidifying the Gunners backline.   The draw and clean sheet against Manchester United was further proof that there is now a backbone in defence, which has been questioned on many occasions under the latter Arsene Wenger days and the Unai Emery era….

“Arsenal have kept seven clean sheets out of eight in all competitions since the 0-1 away win at Brighton on December 29.    Credit must go to Arteta for making Arsenal hard to beat again. Having only conceded 20 Premier League goals so far in this campaign, it is an improvement on previous years.

“The personnel must be credited in this new, impressive defence. Rob Holding is enjoying his best run in the side since his move from Bolton in 2016.

“Bernd Leno behind him has been sensational recently, he pulled off another sublime save against the boys from Old Trafford on Saturday, diving high and wide to deny Fred the opener.

“Full-back has been an area for concern for Arsenal in the past. Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin have been brilliant this season and both have characteristics to wear the armband at Emirates Stadium, despite the latter being questioned for having the honour in the past….

“The process with Arteta is still in transition. The signs are noticeably clear on why Pep Guardiola rates his former assistant so highly. The next step is to get that balance in defence and attack. Believe in the process.”


“Believe in the process” indeed.

In fact they were not the only ones to get an edge on what was going on.  Even the Arsenal hating Talk Sport ran “Mikel Arteta has made sacrifices to improve Arsenal’s defence and it’s affecting Lacazette, Aubameyang and Pepe”

OK, a two-edged headline but they have got the essence of the transformation right.

Tony Cascarino was given the job of doing the negative out of the positive bit for Talk Sport noting on 20 October 2020, “Arsenal have sacrificed their attacking flair for defensive stability.”  Implication: boring boring Arsenal.

Yet there was an element of validity within that because Arteta did indeed decide that the big change (no tackling) was to be made in defence, and while that was happening, yes the attack certainly suffered.  Indeed everything was sacrificed in the name of cutting the number of tackles made in half.

But as time went by something strange happened to the media.  For instead of continuing to run what turned out to be one of the most fascinating football tales of this century so far, the media moved across into fantasy land.   Thus when Just Arsenal asked, on 19 February 2021, “Have Arsenal really sorted out our defensive problems?” they found themselves with the right question but absolutely the wrong answer, writing “Whether it’s poor transfer policy or tactics, Arsenal’s recent transfers in defence have largely failed to shore up the backline.”

Not a clever prognostication.  Arsenal finished the season with the third best defence in the league.  Indeed over the last two thirds of the season Arsenal had the second best defence in the league.  They were continuing to improve.

The message is clear: the old newspaper adage “All the news that’s fit to print,” created in the 19th century by the New York Times, and still used today, was abandoned.  For football it became “All the news that fits”.

And the biggest tragedy of all is that this has been picked up by virtually every part of the football media.

What this summer has shown us beyond everything is that football reporting is now utterly and totally governed by previous decisions not as to what news is fit to print, but what news fits the agenda.

How newspeak took over football and stopped proper debate

One Reply to “How the media decided that Arsenal’s biggest story didn’t fit the agenda”

  1. Tony

    “….not as to what news is fit to print, but what news fits the agenda”.

    And there is that word again AGENDA.

    Untold itself, myself and many of the regulars use the word on an almost daily basis when it comes to describing how we are treated on all media platforms.

    Of course we have the odd contributor calling us paranoid, claiming all clubs are treated as we are, but tellingly, when asked to produce evidence of similar quantities of inaccurate negative bilge aimed at others, the silence is deafening.

    If it isn’t an agenda then what is it ?

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