Previously: Why, with football, it is important to ask what is not being reported (part 1)
Part of the problem with football reporting is that opinion dominates facts because facts are considered to be few and easily obtained.
Football facts are things like the scores and the players. Football opinion relates to why this team is doing well or more generally not doing well. And the implication behind this is that if only the journalists or the ex-players they interview were in control, everything would be fine because these players know, and the solution is obvious. Those players that keep slipping through the clubs fingers would be signed, the rubbish players would be moved on quickly…
Quite how they would achieve all this is not actually explained. Nor is the fact that if they had such skills they would surely be in the employment of one of these useless clubs, rather than chattering on Radio 5 or Talk Sport, but that’s what they do – at least until even the radio station seems to think they’ve gone too far.
But writing about mythical transfers and about how the club is getting it wrong is what the journalists do, largely because it doesn’t cost a penny in research. One doesn’t even have to leave home. Indeed even the fact that only two or three percent of the transfer rumours published before and during each window actually happens doesn’t deter these people or their employers. Presumably, they blame the clubs for not being fast enough, and not seeing what is obvious to everyone else.
So the situation is perpetuated – and in a sense this would be utterly laughable if it were not for the fact that as a result of this unity of approach other topics tend to be ignored.
There was for example our research into the relationship between tackles, fouls and yellow cards. One of the early versions was “How can a club commit the most fouls but get the fewest yellow cards.”
What we found over time is that clubs that commit the most fouls are generally able to commit more fouls before they get a yellow card, than clubs that commit fewer fouls.
There was also the strange case of Leicester City’s figures which were very odd – they tackled more than almost anyone else, but got called out for fewer fouls and cards against them, than other teams. We published a lot of data on that, and maybe PGMO saw what we were doing as the following week the number of fouls suddenly started to rise after our report. It was very strange but no one else seemed to notice.
There was another oddity in which in 2019/20 Arsenal were right at the top of the yellow card league. The following season they cut the number of cards almost in half, but no commentator I saw or heard mentioned this. Then after one third of the next season Arsenal were 15th. But then for the last two thirds of the season, Arsenal were the second most effective team in the league. That surely was worth a comment.
But no website or newspaper or radio station that I came across reported this (other than Untold). Everyone focussed on Arsenal finishing eighth, rather than the radical change that occurred.
The following season, 2021/2, Arsenal opened with three defeats in the league, which everyone writing or talking about football seemed to cover along with calls for Arteta’s sacking. But the last two-thirds of the previous season had been excellent (although unreported). This time a league table of the remaining 35 games of the season would have Arsenal in third. But because no one reported that previous upturn, no one thought Arsenal would make it to the top four for 2022/3.
Yet these stories about Leicester’s tackling, Arsenal’s yellow cards, the reduction of Arsenal’s tackling, Arsenal’s improvement after the first three games last season, were all backed up by indisputable evidence – and yet the media still won’t touch it.
And all that is before we come to the issue of referees and venue bias where the evidence comes from independent sources – another story that the media won’t touch. We’ll come to that next time.
And if there is space, the extraordinary story of how Untold Arsenal tipped off Fifa and the media about a change in Swiss law that would lead to mass arrests, and how no one took any notice – even when the mass arrests happened.
Next: the strange case of referee home bias.
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton: their problems with fouls and cards, and the team
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton: the club that gets cards at over twice the rate of Arsenal
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers: where will each team finish?
- Arsenal v Lens: what we found, what we felt, what they did
- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences