Something that always makes me wonder about the state of the wider footballing press in England, is the sheer degree of arrogance that curtails every piece that is written, and the sheer amount of glee they get, from the responses from fans, they write clickbait, at a reasonably decent level, with constant criticism, and are taught to overcome it. After all, all they’re doing is writing their opinions, and that’s what they’re paid for, often told to write in a certain way or a style, or cover a story they don’t want, to pay bills or to get ahead or stay on top. The reasons to write things, or cover things in a way, is not to educate, or to help a progression, it is to keep people engaged, at any level possible.
One interesting part of the post-match comments from Arsene Wenger, was pertaining to opinions.
AW: “Yeah of course it's all opinions, if you are on one side it's opinions, if you are on the other side it's opinions. But if the opinions all go the same way it's coincidence. Statistically it's built on the fact that when it's repeated it's not coincidence.”
It is no secret, that I am a huge fan of Arsenal, and a huge fan of Arsene, and every so often, I too sneer when thinking about comments regarding the level of corruption or incompetence in football. More so because I believe that this should not be an excuse for our team not to play well, or for our players to not do as they’re told, or for Arsene not to conduct business effectively.
It is not so much, that I believe that the referees are against Arsenal, more so, that I believe that they believe in the myths and procedures of the press and it works with them as they referee our games and this in turn, works against a club that plays in the style that ours does. There is only so much you can take as a coach, and as a fan, when you watch your team having to overcome more than the usual, we have our fair share of the issues, and these issues get exacerbated when flawed decisions play key roles in changing the outlook of the game.
They are all interconnected, if we scored from a *better luck of the green*, from penalties at City, West Brom, Watford and Stoke and Chelsea, we could be better off by almost 12 points, feeling more confident in our game and keep pushing for more. We’ve hit the bar more than any other team this season, we’ve conceded more penalties, or perhaps I should write that we have had penalties given against us, than any other side since 2016. Perhaps I would not write this, were we at City’s level, with their league position, financial powerhouse, and tactics figured out. But they’ve suffered heavily from it too.
We are not alone in this, if I spoke to more fans, it could be that 4-5 teams feel similarly, but are quiet about this because of their league position/expectation, but this goes back to what Arsene said about opinion. I feel he has a huge point when it comes to concentrated opinion that all goes one way and not the other. Taking last night’s game, if it was a penalty on Hazard, then it is a penalty on Maitland-Niles, furthermore, 10 more penalties a game during corners and more fouls on the pitch.
The referees are right to face criticism, but the wider public may have to come to terms with the idea that they are human and flawed as such. They do not deserve abuse, and I am a hypocrite to even write that, but the reality to me is that they need to be protected with a higher level of education, technology, and the personality in which they officiate with.
Perhaps I am more emotionally tuned towards the idea that referees are corrupt, but more emotionally than financially. Every time they face us, they are ridden with ideas of how we play, how we are fancy, don’t like it up em’, don’t like tackles, don’t like criticism, Arsene Wenger this, or Arsene Wenger that. The reality is, they consume this heavily and when they make a horrible mistake, they are affected by this and it shows in their style of officiating. It seems like it's a dead battle trying to ask for fairness in football, people make you feel crazy, even though you demand far more crazy things from a manager during a window you have no control over. We don't even want things to go in our favour, just consistency. In fact, far more consistency, seeing that, the behaviour and rules of the referee and his officials, far outweigh the value of how one player can change the balance of a match, especially between the top teams stuck in a deadlock.
But is the idea that there is corruption in football, so absurd? Is it not more absurd to think that there is no corruption? After everything we saw that happened with FIFA, the money laundering, match fixing, enablers of tax evasion, which still happens to this day, are we outrageous for questioning the integrity of referees and the game? Wouldn’t we be blind, not to?
After all, Michel Platini, called for the ban of corruption, then was convicted of corruption himself, UEFA, FIFA and their sponsors, from the depths of Gazprom, to many other highly ethically, morally and financially corrupt powerhouses, the game is riddled with it, and this does not even include performance enhancing drugs.
Last season we conceded 10 penalties, this season we’ve already conceded 4 penalties (2nd after Hull in 2016/17 and 2nd this season after West Ham United. Last season we were awarded 6 penalties, this season it’s been 2. That is 2 penalties, for a club that plays in our style, our flow, with 60% possession and most of it, in the other opposition half, and frequently in its box. Source: https://www.statbunker.com/competitions/ForPenalty?comp_id=586
I understand that bias often clouds the mind, but these stats can be used to support the claims of other clubs too. In the lead to Leicester’s league title, there were many dubious decisions going their way, even clubs playing completely out of form against them, and, many against us and even Tottenham, especially in the latter part of the season, this all got washed away in the fairy tale.
So how can we point to the impartiality of a referee, and laugh at the idea of corruption, whether emotional or financial, when stats all point one way? It is no longer coincidence as Arsene would say, it’s negligent on the part of the media and the fans to attempt to laugh out corruption. After all, it’s a natural part of the game, and probably has been for years.
After all, as Arsene Wenger said, we should be talking more about the football, and the game, but we don’t, we don’t talk about strategies or formations or the effect of substitutions in deep detail, because that’s not what the press is good at. The English footballing press stick to what they’re best at, talking about things, mostly in a simplified manner, to get clicks, that they know they have no control or deep understanding over, but can assign blame to.
The trick is either to wait for the game to evolve, and the people around it, rather than to be living in the idea that it is fair and without corruption, after all, we’re seeing little proof in the progression of the level of society, or the media.
My parting message would be the new oxymoron, known as happy new year, may the world not end by a nuclear hot take on Twitter, pun intended.