Media changing its tune over Arsenal?



No club ended the season in the place it occupied after three games.

by Tony Attwood

As we know, at the heart of football journalism is the media’s vision of fans as people with very little brain.   So little brain that the media assumes that most fans are willing to put the fact that 97% or 98% of the transfers their club has been trying to achieve won’t happen, down to their club being the most incompetent of all clubs rather than the media having made the whole thing up.   

Which leads to the sub plot.  Arsenal screw up 98% of the time while every other club gets exactly who they are after.

That’s how it goes.  And in fact, it does go that way so much (at least in the minds of football journalists if not in reality) that suddenly coming across the notion that the signing of Gabriel Jesus (described in the Guardian as “a versatile forward who… would be a fine addition to this youthful, free-flowing Arsenal attack,” is something of a shock.

“Youthful, free-flowing Arsenal attack”???????????????????

Indeed I can’t recall any journalist calling Arsenal’s attack “youthful” and “free-flowing,” since the Telegraph in 2006.  But there is a point here.  Because although 99% of football journalism consists of nothing other than fairy tales, it can all change in a trice.  The club that was hopeless last week is blowing the opposition away this week.

Although I suppose given that we scored more goals than West Ham in the league last season, (and given that WHU are always “free flowing”) maybe that is what they have to call us.

In terms of journalistic short-termism, I am indeed reminded of what we saw that last season when after three games Arsenal were at the foot of the table.  A totally excusable situation as it turned out because of illness and the nature of the fixtures, and the fact that we were still in the process of buying and then integrating a completely new defence.

But it is interesting to go back and look at that infamous table (even if we don’t go back to the infamous commentaries of the day from the journalists) and consider where clubs ended up – here shown in the “Final” column

Pos Team Final P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Tottenham Hotspur 4 3 3 0 0 3 0 3 9
2 West Ham United 7 3 2 1 0 10 5 5 7
3 Manchester United 6 3 2 1 0 7 2 5 7
4 Chelsea 3 3 2 1 0 6 1 5 7
5 Liverpool 2 3 2 1 0 6 1 5 7
6 Everton 16 3 2 1 0 7 3 4 7
7 Manchester City 1 3 2 0 1 10 1 9 6
8 Brighton and Hove Albion 9 3 2 0 1 4 3 1 6
9 Leicester City 8 3 2 0 1 4 5 -1 6
10 Brentford 13 3 1 2 0 3 1 2 5
11 Aston Villa 14 3 1 1 1 5 4 1 4
12 Watford 19 3 1 0 2 3 5 -2 3
13 Southampton 15 3 0 2 1 4 6 -2 2
14 Crystal Palace 12 3 0 2 1 2 5 -3 2
15 Leeds United 17 3 0 2 1 4 8 -4 2
16 Burnley 18 3 0 1 2 2 5 -3 1
17 Newcastle United 11 3 0 1 2 4 8 -4 1
18 Wolverhampton Wanderers 10 3 0 0 3 0 3 -3 0
19 Norwich City 20 3 0 0 3 1 10 -9 0
20 Arsenal 5 3 0 0 3 0 9 -9 0

Arsenal’s 15 place change from its position having played three to the end of the season was the biggest change of any club this last season, but not the only major transformation.  Everton went down 10 places while Newcastle United and Manchester City each went up six.

So there can be changes, and in fact not a single club retained the position it was in after three games, by the time the season came to an end.

In fact even after ten games last season, the league table didn’t really have a complete resemblance to the way it looked at the end of the season, for there was talk at that time of Manchester City losing its grip on the top spot (they were five points behind the leaders), of West Ham finally making a break into the top four (they were indeed fourth) and Tottenham slipping up (they were ninth).

Thus it does seem that measuring the league table after just a small number of games, as most of the media did along with the Anti-Arsenal Arsenal fan base, can lead to conclusions which might not be very helpful.  Or accurate.

In fact Arsenal were in the process of replacing the whole defence at the time, while players such as Saka who we now consider irreplaceable, was at that moment a long way short of the standard we saw later in the season, and was substituted at half time.

Arsenal went unbeaten in their next ten games (eight wins and two draws, including two league cup matches) – and it is rather frightening to imagine what might have happened to the club if, in fact, Arteta had been sacked after the three league defeats and one league cup victory, as so many demanded.

Obviously, because nothing has changed in the media, if Arsenal were to have another bad start to the season, the knives would be out once again, and once again it would be a ludicrous reaction. 

But one thing is certain.  For as the predictions of players that Arsenal are going to sign show, the media never, ever learns from its past errors.

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