When reporting on Arsenal, reality is the last thing in the journalist’s mind

By Tony Attwood

From the Guardian feed on yesterday’s match.  This is the article that starts:

“Arsenal won five in a row not so long ago. They followed up that sequence with four losses in five, then last Wednesday rocked up at Chelsea and routed their London rivals 4-2.”

Factually correct of course, but clearly set up to encourage the “Arsenal are inconsistent” school of simplistic reporting, which in turn is there to set up the “Arteta out” commentary.  But the reality as ever does not support such a view.

In fact, the Guardian love to go in for confusion these days.  Take this extract on yesterday’s game.

“73 min: Incidentally, when Fernandes missed his penalty kick, Ramsdale got all up in his grille, bringing to mind the infamous Martin Keown / Ruud van Nistelrooy incident of all those years ago. “I’m not sure if I believe in the church of Ramsdale,” writes Ciarán Brennan. “I personally don’t like my goalkeeper to be so occupied with his banter levels at all times. De Gea is a bit of a recluse, think he likes Slipknot, that’s more what I’m looking for.”

The present tense “writes” and the bold around “73 mins” all suggest contemporaneous events, but here we have nothing of the kind.  The penalty incident happened on 53 minutes.  It’s all part of the mishmash of fantasy and reality, reporting and misreporting that is everywhere.

As for the match reporting we have “Tomiyasu comes on for Cedric. ‘I think the ref let Bruno off with a yellow because he knew there was no way he’d try and injure Tavares deliberately,’ suggests Tom Atkins. “Tavares was United’s best chance of getting back into the game.”

“Intent” is indeed part of the laws of the game, and it is one of the biggest problems we have with refereeing since although it is quite clear that in the Fury v Whyte boxing match last night there was intent by both men to hurt the other that is clear only because it was a boxing match.  How on earth is a referee supposed to know about intent in football when he or she is not telepathic and the game is played at speed?

But this is of course ignored by the media who hate to get engaged in really interesting if problematic issues or indeed any issues that cannot be simplified into meaninglessness in the guise of being meaningful.  Try this…

“Since Sir Matt Busby took over at United in 1945, he and Ferguson are the only two managers to win a league title or European Cup.

“In Europe, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Barca, Bayern have proven adept at winning big under different managers.  In England, three Manchester City coaches have won the title in the last 10 years. Chelsea have regularly replaced their coach and still won everything. Four Liverpool managers since Bill Shankly have won the championship…”

And therein is no mention of Arsenal.  Read that, and not know your history of football and you would take it that Arsenal are nowhere to be seen.

And yet, using the same time scale, “Since Sir Matt Busby took over at United in 1945” if we look at Arsenal we find…

  • Tom Whittaker won the League twice and the FA Cup once
  • Bertie Mee won the FA Cup, the League and the  Fairs Cup (the forerunner of the Uefa Cup)
  • Terry Neill won the FA Cup
  • George Graham won the League twice, the League Cup twice, the Cup winners Cup and the FA Cup
  • Arsene Wenger won the League three times and the FA Cup seven times, a record for one man.
  • Mikel Arteta won the FA Cup.

Thus since the war, which is the time period selected by the journalist, not by me, six Arsenal managers have won trophies of significance, four different Arsenal managers have won the league, and five have won the FA Cup.

But no, the Telegraph can’t bring themselves to mention this at all.  It is typical of the way in which the media will do everything they can to write out Arsenal.

Here’s another one they use.   “Since January 22, Newcastle have won nine, drawn one and lost three, taking 28 points from a possible 39.”

And yes that is a good run.  But why 22 January, other than it was the start of a good run?  Untold likes to trace back runs and yes we do look at the run since the first three matches of the campaign, when we had a lot of our team missing.  But “Since January 22” is a date chosen simply to maximise the impact of Newcastle.

But no, all we hear about is our allegedly meandering fortunes… “Arsenal won five in a row not so long ago. They followed up that sequence with four losses in five…”

But we could equally say “across the last 13 games (ie since 22 January) Arsenal have been doing better than Chelsea, Tottenham Hots, Manchester Un…”

Pos Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 13 7 0 0 21 1 4 2 0 12 5 27 35
2 Manchester City 13 5 1 1 19 7 4 2 0 10 2 20 30
3 Newcastle United 13 6 0 0 10 3 3 1 3 9 9 7 28
4 Arsenal 13 4 1 2 10 7 4 0 2 9 8 4 25
5 Chelsea 13 2 2 2 9 11 5 1 1 18 4 12 24
6 Tottenham Hotspur 13 3 0 3 15 8 4 0 3 15 8 14 21
7 Wolverhampton Wa 13 4 0 3 13 9 3 0 3 6 5 5 21
8 Manchester United 13 4 3 0 11 6 1 1 4 7 15 -3 19

Why must they always find a negative?  Why can’t they celebrate Arsenal’s recovery?

33 Replies to “When reporting on Arsenal, reality is the last thing in the journalist’s mind”

  1. Tony

    “Arsenal are inconsistent”

    Yep, just another stick with which to beat Arsenal with, along with the we buy bad players, we sell good players, we are soft, we are ill disciplined, we have no leaders, our players injure themselves sticks. And so it goes on.

    But you know what Tony, the trouble is way too many of our own fans buy in to this crap.

    You may of noticed that recently I put up what I though was a credible argument in refute of this ‘Arsenal are inconstant’ notion.

    The basis of my argument was, yes we win lose and draw matches. Some we win when we would be expected to lose. Some we lose when we would be expected to win. But that is true of nearly every team.

    I put up statistics showing similarly inconsistent form from Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd. Not just for individual seasons, but over 10 year periods.

    But the straw that finally broke the camels back so to speak, was when I made reference to how inconsistent Spurs had been this season, especially when compared to us.

    Now I don’t know if you read the counter augment to that, but apparently Spurs are more consistent than Arsenal this season because they are ‘consistently’ inconsistent.

    It was at that point I withdrew to a darkened room and started banging my head against the wall.

    People buy in to this crap and there’s nothing you, I,or anyone else can do about it.

  2. We were not as bad as the three losses in a row would suggest nor are we as good as two wins by two goal margins over ‘big’ clubs would suggest. In the former we hit the woodwork often and couldn’t quite put our chances on net. In these last two matches our adversaries also had chances that they didn’t convert…but these realities don’t sell newspapers…and then there is the PGMO.

    I almost think that they are purposely fouling up their decisions so that it will eventually be removed. The opaque nature of the decisions is enraging supporters everywhere. IMO, every decision should be defended with both a statement and video imaging.

  3. GoingGoingGooner

    “We were not as bad as the three losses in a row would suggest nor are we as good as two wins by two goal margins over ‘big’ clubs would suggest”.


    Whether we played great or not is irrelevant, nobody could of argued if we had got a draw against Palace, and Victories against Brighton and Southampton.

    I’m not trying to take anything away from good performances by our opponents, but statistics alone show we were at the very least unfortunate to get nothing from those games.

    Conversely, despite good battling performances, both the Chelsea and United games could easily of gone against us.

    Despite how well we played, or how poorly our opponent played, Luck and the PGMOB had, and will have, a massive say in matters right to the end of the season, which is what worries me more than our opponents actually.

  4. Cheslea-WestHam. 80 minutes played. Chelsea get foul nr 10 on the 82nd minute and finally they get a first yellow….
    Seriously ?

  5. Everton should of had a penalty. Everton player gets booked for diving and Klopp’s still moaning.

    There was clear contact on the replay. VAR ???

  6. Half time at Anfield. 0 – 0

    How is Mane still on the pitch?

    Shoves Everton player in the face. Attempts to poke Everton player in the eye.

    What do they make of it at Half time. Nothing. Even Campbell who’s in the Everton camp wants to move on. It’s e derby. It’s getting heated. So what. Lets just move on.

    Which is fine. I don’t care, IF that’s what they do with everyone. But they don’t. We all know what would of happened if it was us. We all know what an issue the pundits would of made of it. But this is Liverpool. Lets just move on. Nothing to see here.

    And can you believe they didn’t even look at the penalty call. It was the biggest event of the first half, a first half that has not seen a shot on target, and they don’t even mention it.

    Okay, if it was a dive why aren’t they having a pop at him for being a diving cheat ?

    If it was a penalty ?

    Jeeez, is it actually illegal to say anything bad about Liverpool ?

    Absolute joke.

  7. Everton should of had another penalty.

    Again, where is VAR ??

    Even Carragher has to admit Liverpool ‘got away with one’. ONE !!!!

    Now the cheats have scored.

    Money well spent it seems.

    We all know Liverpool are a great team but the ‘unique’ way they are refereed AND commentated on is beyond a joke.

  8. 8 fouls and 5 yeallow, I believe this even beats Arsenal in a ‘bad-referee-day’….
    Maybe even some sort of record going back decades ?

  9. Attwell was the ref. Oliver was at the Chelsea match.

    In the interest of consistency, I would hope that Liverpool will be charged with failure to control their players.

  10. The usual usual.

    ”Reality” and ”journalists” should always be placed in the ”and ” since the reader is owed the respect of considering ”what reality” and owed the respect of contemplating ”what are journalists.”

    When the NUJ’s own membership lists show that more than half of NUJ members work in Public Relations pushing some version of reality on behalf of someone who pays them to do precisely that, then the word ”journalist” cannot apply to them.

  11. It really is extraordinary how Mane and Fabinho get away with stuff time after time.
    Even Jack who regularly comes on here insisting that all teams are treated equally and show no bias would surely have to admit there is something fishy going on with the referees and Liverpool.

  12. Mikey

    “Eight fouls each. Liverpool one yellow, Everton five”

    And they got away with at least one sending of and two penalties, yet despite that, Klopp didn’t stop moaning in John Moss’s ear the entire match.


    “In the interest of consistency, I would hope that Liverpool will be charged with failure to control their players.”

    If only Liverpool had as much control over their players as they do the referees.

  13. And now our girls are being cheated.

    Should of had a penalty and just had a perfectly good goal chalked off for off-side. It wasn’t even close.

  14. @Mikey

    Can I use that quote on Twitter?


    The commentary on the Women’s game is appalling. I think Hinchcliffe is the co-commentator. He talks far too much, and what he says is invariably incorrect.

  15. Liverpool and Man U are the most protected clubs in this country. Premier league is distorted and un-transparent.

  16. seismic

    Of all the crap I’ve seen and heard today the most mind boggling is the fact that at half time during the Liverpool Everton match they never even looked at, or mentioned, let alone examined, the biggest incident in the entire half, namely the strong Everton penalty claim that saw the Everton player booked for diving.

    Either it was shameful cheating on behalf of the Everton forward, or a bad decision from the ref that went un-corrected by VAR.

    To not even look at it suggests a calculated editorial decision to: Not cast the Everton player in a bad light (English?)? Not to highlight Liverpool getting away with one? Not to highlight the incompetence of the referee and or VAR?

    Can you imagine it being ignored if an Arsenal player had dived?

    Can you imaging it being ignored if Arsenal had ‘got away with one’?

    No chance. Which leaves one question. Why was it ?

  17. Everton 0 – 2 Arsenal

    That could of evened up the off sides. Tight but I think it was off.

  18. Muns

    Personally I don’t think United get the favours they did back in the day. We would never of got the benefit of any doubt with those VAR calls yesterday if Fergie was in charge.

    I don’t think it’s any coincidence that now they are no longer the top media darlings they once were, they no longer get the favours they once did. Guess who does? Yep, the medias new top darlings of course. Liverpool.

  19. Everton 0 – 3 Arsenal

    What a great goal from Meade meaning she reaches the 50 goal milestone. Congratulations.

  20. Apparently Paul Scholes ‘hit out’ and labelled Arteta a ‘disgrace’ after Arsenal’s 3-1 win over United on Saturday. I guess we can only assume that the ginger hatchet man who often was excused as being ‘not that kind of player’ after usually trying to remove someone’s cruciate ligament with his studs was suitably outraged by the unacceptable behaviour of the Arsenal manager?

    Do I care? Not really, but if it upset him then that has to be a good thing.

  21. I always thought that Scholars was allowed to foul with impunity, backed by the media narrative that “tackling was never his strong point”.

    Linked to this was the widely promoted view that he was an outstanding talent.- the complete midfield player who could do everything. I never accepted this. I felt he was vastly over-rated, just another limited player who had to be dirty to be effective, like his team-mates the Nevilles.

  22. @ seismic

    It might be a bit late now, but feel free….and thanks for correcting me on the referee’s name!

  23. here is the piece about Scholes…


    I mean, words fail me….fracking disgrace…then again, he only played with Fergusson, who as everybody in the galaxy knows never ever did anything that would influence a referee and to thank him and his so fair way of dealing with them created Fergie time to reward him, as well as instructing most referees to apply a specific set of rules to any Manure game. Or am I confusing persons and facts here ?

    Guess that as kids say : it’s he who says who is…

  24. Scholes is upset.

    What wonderful news to wake up to on a Monday morning. That’s cheered me right up.

  25. You after ask yourself why Scholes doesn’t switch his brain cell on before he speaks.

    It took about 5 minutes to find this little lot. I suspect there may be more:

    Manchester Evening News 14:32, 10 DEC 2007

    Fergie admits FA charge

    MANCHESTER United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted a Football Association charge of using abusive and/or insulting words to a match official. Ferguson was charged after confronting referee Mark Clattenburg at half-time of United’s game at Bolton on November 24.


    Matt Lawton for the Daily Mail UPDATED: 10:18, 17 January 2011

    “He’s at it again! Fergie hits out at ref Dean over Rafael sending off in Spurs stalemate”


    SKY NEWS Thursday 27 December 2012 14:05, UK

    Ref Row: No Action Against Fergie

    “Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will not face any punishment for confronting referee Mike Dean at Old Trafford against Newcastle”.

    Scholes has just made himself look a complete and utter tool….again.

  26. @ Nitram, Seismic et al. Ref FC Liverpool: 46 is the number of games in Premiership that PGMOb did NOT give a single penalty against Liverpool … the whole season is 38 games! The record and still going strong. What? With their number of fouls, sleeve pulling, etc. Costs a lot of money, but no evidence (;-) !

  27. @ Nitram, Seismic et al. Ref FC Liverpool: 46 is the number of games in Premiership that PGMOb did NOT give a single penalty against Liverpool … the whole season is 38 games! The record and still going strong. What? With their number of fouls, sleeve pulling, etc. Costs a lot of money, but … no evidence (;-) !

  28. @Nekuhan

    Very suspicious.

    I note that Man. City have only had 2 penalties against them this season. That is also suspicious, given the fact that the penalty awarded to Man. City in the match against Watford was IDENTICAL to the penalty that should have been awarded To Arsenal vs. Man City.

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