27/10/2013

Except For Gary Neville.



Gary Neville. That’s it…


"Rubbish? We're top of the league"
Considering ideas for this article, I am compiling a mental list of football ‘experts’, who in my view analyse Arsenal Football Club – and every other professional side, in a fair, level-headed manner. I don’t mean writers, bloggers and hobbyists; who appeal to specific fan-bases of clubs they support, and tend to stay within that framework. I refer to operators of a national scale; tabloid newspapers, radio broadcasters, and the Julius Caesar of them all, commercial television. Due to their potential audience reach – and let’s face it, they are the only true middle man between footballs internal workings and its fans, they carry a responsibility to provide rational, unbiased analysis, in an impartial manner. The trouble is, they don’t. Except for Gary Neville, that is…

This past Tuesday, Arsenal received their yearly champions league showing on ITV against last season’s beaten finalists, Borussia Dortmund. A tight affair, and by no means a vintage gunners performance, they still impressed; and were unlucky to lose by a solitary sucker-punch from a top-quality German outfit. Suffering through Kent’s favourite Irishman Andy Townsend, and his match-long petty Arsenal digs, I was then subjected to a disinterested Roy Keane, reactionary Ian Wright, and worst of all, the once acceptable Lee Dixon, discussing how - due to a bad moment in the office, Arsenal are not a ‘top-side’. “Not a top-side” A club currently at the head of our national game, beaten twice in thirteen matches, and containing the number one assist maker in Europe; I am certain even if they played God as a centre-forward, Moses on the left-wing, and Mahatma Gandhi in goal, it still wouldn't be enough. It’s disappointing, but after a decade of my eyes and ears pounded with this deceptive nonsense – designed to convince us that chocolate cake actually tastes like shit; and vice versa, in the case of Tottenham Hotspur, I - like most dignified Arsenal fans, let it slide.

Yesterday, Arsenal defeated Crystal Palace 2 – 0; a standard win, but a win nonetheless. Instead of BBC’s Match Of The Day discussing the growing strength of Ramsey and Giroud, the confidence driven by the arrival of Özil, or the re-emergence of the engine called Flamini, we were subjected to a vast array of negative bullshit; discussing the clubs poor technique (going so far as to reference a 2010 clip; hilariously showing Samir Nasri in the red – am guessing they will use Gascoigne 1991 next week), dodgy decisions apparently in Arsenal’s favour, and that Arsenal – in Alan Hansen’s exact words “have no chance” of winning the Premier League. If you joined the broadcast during their analysis, you would be forgiven for thinking the review was of a Wimbledon circa 1987 encounter.

On the flip-side to this, Manchester United – who barely struggled to defeat an average Stoke side, at fortress Old Trafford; and were shown before Arsenal - as they inevitably always are, were labelled as heroic and back to their best. In reality, if both teams current positions were reversed, Lineker and co would bellow about how ten-man Manchester United ground out three-points, against a gallant side containing players looking to showcase their talents, and how Arsenal’s celebrations in beating Stoke; as if they had won the FA Cup, shows how low their relative ambitions are. This is not a criticism of Manchester United; they are still the lynch-pins of English football. But even their most ardent of fan would admit they struggle in this transitional, post-Ferguson phase. Not only do we have to put up with this nonsense, but also watch on as these ‘experts’ defend their own clubs to the hilt; no matter how piss-poorly they are run, Alan Shearer.

"West Ham, always drawing"
And this is where Gary Neville is a welcome breath of fresh air. While a player who divided opinion - like many honest people; see Wenger, Arsene. He will openly credit and criticise Manchester United in an equal and constructive manner; as well as Arsenal, and any other club whose matches he reviews. Instead of letting moronic issues of ego get in the way, he calls the game right down the middle, and teaches in the meantime. I am not sure what exactly “they have no chance”, teaches anybody about anything; except how Michael Thomas, 1989, is clearly still a major force in the mind of Alan Hansen.

This is the sad constant of being an Arsenal fan. No matter how hard the gunners work, or trophies they win, the media will always find a way to criticise their success. As much as no matter how awful Spurs and co become, they will twist it to justify poor performances; as if we are too stupid to realise. Of course, this trend of negativity also happens - for various reasons, to many other clubs and separate players; when was the last pro-Benetiz article in the Daily Mail? 

The media favour certain clubs over others, and try their hardest to hard sell favourites, whilst burying the rest. These 'experts' are paid good money to provide fair analysis on a regular basis. Whether due to pressure from their corporate driven employers; with their own hidden agenda (BBC Lee Dixon was much fairer to Arsenal, then his sound-bite driven ITV clone), a lack of intelligence to break down aspects of the game they once played, or sheer immature ignorance in giving credit where due, it just goes to show that the level-playing field of life we are conditioned to believe as children to be absolute, is about as even as a shelf built by Mister Bean. Mass media football analysis is a complete waste of time; most fans understand football matches themselves anyway, and do little more than create ugly fantasies around the beautiful game’s reality. Our world would be much richer without them.

Except for Gary Neville, that is…

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