A conspiracy against Arsenal? Or a conspiracy against doing some work?

By Tony Attwood

“The writer clearly believes there is a media conspiracy against Arsenal…”    That was a comment made recently in relation to the article here which basically summed up the various statistical analyses we have been presenting through the summer.   

Issues such as the dramatic decline in yellow cards that Arsenal picked up, the repeated use of referees for Arsenal games, and their number of yellow cards, the linkage between fouls, tackles and yellow cards, the comparison of tackles made by and against specific teams…  and of course the difference between the first third of last season and the last two thirds.

The relationship between all that data and analysis and the media is simply that the media doesn’t mention most of those analyses, although a few commentaries about Arsenal’s success in the latter two thirds of the season have popped up of late.

But just as there has been very little commentary on the impact of the empty stadia, and the research undertaken at LSE on how this influenced results, so there has been little commentary on the dramatic changes in Arsenal’s performances last season.

Yet the issues raised by all these statistics remain important because what many in the media are commenting upon is Arsenal having a real problem, the solution to which is the buying of more and more new players, while getting rid of many of those who performed so excellently in the last two thirds of last season.  The statistics all significant progress was made towards resolving Arsenal’s problems by last Christmas, and that the buying a lot of new players could be calamitous.

Which leaves us with just one issue: why is the media so strongly interested in putting forward the point of view that Arsenal have a major team problem which has not been solved, and for which the only solution is more and more purchases?

I’ve often suggested that the most simple reason is a lack of research.  As when the Express ran the story saying that Arsenal’s season started brightly but fell away at the end – the exact opposite of what actually happened.

Stories have to be written, deadlines have to be met – for example in the case of Football.London, one new Arsenal story on average every hour.  Ploughing through all this data, analysing it and writing it up takes time (as those of us working on Untold will attest, since we’ve been doing it all summer).

So one reason the media doesn’t follow our approach is simply that they have got themselves committed to regular publishing.  Publishing transfer rumours (and as you will have seen, over 110 players have been tipped to be coming to Arsenal this summer) is a lot easier than analysing statistics and then writing articles about what is found.

A second reason is that the football media tends to copy the football media.  Occasionally one steps out of line, as with the Mail’s stories about Manchester City, but mostly, they all do what the others do when it comes to football, the approach of each other is followed.  And that approach is of course, that the key story, indeed the only story, is transfers.

Now multiple transfers in and out of one club can only be justified if it is claimed that the club is seen to have been doing badly.  So to accommodate that story, the massive improvement in Arsenal’s performance in the last two thirds of last season is ignored, and the failure to make it into Europe for the first time in 25 years is seized upon.  Again, one media outlet follows another.  It’s not a conspiracy.  If anything it is laziness.

The third reason comes with the desire not to suggest anything is wrong with PGMO and its referees.  I would certainly argue that our figures on referee selection and performance for last season must at least raise some questions that need to be answered but the media simply won’t touch this.  Only they can explain why.

Equally, they won’t touch the research from LSE that we have so often looked back to, which showed the bias in refereeing.  It was a remarkable piece of research, and to find commentators then suggesting that the lack of crowds had no effect on results, was odd in the extreme, even for football.

So, as we approach the last few pre-season friendlies I think we’ve given a fair outline of the facts and figures.  Obviously some would much sooner impute the sanity of the writers rather than examine the facts, but in football it was ever thus.

2020/21: The key data tables

And the articles that emerged from them….

4 Replies to “A conspiracy against Arsenal? Or a conspiracy against doing some work?”

  1. One problem is that the media are in the entertainment business. News is just material used to provide entertainment. The goal is primarily to get people looking at your site/channel/newspaper, not primarily to inform. It’s “infotainment.”

    Another problem is that, for financial reasons, media production is done as cheaply as possible: not enough journalists are hired to do proper investigation. So it is simply practical to do the job quickly and not so well.

    A third problem is the fact that any reporter or outlet going against the widely accepted version of a story is looked at askance, both in professional circles and by the public…as you know from experience.

    How grateful I am that you are there doing the work you do.

    To be honest, however, I also enjoy the wild speculation. The off-season is one of my favourite times of year. Yes to Odegaard, no to the more expensive alternatives whose ability to fit into the side is unknown. This knowledge is another benefit of AFC choosing to pay for the trial period of a loan. And yes to keeping Lacazette, if possible. His contributions to the team go beyond goals and assists to the feeling among the players and to showing others the way the gaffer wants them to play.

  2. As us know very well. Arsenal FC is a big North London giants club side that has had a mix-fortune success since Mikel Arteta took over the reign of first team squad manager’s position of the club,

    and the half-season that he had in taking control of the club’s first team squad, he did brilliantly by guiding the Gunners to a 14th FA Cup win over their PL rivals big London club side Chelsea at Wembley.

    And then went on to lead Arsenal to another Charity Shied win this time over their rivals Premier League big club Liverpool. A 2nd win recorded by Arsenal ever over Liverpool after the 1st first one that they got over them in the PL at the Ems. A two successive wins that Arsenal in history have had over a Liverpool team that is managed by gengenpressing football exponent Jurgen Klopp.

    These four match wins in the League and FA Cup over Liverpool and Chelsea gave credence to Arteta immensely in his first season managerial career as the Gunners boss despite his guiding the club to an 8th placed finish in the Premier League.

    So, for us Gooners our hopes rose when the new season that follow came and the Gunners opened their accounts in it with a good win in their opening PL match away to the newly promoted Fulham team.

    But soon afterwards, things started to fall apart for Arsenal in the PL. Which subsequently extended to their Carabao Cup and FA Cup competitions campaign as their runs in the domestic Cup competitions cut short that saw them out of both Cups.

    But Arsenal had a good Europa League Cup competition run that saw them reached the semifinal stages of the competition. But all was to no avail for us as they failed to reach the final to win the Cup. A win if they had gotten will see them play in the CL next season. Instead of the complete miss out on the European football competitions next season that they’ve for the first time in 25 seasons consecutively faced at the end of last season’s campaign. A season campaign that saw Arsenal finished 8th in the table again.

    That particular last season 8th placed PL finish and the out of the European football for the 1st time in 25 years that Arsenal poorly attained has necessitates a wake up call at Arsenal that is seeing the current team rebuilding exercise that Arteta, Edu and others are carrying out at the club this summer transfer window doing many incoming signing of new players. And moving out some other players at the club who they don’t want anymore in their squad for next season’s campaign. While at same time are extending the deals for some of their young Gunners at club.

    These exercises that Arsenal are doing this summer is not only very important exercises that they are currently carrying out at the club. But a very necessary important ones that they have to carry out if they are to avoid another mid-table finish next season. But give themselves the chance to finish in the top-four places and win the treble by carrying out these exercises to see..

  3. DougW

    “One problem is that the media are in the entertainment business. News is just material used to provide entertainment. The goal is primarily to get people looking at your site/channel/newspaper, not primarily to inform. It’s “infotainment.””

    I agree. But why choose Arsenal as their ‘entertainment’ ?

    Why not entertain everybody by abusing Spurs all night and day instead ?

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