The real live facts that the media won’t ever touch (part 2)



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.




5 Replies to “The real live facts that the media won’t ever touch (part 2)”

  1. More importantly.Who’s the msn in black for the visit to Goodison.That’s what concerns me.Another stitch up job from the PGMOL?lets see.

  2. It is strange that apart from expected goals that no one in football talks about any other advanced statistics. I suspect that this is because of the way the league is set up. North American leagues are closed shops and are operated as not-for-profit entities. The league benefits all the clubs equally and they have an equalization draft (lowest team from the previous year has first pick from available talent). The leagues have comprehensive statistics departments both for their play but also for potential talent, too. These are pubilicly available.

    We know that Arsenal has a large statistics department (we remember the business with StatDNA) and it would be loony to think that the other clubs (at least the biggish ones) do not possess the same thing. I reckon that the clubs hold all this data extremely close to their vests so as to get one up on their competitors not just in England but across Europe. The media does not have access to this data unlike North America and so pontificate from their low brow pulpits ad nauseum.

  3. David Coote will be the referee (yes, really). John Brooks will be VAR. This is not looking good. Coote was the referee in the Brighton-Liverpool match at the weekend, and that went well.

  4. It has broadly been agreed that the Fabinho foul was a straight red. The VAR man is rightly getting stick, but the referee less so. Why? It was a red card in real time all day long. As was another challenge later on that only received a yellow.

    He also wrongly called another possible red when a Brighton player was clear and fould by the last man. He gave the free kick the other way.

    Three terrible decisions yet nothing.

    All we get is Howard Webb saying ‘there has to be more transparency’. What?

    Surely he means there has to be BETTER refereeing. Better use of VAR. Again just fudging the issue. If he meant business Coote and the VAR operator would immediately of been stood down for gross incompetence.

    But no. We have the pleasure of Cootes company on Saturday. No repocusions then for a diabolical performance.

    So now we have referee operating under extreme duress. I cant see Xhaka getting away with breathing on anybody to be honest.

    And a manager that following varies comments over the years clearly has very little time for Arsenal, or in fact anything to do with ‘football’ in the real sense of the word.

    This is not going to end well.

  5. Coote was the referee when we played Oxford in the FA Cup. He allowed Oxford’s fouls to go unpunished until Ciaron Brown fouled Bukayo Saka and a yellow card followed.

    After the match, we were charged by the FA after 4 Arsenal players asked the referee for a penalty, despite the fact that other teams go unpunished when 7 of their players do the same.

    Finally, there was the issue of “suspicious betting patterns” relating to the yellow card.

    What’s not to like?

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