By Tony Attwood
My own view, based on two strands of clear evidence and then extrapolating the likely effect it that yes, the media does have an effect on Arsenal’s results. I’ll try and explain how.
First, we know that different referees have different levels of bias toward the home teams and against away teams. The article “Just how much are Premier League referees biased in favour of home teams?” looked at the results for this season.
Second, we know from the coverage we have given the topic, Arsenal get a huge amount of negative cover from the media, particularly with stories of the failure of Arsenal administration dithering and failing to secure players on long term contracts.
Third the media regularly suggests that Arsenal are trying to buy around 130 players that they end up not getting (we already have 81 players arriving, 27 leaving this summer). The implication is always that other clubs get who they want; Arsenal don’t.
At the same time, the story is put out that Arsenal lacks ambition – and with the story from Football.London this morning that reads, Mikel Arteta’s dream Arsenal starting line-up if Edu secures Youri Tielemans transfer
This story suggests Arsenal will make only one change to the lineup for next season, and that won’t be from the signing of a new centre forward – which is what the media have been telling us is utterly essential if the club is to progress.
The prediction from Reach plc (a newspaper group that says, “We are champions, campaigners and changemakers”) is that next season’s line up will be
Thomas Partey, Youri Tielemans Bukayo Saka
Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe
As you can see there is no new centre forward and in fact only one new player – Tielemans.
So constantly fan disgruntlement is enhanced on two fronts. One by suggesting Arsenal are going to buy five new players, and then by suggesting only one will be forthcoming.
This is most certainly likely to lead to some blogs and the newspaper outlets starting complaining before the season began and one early defeat could turn them very much against the team.
Which brings us back to referees. We know from the significant academic research reported here that most PGMO referees are biased by the noise the home supporters make and as a result their matches produce many more home wins than away aways. Only a handful of referees resist the pressure of the home fans.
But if Arsenal fans turn on their team, Arsenal won’t get that bias in their favour at home, and so will suffer. But because that research about referee bias is never reported in the mass media, the media will blame the club, when in fact the real reason comes from the fact that fans at the Emirates are not putting the pressure on the referee that happens at other stadia.
Given the facts that we have repeatedly covered here showing referee bias due to home crowd noise, a media set-up which leads fans to feel disgruntled by the lack of transfer activity effectively reduces the referee home bias and delivers draws and away wins.
I am not saying the media is deliberately anti-Arsenal. They might be, but that’s not the key issue. The issue is that if the media lead fans to believe that the way to progress is through multiple transfers, and Arsenal don’t make multiple transfers, some fans will turn on the club at the first sign of defeat. That will reduce the impact of the crowd, and it is the crowd that for many referees is a key factor in how decisions are given.
Put briefly, Arsenal need unstinting home support, but the media is set up to portray Arsenal as a club that dithers and is ineffective in the transfer market. Thus at the first sign of a poor start to the season the fans will turn. This will remove the pressure on referees, and they will stop giving us the home bias that they give other clubs. As a result, we slip down the league.
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