By Sir Hardly Anyone
One of the great problems that Arsenal face year by year is that much of the commentary made about the club is simply not related to reality.
Take this line from one of the more infamous daily commentators of Arsenal affairs.
Inescapable Kieran Tierney reality explains Mikel Arteta’s latest transfer decision
“The Scottish left-back is so often ruled out of action on injury grounds which could hasten his eventual Arsenal exit with a replacement already lined up in Lisandro Martinez”.
In fact, last season Tierney started 22 games – just two behind Partey. He was indeed the eighth most regular starter in the Arsenal first team in league games, playing nearly 2000 minutes through the season.
I suppose one reason why Tierney might stand out at Arsenal is because last season Arsenal had comparatively few injuries. If we count the total number of days on which individual players were unavailable last season it comes to 520 – which is actually the lowest number in the league for all clubs apart from Crystal Palace. At the top was Leeds United with 1284 days lost – which is perhaps explained in part by the way they played last season.
Indeed while Arsenal got 520 injury days we might note that Manchester City got 707, Tottenham Hotspur 756, Chelsea 837, and Liverpool 990. So in comparison with our rivals at the top of the league, we did quite well on the recovery front.
As for individual players, in terms of the number of first team players injured last season we had 16 injuries. Only Wolverhampton with 14 and Palace with 10 had fewer.
But the story cited above (from the Mirror) is typical of the sort of stories that appear constantly about Arsenal – stories which cite no evidence at all for the comments made, but which then base a hypothesis on the false reality they create.
However there is often worse to come because having started a fantasy story such as this, other media can well pick it up, and then treat it as reality. So the story becomes established: Arsenal get lots of injuries, whereas in fact, the opposite is true.
What makes the headline above worse is the use of the word “Inescapable”, implying that the story is not only true, but also self-evident.
This approach then gives the media the chance to re-use the story every time there is an Arsenal injury, irrespective of the fact that Arsenal last season got far fewer injuries than most other clubs.
Of course, the question that then remains is why the media do this.
One answer to that is that making up stories is quick, simple and cheap. No research is needed (by definition) and if the writer has a good imagination it can almost look like a scoop, if need be. Then when there is another need for an anti-Arsenal story, the piece can be picked up and run again, and treated as the truth, because it has been reported before.
This in turn makes it look as if the writers in the publication (in this case the Mirror) know far more about football than the staff of Arsenal. This stirs up unrest, and leads to another story about how Arsenal fans are angry at the way the club is being run. The media in fact create a whole series of stories without having to do any research at all.
Indeed this point about the fans anger can quite often become true, but it is only true because some fans have been misled by the wholly untrue story in the media in the first place.
However, it is interesting that the Mirror started running an Arsenal injury story just a short while after we ran the statistics showing how few injuries Arsenal got last season. But I am sure there is no connection.