The shock of going down to Bayern by 4 goals last Wednesday is a loss that many Gooners are still trying to come to terms. None of this grieving is helped by the sensationalist mainstream media and the army of trolls from other clubs who are doing their best to pour scorn and contempt on The Arsenal.
Using the voice of famous club legends, the BBC did its best to convince fans a bigger loss was imminent. They quoted Martin Keown as telling BT Sport:
“Arsene must be considering his future now.”
And ex-Arsenal defender Lee Dixon became a mind reader overnight:
“That is the first time where I’ve seen him where I’ve thought, ‘he thinks it’s time’. The fact that he hasn’t been able to get a response from the players in the last few weeks might be the final straw.”
They reported that Ian Wright posted his frustrations on social media and declared he was “not watching anymore”. That was before resorting to one the usual tricks of the mainstream media, i.e. giving credibility to a piece of fake news. They repeated a totally debunked story from prior week, when Wright reported Wenger did not expect to stay on next season. Wenger himself denied making any such disclosure.
Just in case you weren’t convinced, a quotation from Bob Wilson while on BBC Radio was added to the mix:
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised that Arsene now, with the amount of headlines that are coming his way, will look at that and say ‘two decades’.
As for the print media, the Times’ chief football writer Henry Winter described the Gunners as a “laughing stock”, adding that he felt Wenger’s best days are behind him.
“He has lost his leadership skills, there’s no invincible streak in him any more”
Among trolls from opposition teams, former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said Arsenal showed no fight or aggression.
“They looked spineless,”
“You want to see fire in their belly and that’s the most disheartening thing for me.”
By the way don’t remind Ferdinand that United did not qualify for this year’s Champions League and in the past his club has tasted some heavy defeats. Losing 1-0 to the mighty Lille, 3-1 to Gothenburg, 0-4 to Barca all in the group stages match, and 30 years before that went down 0-5 to Sporting Lisbon in a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final second leg on March 18, 1964. Facts can be very harsh especially to a blowhard with no historical perspective.
Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin, whose ex-clubs did not even qualify for participation in the Europa league this year and never played a single game in the competition, is now an expert on the Champions League:
“It’s exactly the same in the Champions League and it’s a real shame, it just feels very close to the end. I’ve never said it before about Arsene but it does feel that way now.”
As readers of my data-driven blogs are aware, none of this over-reaction by the media and by our fans is surprising. As I have shared from the literature on investor psychology this is typical of media and public attitude to the stock market. The media had a commercial interest in hyping Arsenal’s prospects before the game. From what I read and saw, Bayern v Arsenal was going to be the biggest sporting event on the day’s calendar. From my little knowledge of the English media it would have been the lead story in every newspaper and endlessly promoted by BT Sport who were televising the game. Millions of pounds of advertising revenue and media tie-in were on the line especially if Arsenal was to come out of Bavaria with fighting chance to win the return leg.
Arsenal not only losing but losing heavily would inevitably result in an equal and opposite reaction to the pre-game hype. (Newton’s laws of motion remain as applicable as ever.) No wonder Mr. Winter of the Times resorted to hyperbole and blaming Wenger for losing to superior team. Afterall his sensationalism will not only sell papers but give further credence to his anti-Wenger screeds. Apparently he recently had a tete-a-tete with Gary Neville who called out a WOB with a ‘Enough Is Enough, Time To Go’ placard at the Chelsea game. Neville commented:
“He’s an idiot that guy.”
“Arsene Wenger doesn’t deserve that, obviously the Arsenal fans are disappointed, but to pre-empt by bringing a banner into the ground, it’s a joke.
“Remember, the consistency of finishing in the top four might not be acceptable for Arsenal fans, but the alternative might be that you finish below those positions.”
To be honest, Gary sounded like almost any of us at PA. In reply, Winter, who I must stress is now the head football man at the Times, in one of his columns responded that Neville:
“badly misread the mood of huge sections of the Arsenal support and, also, arrogantly dismissed their right to protest.”
One is left to wonder which sections of the Arsenal support Mr. Winter is plugged into as the latest poll I am aware of shows over 53% of Arsenal fans want Wenger to remain and furthermore no fan has the right to protest within any stadium. By paying a ticket they have the right to a seat to watch a game but not to protest, in the same way readers of the Times have no right to protest within pages of the paper any b.s. written by Winter et al.
But I digress. The media’s “confidence” that Arsenal may progress has turned to contempt. A similar negative sentiment has swept the fanbase with feelings ranging the gamut; indifference, dismissal, denial, fear and panic.
Pre-game Arseblog was crowing:
“Can we go back in time and let in another goal against Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage so we can play that Barcelona lot? They’re rubbish.”
Post game he was contemptuous of Arsenal, no different from his media colleagues:
It called time on some of the players involved. And I think it has called time on Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal career.
If I had the power, when Arsene retires, I would call time on Arseblog’s career as a blogger as he owes his entire being to the success Arsene Wenger has brought to the club including 20 years of consistently qualifying for the champions league. Without this success the Sage of Dublin would never have the size audience he now has to spew shite on the man who is the primary reason he became one of the biggest bloggers in English football. Now he can leverage that audience commercially; the media gigs and tie-ins with razor vendors, fantasy football, gambling sites etc. What a beautiful life. When promoting the end of Arsene Wenger he should look with fear and trepidation at the plight of United bloggers who, because their club’s fortunes have dipped precipitously since Ferguson retired, have no way of keeping up with his commercial success. The Sage of Dublin can at least argue he supports one of the consistently top-3 clubs in England.
Unlike our more “successful” blogger, my colleague StewBlack had no illusions about the odds facing Arsenal in Munich. I will quote him extensively:
“Let’s pull no punches we have not been in the best form of late. As ever injuries and international duties have created instability at the heart of the midfield, these, combined with Xhaka’s suspensions are, I would hazard, at the root of our problems. We have, in spite of these issues, managed to grind out enough results to keep us in contention but against the real form team were found wanting.
“So what does this all mean for tonight’s game? Clearly we can’t rely on luck but it would be nice and indeed useful to catch a few breaks this evening. We’re playing one of the tournament favourites at their own ground whence very few foreign teams return victorious. Bayern have, in their last five matches conceded only one goal and scored eleven. No one is underestimating the scale of the hill we need to climb tonight.”
Based on Stew’s analysis, we went into the game as underdogs and we got whupped as underdogs. Nothing changed statistically. My only difference with Stew and others is that without Santi Cazorla, our chances of beating Bayern were slim and none and, in hindsight, slim did not take the Arsenal jet to Germany.
I have done the research showing that historically Santi is our most valuable player, “quarterbacking” our midfield from deep. Seven (7) PL games this season with Santi, AFC’s ppg was 2.7; nine (9) games without him it fell to 1.3. There have been nine (9) more games since then and I suspect our ppg is just as bad if not worse (need to update). In his four years with the club, with Santi the average ppg is 2.09 but for Arsenal overall (accounting for games without him) the ppg was 1.92.The average PL winner in those years averaged a 2.26 ppg. Simply put, without Santi’s assists Arsenal has never been in contention for the title.
In preparation for this blog, I researched the Squawka data for AFC’s midfielders this season and by far the two best midfielders are Ozil and Santi based on Avg Performance Score. The difference between Santi and 3rd place Iwobi may be 2 points but there is a huge gap offensively; in Shot accuracy, Avg Pass Accuracy, Avg Chance Created, and Avg Goals Scored. One day I will publish the rest of my findings. Readers may be shocked by the ranking of the remaining midfield players from 1 to 8.
|Avg Performance Score||27||25||22|
|Avg. Pass Accuracy||87%||91%||87%|
|Avg. Pass Length||15m||16m||14m|
|Avg. Chances Created||2.68||1.25||1.14|
|Avg. Goals Scored||0.23||0.25||0.14|
|Avg. Defensive Actions||1||2||1|
|Avg. Duels Won||53%||28%||55%|
The data is clear and consistent. Until the club’s technical leader returns from injury AFC will struggle to play effective, offensive football.
In my judgment, the biggest blow suffered in Bayern was our confidence. As Arsene often reminds us confidence is very fragile; quick to go, slow to rebuild. I am confident the manager will help the team rebuild this confidence despite current doubt, suspicion and caution. It is an eternal cycle; always was and always will be.