Journalists have a few options on a slow news day. They can rehash old stories, they can wildly speculate about a transfer involving huge sums of money, or, as seems the norm these days, they can try to engineer an illusion of crisis around a club.
Take Hleb’s quotes that you may have seen in all the papers today, generally under the headline such as ‘Hleb’s position untenable after Cesc blast’.. Here is the quote regarding our favourite Spaniard:
“With scoring opportunities he’s more selfish than I am. Given the chance to shoot he always goes for it, unlike me.”
Dressed up as a criticism, many are suggesting he is lashing out at Cesc, while being misguided about exactly why he doesn’t score enough goals himself. It then becomes easy to ridicule him, which is precisely the aim of the story. But imagine this question in front of his answer:
“It has been said that the midfield needs to contribute more goals. Cesc has taken up that mantle with double figures this season, what can you take from his improvement?”
“With scoring opportunities he’s more selfish than I am. Given the chance to shoot he always goes for it, unlike me. Perhaps I need to take my chances more.”
I’ve put in bold the quote that remains in the papers today. Doesn’t seem quite so bad now, does it? And I imagine it is that sort of question that led to his innocuous answer.
It is a well known journalistic trick to ask a question, record an answer, and then place that answer in a false context, much like the above example. In fact, this trick forms the basis of many stories that directly affect fans’ opinions of a player. And yet they work, every time.
Furthermore, it seems to happen to Arsenal an awful lot, seemingly because the media like to persist with their angle that we are a club in crisis. It is the same every year – last summer we were falling apart without Henry, and now we’re apparently doing the same. Why this is spun out every year is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps the Arsenal model breaks the tabloid black and white world of big money signings leading to success. Maybe they are waiting to Wenger to fail, just once, so that they can scream ‘I told you so’ to every story they’ve run for the last decade.
Or perhaps it’s just laziness. It is, after all, so much harder to generate a crisis story around a club spending big, at least until those players turn out to be flops.
So let the media live in their world, where youngsters cannot step up to greatness and if you don’t spend 20m on a player at his peak, you will fail.
Choose instead to live in the real world.