The media conspiracy 5, Conclusion: Lay off the proof, stay clear of the facts

This is the concluding part of the series on the media conspiracy against Arsenal.  Previously…

 Lay off the proof, stay clear of the facts

In 2019/20 Arsenal got 86 yellow cards; more than any other club.  In 2020/21 Arsenal got 47 cards – only three clubs got fewer.   How did such a dramatic change happen from one season to the next?  Did the club just sell one troublesome defender?  Did referees think that their propensity for carding Arsenal more than every other club had been rumbled, and so decided to lay off the club?

Or did Arsenal change their style of play?   Was it that Arsenal were a seriously dirty team in 2019/20 that deliberately sought to break up the opposition play through fouls, or was it that referees had decided to yellow card Arsenal because they “needed to be taught a lesson”?

These are in fact very important questions because of the way some clubs avoid yellow cards.  West Ham for example, are in their second year of getting far fewer yellows than their play might suggest – and yet on this topic the media remain utterly silent.   Which is odd given the vast amount of time and space consumed debating games.

And while we are asking, why did no one other than Untold write up the topic.  After all carded defender, after all, will always be much more cautious in his tackles.   Yet I can’t recall any review of yellow cards in the Premier League other than ours.  Just as no one looked at the fact that in 2019/20 Leicester committed almost the same number of fouls as Arsenal but got half the yellow cards that Arsenal received.

But then, really bizarrely, after we pointed this out, the following season Leicester’s level of fouling stayed the same but their number of yellow cards went up by half.  (And it wasn’t due to an injury – we looked into that suggestion).

And that wasn’t all.  After they started getting penalised for fouls like everyone else Leicester sudden started getting penalties.  Indeed they received nine penalties in 13 games.   If that rate had continued, Leicester would have been given 26 penalties by the end of the season – far above the previous record for penalties in one season.   This article gives a summary of what we were finding.

Now my point is not that Leicester were cheating.  It was just that they were doing something very unusual, and the media were not reporting it.   Just like Arsenal constantly getting the same referee.  No one else touched it.   That and other data from last season was summarised here.

This situation in which football journalists move as a herd, all ignoring certain issues while analysing others to death is odd.  Is it because they copy each other, or because they are lazy, or because (and this is much more sinister) some of the things we discover (like Leicester’s ability to tackle with impunity) raise issues about referee competence that the media don’t want to face?

The fact is that there are all sorts of issues that the media en masse refuse to touch.  As a result no one is  holding the League and its referees to account.  And as a result of that Arsenal and some other clubs are changing their style of play to find their way around these issues.

This they are doing, and doing well, as the league table for the last six games, and all the games since the first three games both show.   As for the reporting, with no one else picking up on the story, in the end it is just down to us.

Indeed all of this has been found by a tiny group of fans who think its important.  Can you imagine how much more there is to find if some serious investigative journalists took up these and other issues?   But they don’t; no more than they have taken up the issue we’ve highlighted about the terrible way young players are overtrained, tricked, and then cast aside when injured, with the FA and league turning a blind eye to it all.

And this is the main point.  Not that there are some corrupt practices going on that people don’t seem to notice until we make a fuss.  But rather the fact that football journalism is acting in the opposite way from the way good journalism acts.

Good journalism looks at odd situations, investigates, publishes and holds authority to account. It does it in politics, with the police, with big corporations, with local authorities etc.  Perhaps not as much as some of us would like, but it does it.

Yet with football, the media utterly and totally refuses to investigate anything curious or dubious.  Instead it makes up its own childish stories about a player from one club interesting another club with 95% or more of these stories never happening.  While little Untold is reporting a really weird situation relating to fouls, yellow cards, penalties and the like.

Why is that?


5 Replies to “The media conspiracy 5, Conclusion: Lay off the proof, stay clear of the facts”

  1. Tony

    “… it because (and this is much more sinister) some of the things we discover (like Leicester’s ability to tackle with impunity) raise issues about referee competence that the media don’t want to face”?

    –Or rather it raises issues about referees BIAS ? That’s more to the point.

    “The fact is that there are all sorts of issues that the media en masse refuse to touch. As a result no one is holding the League and its referees to account”.

    –It depends what you mean by not holding them to account? It is clear to me that they do indeed hold them to account at times, but only when it suites, and not necessarily for the sort of things that perhaps you and I would like them to be held to account for. For example, for not applying the laws of the game correctly. They don’t get held to account when they allow a deflection from the referee to set up a promising attack for our opponent, but they certainly would if it was the other way around. As I say, when it suites.

    “Can you imagine how much more there is to find if some serious investigative journalists took up these and other issues”?

    –I think we all can, which is why it will never happen. We have the best referees in the World don’t you know Tony. At least that’s what Talkshite kept telling me back when I was stupid enough to still listen to their inane ramblings.

    “Good journalism looks at odd situations, investigates, publishes and holds authority to account”.

    –Liverpool produced the most ridiculously outlying COVID test results you could ever imagine and there was not even a whimper of concern from the media, let alone any notion of an investigation.

    When things like that occur you realise there is absolutely no desire what so ever from the media to police how football is run, in any way shape or form.

    To be honest Tony it is all very depressing.

    BUT as long a we can draw breath we must continue to shout, you never know, one day we may be heard.

    Great series of articles by the way. Good work.

  2. There are a couple of things that have to be said about how football is written about. First, there are very few “sports journalists” while there are thousands of “sports writers.” There is a difference. Most sports writers are over grown fan boys with limited skills and less knowledge.

    Most do not really know the sports they cover inside and out. They do not know the rules, tactics, how players compliment one another, or even what skills are appropriate for which positions. Very few sports writers have played the sports (or any sports) at a level beyond recreational and even fewer have studied the sports from financial, tactical, personnel, back office, or rule-enforcing angles. This makes it impossible for any of these writers to actually “cover” the sports or even a single game, properly.


    Because, take a game like, say, the Burnley 1-1 draw against Manchester City. There are all sorts of interesting angles on that game. For example, a lot of teams who lack resources make themselves “hard to beat” by playing with XI behind the ball and when it works, like it did in this case, it looks like a terrific tactic. The problem is, that is a very low percentage tactical approach. Which of course, Burnley’s 20th position demonstrates. Most teams employ this tactic because they have inferior players and feel this is a way to not get beat in the first five minutes.

    The same is true of being “direct.” Pundits are always praising players and teams for being “more direct” but whether they mean playing long ball, Route 1 football, or players driving at defenses, both are very low-percentage tactics. They are high risk, high reward ways to play the game. most long-ball passes are not completed; which means they are turn overs, with the team making the pass surrendering possession. With the players who “take on” opponents with the dribble; again, most dribbling attacks result in turn overs, with the dribbler surrendering possession.

    Since possession is statistically one of the most important and reliable predictors of winning, tactics resulting in loss of possession are inferior in most situations. Eve so, sports writers and pundits constantly laud ‘direct’ and pooh-pooh teams making ‘too many’ passes or ‘one pass too many’ even though, in most cases, one pass too many is better than one pass and a turn over.

    Another issue missing from most stories are finances. Maybe fans do not want to read about finances, but that might be because the people doing the writing have no idea what they are writing about. Finances are rarely mentioned in any but hysterical ways. Any story about a match between Man City and Burnley should contain a line referring to the relative costs of the players or squads on the field because it is supremely relevant to the result. For example, the total value of players for Burnley is $159.5 million, while the total value of the Man City team is $1.09 billion. In previews it shows the size of the task facing Burbley’s players, and in results, the disparity provides context. For Norwich, total value $171 million to lose to Man City 4-0 (Total value $1.09 billion is not so much a rout as to be expected.

    The other reason for the lack of comprehensive writing is that the influence of betting and gaming companies on sports coverage. Those companies want the conversation to be on the play of the players and teams, the broadcast companies want that too – look at everyone bemoaning how the Russian figure skater doping scandal ‘detracting’ from the Olympics. These companies are protecting their market share and their profit margins and anything that threatens to focus attention on a topic that makes games less worthy of a wager (like the fact that one team has almost zero chance to win) or worthy of fans’ attention (like the results of the competitions being, on a massive scale influenced and predetermined by the state-run doping programs of entire countries) threatens the profitability of betting parlors, online gaming, and broadcast companies.

    The goal of the leagues, broadcast companies, and betting businesses is to keep everyone’s attention on the pretty green field and the athletes on it; never mind the financial disparities, the doping, the corruption endemic in FIFA, or officiating issues.

    So. The reason no one is covering these issues is a combination of willful incompetence by news organizations who employ people to cover sports who are, in most cases, not journalists, and the pressures brought to bear by those organizations who depend on the lack of scrutiny on the less wholesome aspects of sports to make money.

  3. Seismic

    Thanks for the reference, lol. If you have that episode, keep hold of it. It’s no longer available FFS.

  4. I have both series on DVD, but I think the BBC backtracked on their attempts to discredit FT. I think it’s available on iPlayer for the next 25 days.

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