Is Arsenal unfairly called out by the media, compared to the other top clubs??
As an Arsenal fan, I don’t believe the club is.
It’s a common view amongst many Gooners out there, but I hold a somewhat contrarian view.
It is true that Arsenal features highly in all common global football networks. But this isn’t some global conspiracy to bully Arsenal.
The poor performances under Wenger were well-highlighted. Accusations of "bottling it", losing games in key moments, losing prime games in key moments of the season, and not having much mental strength nor tactical discipline were very commonplace.
It was often the case that the major sports networks would continually dig the club out, either for the manager's, the players', or the club's hierarchy's non-actions.
Was this fair criticism? Yes. The club held many failings. But was this "bullying" or being "singled out"? Hardly. At least in my view.
The nature of Arsenal's issues was very regular, and not typical for the other top teams.
Whilst no club is always perfect, there are other factors affecting the attention Arsenal has received, and continues to receive. These are:
- Past success - Expectations based on past success are high
- No major financial or structural impediments - Arsenal haven't had major financial issues akin to other clubs, and have been free to spend well
- A manager who had achieved great heights in the past - Wenger attained greatness, and much was expected of him
- Top players - Since c. 2012, Arsenal has had several top/world class players. Alexis, Ozil, etc. along with seasoned internationals such as Giroud, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Walcott, Welbeck, Ramsey, etc. mean that expectations are high
- Having all infrastructural tools in place - Arsenal don't lack the supporting tools to succeed. The training ground, stadium, and other support structures are top notch and second to none
- Arsenal is a huge global club - Arsenal's global branding is only bettered by Real Madrid, Barca, Man United, or Juve. It's going to get attention, no matter what
- Arsenal's fans are very prominent and loud online - This means there will be buzz and content created towards them
- The media needs to make money - They are not charities, and they exist to maximise revenues and/or profits. Any media house would focus on content that gets the most hits, the biggest engagement, and the most potential ad revenue
So there are given reasons why Arsenal get "singled out", and it's not due to the media bullying or being "cruel".
This isn't intended to bash Wenger at all. But this video typifies why specific networks focus on Arsenal. Gary Neville, whilst a Man United legend, has respect for Arsenal as a club in large part since they were United's biggest challengers in his early career. He has witnessed a club and a manager decline, and for primarily self-caused tactical issues, which can be easily resolved.
I contend much of the criticism Arsenal receives is fair and balanced, and due to the scope of issues. It's not just being "bad" or "harsh" or "unfair".
Arsenal has a global fanbase, as a result of the Wenger successes. We’re not the only club to hold a global profile. Real Madrid, Barca, Man United, and possibly Juve and Bayern, are bigger. But Arsenal certainly is a recognised club around the world.
So with many fans, it stands to reason it will get attention. It’s just basic marketing at play. A larger market to sell to means more opportunities. With respect to clubs like West Ham or Burnley, they don’t possess a global profile, hence less attention in the media houses.
Given the club's global presence, media networks can communicate and reach not just the UK, but most of Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
Being global has many boons, such as greater revenue streams, sponsorship deals, etc. However, the primary negative is that it can lead to "excess attention". I believe in this case, the rough should be taken with the smooth.
PAST GLORIES AND SELF-WOUNDING...
Most remember the winning years under Wenger. And the contrast of this and the recent seasons is naturally stark. It’s more a case of how a once top team can restore themselves to former glory. And let’s be honest, Arsenal has long been a major British club, so people expect them to win titles and trophies. And Wenger’s winning Arsenal were not just good. They were good by playing football in a stylish way, and in a record-breaking manner. This naturally sticks in the mind, and is a natural benchmark which people can relate to.
Wenger oversaw two Double sides and the Invincibles in his heyday. So it stands his teams, and subsequent Arsenal teams would be judged from this level.
Another point is that few other top clubs incur issues due to self-wounding.
If Arsenal's issues of late have been tactical, then no outside source can be seen to cause this. Only the manager can determine tactical structures. If the team seemingly lacked mental strength, then who externally is responsible? Again, it's the manager.
If the team continually had under-productive transfer windows, then who is responsible? It has to be an internal issue.
It all stems from an ingrained malaise, which other clubs do not and did not portray. Yes, Chelsea has a regularity of internally-caused issues of sorts. But they are able to resolve them and attain success. The sacking of Mourinho in 2015 was followed by them winning the league under Conte in 2017. Conte himself left under a cloud of sorts, and who knows Sarri could get them competitive again. However, Arsenal has stagnated, and not gone from wild failures to wild glories. It's a different scenario completely.
SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE
Real Madrid, Barca, Man United, have bigger social media followings than Arsenal.
However, amongst English clubs at least, Arsenal tends to havethe most active and jittery social media following. It may be because Arsenal cornered some of the market in this case, given amongst major English clubs, it was on Twitter since 2009. However, due to this, and due to the profit motive of the media, they often make narratives to try and rile Gooners up. But the real reason is that it makes them money. For every post they make, they gain Adsense revenue, or money from affiliates, or get their sites higher in the SEO rankings. Or they merely just meet their stated quota of social media engagement.
Either way, they do it because of how Gooners behave online, and for their own reasons. Well, media houses don’t exist for charity….
The continual narrative then merely sustains the revenue drive. It’s not “personal”. It’s not as if they’re all run by Tottenham fans, or other enemies of Arsenal. It’s because they need revenue to survive, and Arsenal is an easy target.
It’s often said that Arsenal is unfairly singled out, amongst top English teams. In that, its failures and mishaps are brought to light in a deeper fashion.
I don’t believe this is true, for the most part.
Arsenal has experienced a near mystical cycle of failures, bad tactics, and errors. Issues spanning defensive, organisational, tactical, psychological, and physical factors have plagued the team with regularity for several seasons. And this narrative is not only boring but embarrassing.
As a club aspiring to win leagues and Champions Leagues, such failures on a regular basis are not becoming. It shows a deep malaise at the club, which can never exist for a top team.
Moreover, this is unique. Arsenal in Wenger’s last season was still suffering from the same deficiencies as they were in, say, 12/13 season. This is unacceptable, and possibly a major reason why he left. But then compared to Liverpool, and other top six teams, it was a unique phenomenon. In 12/13, the following circumstances occurred between then and 17/18:
- City – Won two leagues and various cups
- Chelsea – won two leagues and various cups but have gone through
- Man United – won the league in 13, has won cups, but suffering the effects still of a weak transition from Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure
- Liverpool – in 13, finished outside the top four, but have steadily grown to become title contenders
- Tottenham – finished 5th in 12/13, but have become top four regulars and title contenders from a lower base
So then other clubs have either come from a low base, or gained power from comparatively lower financial bases.
So there is a reason why other clubs are left off, and Arsenal get “bullied” in the media. Liverpool in 2011 had some quiet serious financial issues. Tottenham only now are (in the most literal sense) building their future financial base. United is rich, as is City, and Chelsea despite internal issues have still been successful.
Arsenal is not financially sick, like Liverpool were. And haven’t grown to a height like Spurs. If anything, Spurs are reaching Arsenal’s heights.
And can anybody say United has not achieved since they won the league? An FA Cup,League Cup, and Europa League, say different.
BULLIED, OR NOT?
So then it’s not to say Arsenal is “bullied”.
Arsenal of late has displayed unique failings and a consistent narrative.
This vid shows a defeat last season, which highlighted a continued story of Arsenal failings.
Comparing Arsenal’s issues to Spurs’s is moot. Tottenham haven’t achieved consistent success in many years. Actually, decades. So the judgment bar for them vis a vis Arsenal is far lower. As stated before, more is expected of Arsenal. And the situations of the other top clubs have not been the same.
It is true that the club is changing under Emery. And hopefully, the continued narrative from an Arsenal standpoint will change over time. Until then, it should be something of a boon that Arsenal gets so much coverage. It shows the club has contributed a lot, and much is expected of it. Aren’t these good things? It’s not always about abuse or taking advantage.