By Tony Attwood
Prelim: Today is the anniversary of the first report in a newspaper of Arsenal fans signing a song to celebrate a victory. A recording of the original of the song, and a report on where it came from appear today in the regular anniversary of the day series.
Are they trying to unsettle Saka?
It seems a ludicrous suggestion, more likely to be a symptom of paranoia than the truth. But sometimes there does appear to be quite an attempt by the media to make Arsenal look inept and Liverpool like the golden boys of English football.
Indeed if one casts one’s mind back to the moment in November 2012 that the Daily Mirror ran the headline, “Red alert! Buy-out clause means Suarez can leave Liverpool for £40m,” we can see the approach in action.
In 2013 Arsenal offered £40,000,001 for the player. Liverpool’s owner said there was no such contractual clause and refused to talk to Arsenal. The media believed him, of course, but the jibe ultimately unravelled and the owner admitted there was such a clause.
The story didn’t suggest Arsenal actually wanted to buy the player, because it always looked like Real Madrid were the club most likely to take a player with a history of instability on the pitch, and the bid may well have been part of the vapour transfer trail that Untold often highlighted at that time. And Arsenal didn’t mind since it was all an excellent cover for the early discussions about the possibility of getting Ozil.
But Liverpool made their noise, and with the media and the AAA always ready to jump on Arsenal, the “failure” of Arsenal to get their facts right became the story. But Mr Henry, the owner of the club previously owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, then made a speech at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference admitting that he lied to Arsenal and the media on the grounds that contracts in English football are meaningless.
The media in England didn’t make anything of Henry’s admission, although they made a little of what the Daily Telegraph called the ‘Appalling’ Liverpool tapping-up scandal. Eventually, Liverpool were accused of ‘submitting a “falsified” document to the Premier League when trying to lure a 12-year-old schoolboy from Stoke City.
Damian Collins MP running the Culture, Media & Sport select committee said in a newspaper interview he wanted to examine what he called this “appalling” case. And all this soon after Liverpool had to withdraw from their bid to get a Southampton player, because they were attempting to tap him up as well.
Ultimately Liverpool were banned from signing schoolboys registered with rival academy during the previous 18 months, and you can read more on the story here.
What is interesting is that the current tale about Liverpool buying Saka comes with no evidence presented that a) Liverpool want to buy Saka, b) Saka wants to move, c) Arsenal will fail to get Saka to sign a new contract – although the last point is given legs because of the media’s long-running tale (without any evidence) that Arsenal are worse than any other club are persuading players to renew.
But what is fascinating is the way that a simple suggestion (that Arsenal are incompetent at tying down players to new contracts, in a way that other clubs are not) has evolved from a fantasy without evidence, into a “Liverpool might try to buy Saka” tale and from there into the notion that the deal is as good as done because Arsenal are incompetent.
This is the power of the media; it is not just one made-up story but rather the ongoing background that people then start to believe.
There is no evidence that Arsenal are any worse than any other club at failing to get players to sign new contracts, nor that slipshod management at Arsenal is allowing players to leave the club in a way that doesn’t happen elsewhere. The only evidence we have is that a) Arsenal tend not to tell lies in the way that the Liverpool owner did over the Suarez affair and b) a part of the media is desperate to run a new story every day to the effect that Arsenal are incompetent.
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