Football journalists getting desperate in their attempt to hide facts


By Tony Attwood

I have been arguing for quite a long time that the way football is reported throughout the media is highly misleading, omitting certain facts (such as referee bias), failing to investigate certain oddities (such as the way Leicester could commit many more tackles than other clubs but get far fewer fouls against them), why Arsenal get such a small array of referees handling their games.  At the same time the media has completely failed to investigate some interesting facts (such as the way in which for one third of a season Arsenal could play as a club facing relegation and then for the remaining two thirds be the second-best club in the league) and the other topics people won’t talk about in the media.

Now one might hope the media might see the error of their ways, but instead the reverse is happening as we seem to be venturing into new territory with the piece “Don’t mistake a three-way title race for a competitive Premier League in the Guardian.

Within this piece the point is made that “Increasingly, the league has been dominated by whichever teams finish first and second, with the Manchester clubs and Liverpool taking those top two spots over the last five seasons.

“This season offers the possibility of the duopoly at the summit of English football being disrupted, with three contenders for the title… (but) having a trio of realistic challengers has become a rarity.”

Now the basic facts are correct, but what is missing is another fact that would disrupt the essence of the whole article.  So rather than consider it, the article simply ignores it, with the author and editor trusting that the paper’s football readership is either so sleepy or so lacking in any sense of enquiry generally, that they won’t notice.

For what is missing in the piece is that despite the financial dominance of Manchester City it is possible for a club to transform itself very quickly when it gets the approach right, using a combination of transfer purchases and tactical changes.

This is an incredibly simple concept that can be understood both by considering Arsenal’s league performance over six years and looking at how far Arsenal fell before rising to the top. And then of course having reported that, such a mythical article could ask simply how the club did it.

From 2016-17 to 2020-21 Arsenal came 5th, 6th, 5th, 8th and 8th.   Now they are challenging for the title, sitting at the top of the league – and that in a league dominated by Manchester City who have more wealth that any club has ever imagined in the past.

Or they could look at why Liverpool has collapsed so fast.  From 2018/19 to 2021/22 its finishing positions were 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 2nd.  And now…

Or indeed one might look at Chelsea who went from league winners in 2014/15 to 10th in 2015/16 to league winners in 2016/17.  Or more recently how, after four seasons of coming third and fourth, they are currently 10th.

Of course part of this utterly misleading approach in an article must be due to the ongoing attempt of all the media to cover up its en-masse failure to predict what would happen this season.  They all tried, and they universally came up with Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur as their one-to-four in this season’s table.  Only 50% of those teams now have any chance of making the top four, and I’m not too sure Tottenham will oblige.  So yes, their accuracy level could be down to 25% – not in terms of exact positions, but simply in terms of who will make the top four.

The fact is it that given the impact of money on football it shouldn’t be that hard, (at least according to the pundits), to predict the top four – and yet they seem to be getting it very wrong!  How can these people who are paid to comment on football, be so stupid?

The answer is that we reported (where no one else did) how Arsenal cut their yellow card total in half, in one season, and thus wrestled control over the club’s performances from PGMO back to the players.   That single tactic made a significant difference to Arsenal, but I’ve never seen an article even mention that decline in cards, let alone as how Arsenal managed it – and indeed why it was so important.

The only conclusion we can reach is that stories based on evidence are not wanted.  Instead pure opinion is all that is offered, and undoubtedly that is what will continue to happen as football transforms itself in a way that journalists either cannot understand or do not want to report.   And whichever is true (that they “cannot understand” or “do not want to report”) the result is pretty unedifying as we see from the “Don’t mistake a three-way title race for a competitive Premier League in the Guardian. 

That headline should read, “Don’t mistake any of this as being opinion dressed up as a report.”

19 Replies to “Football journalists getting desperate in their attempt to hide facts”

  1. Why the fuck would Arsenal’s decrease in yellow cards be of national interest when a three-way title challenge is on? In fact, why would Arsenal’s decrease in yellow cards be of interest per se? Can you just imagine the headline “Arsenal halve their yellow cards, Premier League title to follow”?
    The fact that you yourself never made it as a journalist is so obvious in your bitterness about the UK’s media.

  2. Silent Stan that comment of yours raises an interesting issue. My point is that the media through multiple outlets is running an approach to football which has the same underlying message every day. And yet you say of Untold “you’re getting very repetitive”. I do admit that the message that football journalists are putting forth a false narrative about football is a theme that Untold often touches upon – although almost all of the time by citing new examples – but how else can one offer up the notion that the media is putting out a false narrative day after day through multiple articles?

  3. I actually attempted to answer this very question only the other day in your OPTA article about how ‘supercomputers’ get it wrong. I have reposted it bellow.

    As siesmic pointed out in response to my post, computers are only as good as the information you put in. His exact words were ‘Garbage in Garbage out’, and that is their problem. and that is way they simply churn out the notion that by and large, what happened last year is what will happen this year. As we all know these people just do not do in depth analysis, for reasons I attempt to outline bellow:

    Nitram says:
    20 February 2023 at 11:22 AM

    First thing I would ask is, is the OPTA supercomputer prediction the same one picked up and published by all the main stream media at the beggining of the season, as was published in the SUN? I hope so as I’m going to use the one I found from the Sun for my comparisons.

    If so, by and large I understand it, at at least most of it.

    Again, as we all know, all computers do as analyse raw data. They don’t do emotion, conjecture, or subjectivity. It’s all about the raw data. And what is their primary source of raw data? Last seasons table. How the teams performed last season. And that’s it basically.

    As such it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that the ‘supercomputers’ prediction for 2022/23 is very similar to the way they finished last season. In fact the top 6 is the exact same 6 teams in the exact same order. Not original but it’s how computers work. Essentially what happened last time is likely to be what happens this time.

    That’s how computers work.

    The relegation prediction is also a simple assumption based on past seasons, namely those that come up tend to struggle, hence a rudimentary prediction of relegation for all. Lets be honest, without any previous form against the rest of the teams to judge them on it’s a fair assumption. In fact, as far as a data driven computer analysis it’s a prediction it is bound to make.

    And just look at this for more proof of this season to season transposition that the computer cant avoid doing for positions 15, 16 and 17.

    Last season it finished thus:

    15th Southampton
    16th Everton
    17th Leeds

    Computer prediction:

    15th Everton
    16th Leeds
    17th Southampton

    Current positions:

    16th Everton
    19th Leeds
    20th Southampton

    That’s pretty accurate in all honesty. All that’s happened is that the promoted teams are doing better than expected, but what was expected was what most people, let alone computers, would expect.

    The question is really, should computers be better than that?

    For example, should the computer of seen the massive improvement in Arsenals form over the second two thirds of the season?

    Should it of taken into account the injuries and COVID issues that contributed to our poor start to the season?

    The bedding in of new players?

    The injuries that contributed to our poor run in?

    Does it consider how dependent Liverpool are on Van Dyke and what may happen if he gets injured?

    Should a computer be able to use all these nuances that we know about? Nuances we know about because it’s OUR club?

    I’m not sure.

    All a computer does is look at the raw data from last season, basically the final table, and predict how it’s going to finish this season. No more, no less.

    Which is why it’s a load of b****cks


    Or as siesmic says, garbage in garbage out.

    But this is nub of your question Tony, should these ‘outlets’ be able to see what we can see?

    I’m being honest here when I say, I’m not really sure. Yes, as you suggest, and I agree, they should of seen the massive amount of indicators that pointed at the possibility at least, that Arsenal were at least looking good for a top 4finish.All the indicators were there if you WANTED to see them. You saw them. I saw them.

    But here in lies the problem. Did they WANT to see them?

    All these people are interested in is selling, papers or whatever, and knocking Arsenal sells. Who was going to break ranks and start saying, hey you’re wrong. Arsenal aren’t actually as crap as you are making out?

    My point is, it’s not necessarily incompetence that leads them into these fantasy Worlds but a desire to maintain the fantasies?

    Ignore the fact Arsenal went 10 years on a net zero transfer budget.

    Ignore Fergie time, or at least laugh at it, as it all helped United.

    Ignore the fact Liverpool didn’t win a title for 30 years then make like they’d never been away when they win one.

    Ignore the financial doping at Chelsea and City because it filled the trough they had their snouts in, and as a bonus knocked Arsenal off there little perch.

    Ignore the fact Spurs have won just 2 league cups in 30 years simply in order to perpetuate the myth that they are actually a bigger club than Arsenal.

    There are many many more.

    My point is, you have to decide, is it really ‘ignorance’ behind this, or simply an endless list of media agendas put in place to maintain, in print if not in actuality, the hierarchy that they wish to maintain.

    In answer to the question. If you have an agenda, and the media has many, facts often as not just get in the way. The best way to deal with a fact that doesn’t suit your agenda is to ignore it, or indeed if you can, hide it.

  4. Self Righteous, it is a very common approach to try to deny the validity of an argument by suggesting that the person putting forward the argument is “bitter” – but in fact the motivation of the person putting forward the argument is irrelevant in terms of the validity of the argument.
    It is also often argued, as you suggest, that no one is interested. That of course may be the case, although we still do get quite a decent number of readers. But I’ve never been so foolish as to think that Untold on its own would change the minds of people who find the topic of no interest.
    All that Untold does is offer an alternative view of the football world, and in particular that of Arsenal, to those who wish to read.
    But it has been interesting how often we get comments from people arguing that the points we make should not be made.
    The fact is that you, and indeed anyone else like you, doesn’t have to read the site. Indeed given that you appear to think that all my writing is very poor, that in itself raises a very interesting question:
    Why are you spending your time reading a website that you know from past experience is so uninteresting? I mean, surely you must have something better to do, given how poor you think everything here is.
    You reading Untold, would be rather like me reading The Watchtower. I have read it a couple of times just to understand the arguments, but now I have understood, there’s no point in my reading further, since I know I disagree with them in every regard.
    So why do you read. And indeed why do you comment. Come to that why do you regularly change your account details?

  5. The media’s predictions at the start of seasons are pure tautology
    The strong are strong because they’re strong and this why they’ll end up ahead of the weak who’re weak because they’re weak … 
    Of course, they’re Mammon worshippers too, and predicting anything but the triumph of big money is anathema to them.
    As for the Guardian so-called football experts, what was interesting this time, is that not only did they choose to rule Arsenal out of the title race, which certainly came as no surprise, but that they also failed to see that … ManUtd had, for the first time in a long, long time, made the right choice.
    How can these Manchester “journalists” have ignored the tremendous job ten Hag had been doing at Ajax for years, is something I just can’t get my head around. They just had to … watch games of football, which is supposed to be their job,isn’t it? If they had done so, they could have anticipated both Garnacho’s promotion, Rashford’s blooming, and the overall coherence of what the Dutch technician is doing, his … vision, just as Mikel Arteta has one.
    How telling was this “Scott Murray”‘s reaction, right after Manchester Cheating defeated us:
    “now the champions, eight points adrift of the Gunners not so long ago, are top and odds-on to retain their title. Manchester United will finish second, too, we’re with Gary Neville on this one”.
    One defeat, still top of the table, but we were buried alive, just as the Bride in Tarantino’s “Kill Bill”.
    On the other hand, and since you mentioned our tactical changes, not a word (to my limited knowledge) has been written so far to start studying what MA has been asking Zinchenko to do, shifting to midfielder as soon as we gain possession, and as a consequence pushing Granit upfront, to great success (which, btw, is evidence of the vision in recruitment, too).
    You have to wonder whether bias, incompetence, lack of interest in football, aren’t the actual requirements for becoming a member of the Guardian’s football staff …

  6. On the other hand, if Gary Neville says it, it must be right. He was, after all, a successful manager, as well as being a pundit.

  7. Le Gall.The entry requirements for becoming a Guardian football writer are indeed all of the ones you mention.But the ultimate requirement is of course to be a supporter/ fan. Of Manure.Without this you have zero chance as a scribbler in their sports section.It’s why on principle I do not read the rag( amongst other things) but 5hats another story.They hate Arsenal by the way.Any praise his backhanded compliment through gritted teeth.

  8. John L.He is known in my circles as ‘ Smug’ Gary.It ooozes out of him.Particularly when there’s a perceived Arsenal problem he can get into.

  9. The supporters of other clubs and readers that comment just to complain about posts here should go to the archives over the last many years and read the posts on the anti-Arsenal bias in the media before they comment. My guess is they won’t as they are as lazy as the so called journalists and as uninterested in fact.

  10. This from the Express

    “Mykhaylo Mudryk ‘unhappy’ at Chelsea already as club chief offers exit route”

    “The winger is yet to impress since his big-money move to Stamford Bridge in January after the Blues beat London rivals Arsenal to his signature”

    “However, things have not gone how Mudryk would have hoped since his arrival with the 22-year-old failing to produce a goal or an assist in any of his first four matches. He is yet to become a guaranteed first-team starter too despite Graham Potter’s side struggling for any kind of consistency or form”

    So he’s unhappy and yet to impress. Hasn’t provided an assist or score a goal.

    “Arsenal had spent much of the first half of the transfer window in negotiations for his signature but their slow process left the door ajar allowing the Blues to sweep in and complete a deal”.

    You’d of thought a bit of praise was coming our way for refusing to be taken for a ride, but no. And not a word of criticism for Chelsea paying over the odds and offering a ridiculous 10 year contract. Nope all we get is the dig that we were ‘Too Slow’!

    Too smart to be mugged off more like.

  11. Quite frankly I can’t see why a player should be worth more than an entire football team. Anything more than 50 million for a player is rank speculation as to whether you’ll recover your money.

    Incidentally, regarding those cuties that are presenting their white paper to parliament, have any of them thought of investigating football corruption and shady refs while they are hand-wringing about bid money takeovers of the sport? Asking for a friend.

  12. How bad is English Punditry when most of the pundits are all failed ex-managers ?

  13. My next query is open to all .

    Who is the best English referee at present ?

    Next question : Has the PIGMOB revised their percentage of getting it all right ?
    It previously used to be 98% , if my memory serves me .
    Has that SNAFU by Mason changed anything ?

  14. It would not be a surprise if it was 102%.

    Mason has gone, but the others are still there and still the same.

  15. Wasn’t there an article on here about 10 years ago (part of the 160 game series, possibly), where a PGMOB referee was adjudged to have got 38% of the important decisions correct in one of the Arsenal games he refereed? I think it was Mason, but it might have been another member of the Manchester cartel.

    It raises the serious possibility of using a coin-toss to determine the outcome of incidents on the pitch, with great confidence of an improvement in results.

  16. Before the draw for the Europa League many sources were “simulating” the draw, some of them with the aid of supercomputers.

    Headlines such as these were appearing – “We simulated the Europa League draw – Arsenal will be having nightmares”

    To save you lots of hassle, I looked at all of these articles that I could find (I think it was 5), and guess what? None of them correctly named Arsenal’s opponents.

    You actually don’t need a supercomputer (or any kind of computer) to simulate a draw.

    Here is my easy guide – you will need to prepare a few items in order for this to run smoothly.

    1. A piece of paper – A4 size should be ok
    2. A pair of scissors
    3. A pen
    4. A shredder
    5. Another person, preferably with nothing better to do, and who can be relied upon to be impartial

    Using the scissors, cut the paper into 16 equally-sized pieces.

    Write the name of one team on each piece of paper. Ensure that each piece of paper has a different team written on it and (this is the important bit), all teams must be participating in the Round of 16 in the Europa League for the season 2022-2023.

    Turn on the shredder.

    Have the person specified in point 5 above put all 16 pieces of paper in the shredder as quickly as possible, taking care not to trap parts of their body in the device.

    Job done. Go to the pub.

    After all, why would anyone even want to simulate a random event? The money saved on renting CPU cycles on the supercomputer would pay for quite a few large rounds of drinks.

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