Media Bias: Beauty against the Beast

By kyawthu

If you read the football news aftermath of the World Cup final between Netherland and Spain, you will find a common theme among the English media; dirty, cheating Dutch.

Steven Howard (chief football editor) of the Sun newspaper has called Dutch shameless, moaners, and suggested they should join the football hall of shame. Howard also tagged the Dutch coach Van Marwijk as mean-spirited and bad-tempered for his world cup tactics. Michael Calvin from Mirrorfootball has said mid-field hardman van Bommel is the most repugnant footballer on the planet and he hopes Howard sends him off in the final. He branded Bommel cruel, cold, conman for whom bile is as ­nourishing as breast milk, that he goads, and intimidates the opponents.

Sports Mail asked the question: is it EVER acceptable to play like Holland did against Spain? It also suggested that Holland was cynical and persistently foul played against Spain in Sunday’s World Cup Final. Jamie Redknapp in the same column said it’s never acceptable to kick opponents off the park, as Holland did. Matt Lawton of Sports Mail said the Dutch had betrayed their own football culture with an approach built on brutality and intimidation against a marvellous Spanish team then chose to blame everyone but themselves for their defeat in Sunday’s World Cup final. He added a lack of class off the pitch as well as on it, rather disappointingly and branded Dutch brutal, beaten and bleating.

Of course pundits from BBC and ITV have also joined in with the slaying of Dutch before and after the game.

Graham Poll called Dutch players bully-boys, villains and then defended Howard Webb for his poor display at the greatest football match in the world. Webb to referee the final was indeed FIFA’s compensation to England for Lampard’s disallowed goal and it was clear that he couldn’t control the game properly.

Now, many of you may feel Dutch deserves all of it. The media slayings, and the cards branded in the game. And I agree. They played anti-football after all. They stifled and battled Spain’s beautiful, attacking football, to the extreme limits in the final.

But have any of you seen such tactics used by Dutch somewhere else, closer to home and probably in more successful ways? Nope, not Inter Milan against Barcelona. It is in Premiere League week in week out when Arsenal plays their brand of beautiful football in the most physical league in the world, especially in their away games.

Bolton (under Allardyce), Blackburn, Stoke City, Hull City, and Birmingham city etc all play the same football Dutch has played in the world cup final, against Arsenal. Their managers and fans constantly and publicly argue that Arsenal has better quality players and it is the only way to stop Arsenal and to be competitive against them.

Bolton and Stoke players have openly declared in the media times and again last season that they will rough up and stifle Arsenal and make the Gunners squeal. Sam Allardyce proudly admitted targeting Fabianski, and his players pushed, blocked and pulled Fabianski from getting the ball in dead ball situations. They have never really intended to play the ball. Many premier league defenders have broken Arsenal players’ legs to pieces and shattered careers of talented players like Eduardo’s. Eduardo almost lost his leg. Diaby has suffered the same faith but resurrected his career and fingers crossed Ramsey will do the same. Theo Walcott was cut through like butter under hot knife in most of the games he’s played.

Just as Spain suffered bruises and sprains against Holland, Arsenal has suffered the same treatment games after games. It cannot be said that Arsenal are the most fouled club in premier league but they indeed play the beautiful clean passing game topping the fair play table last season, just as Spain won the fair play trophy for the World Cup. Arsenal are also second top in least numbers of yellow and red cards shown last season.

Many premier league managers have adopted this physical approach to play against more fluid and flare Arsenal. Arsenal had no nonsense players such as Patrick Vieira, and Tony Adams who are not afraid to put the foot in the tackle in the past, but Arsenal has never approached a game with a plan to kick the opponents out of the park like Dutch or say Blackburn.

The interesting thing is, all these media outlets who have unequivocally condemned Dutch for playing such tactics against beautiful Spain have lauded the premier league players and clubs using the exact same tactics against Arsenal for many seasons. BBC’s MOTD pundits have mentioned how Arsenal players do not like it in their face, when they were tackled hard and rough. They have justified and promoted this approach and the outcome was diabolical for Arsenal and its players. Although MOTD has now stopped promoting it after Shawcross broke Ramsey’s leg, the effect was there for all to see. BBC football and the print media have defended Ryan Shawcross as an innocent player and praised his humility when he cried after seeing Ramsey’s shattered leg. After all, it was an accident, they argued.

When United and Chelsea kicked Arsenal players out of the park, it was printed in the newspapers that Arsenal players were boys playing against men. They have praised Darren Fletcher for his physical approach against Arsenal. Fletcher was nothing less than Van Bommel in the tackles.

The media outlets have a phrase coined for those tackles used by Dutch in World Cup: “a robust challenge” but they use it only for premier league clubs and defenders. They lauded it as English way of playing football. Physical, fast, tough and robust. They don’t care for the opposite player as long as they “got the ball” and argued these players have “no intent” to hurt the oppositions. They just want to remind the Arsenal players of “their presence”, not just one game, but game after game through out the season.

Now, Dutch are the villains, disgraces and anti-football. How biased and two faced the English Media is. We have known for a long time that when foreigners dive in the games, they are crucified and made target practices. When English players dive though, it was put under the carpet and you will never hear it again. It was too common that people accept it as normal in the media.

But the crucifixion of Dutch in the world cup by English media has re-opened the case of tough tackling and rough challenges to stop more skilful opponents playing the beautiful football.

Let us wait and see if the media has enough guts to say the same to those who employ similar physical approach and cynical tactics in the premier league against Arsenal. Let us wait and see those who called Dutch coach Van Marwijk as mean-spirited would say the same about Sam Allardyce or Tony Pulis.

Debate this more on the forum



  1. Kola

    July 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    The English media has forgotten that those who live in glass houses dont throw stones

  2. Wanynkerr

    July 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Great post mate. 100% agree with you. When its done to Arsenal its “it was a real man’s tackle” but yet everybody is now calling the Dutch a nasty time?

  3. Arse&Nose

    July 15, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    its racism.
    you think they would stick up for bolton,stoke, hull if they were foreign teams?

    Arsenal are the outsiders and therefore dirty job stealing foreigners…small island mentality.

  4. dilshan

    July 15, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    while the English media continues to promote thuggery in PL England will never win a major trophy. Players like Jack Whilshire and Theo Walcot will never be able to rise to the top as they will get broken at a very early stage, limiting and hindering their progress. If England wants to win a world cup what it needs is players like Whilshire not Showcross.

    In fact I think England already paid a big price for this in the current WC. Fabio had depended heavily on Theo progressing and becoming the real threat we know he can be. But it was the Thuggery of Birmingham defence that cut his progress down significantly and affected his confidence, which in tern cost England a player who could have won big matches, as Theo has shown time and again in the past.

    I do not expect the media to change and they will always be the same, why I do not know but they do have an agenda against Arsenal. John Cross often, on ATO says that we fans over react, but I disagree with him. There were many instances of media targeting Arsenal players in the last few years. I hope I am wrong but some time I just wonder if there is a race issue. Most of todays so called pundits and journalists were the product of 1980s football when the race issue was bad in football and now may be just may be they have let it creep in to their work too. I sincerely hope I am wrong. Also what I have learned is that if journalist crosses the line with Fergerson he bans them from press conference etc so in order to keep him sweet they will always take his side and may be we should follow the same model too

  5. Erik

    July 15, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Nothing will change, the useless BBC pundits, specially Hansen (who I hate with a passion) are anti-Arsenal, off course they can’t admit this openly but most of them are.

    I am a positive Arsenal fan but even I expect we will loose/draw a few games to the physical sides when playing away from home and you can already predict the MOTD crew once again will praise the physical approach of the less technical teams because they did what was necessary to get a result.

    Should they get challenged about this hypocracy you can guarantee their response will be that this is England and this is the way this league plays, basically is a disgrace in Internationals but adequate for the English league.

    And its not just the media, the refs are clearly being influenced by them too in beleiving that is ok to kick Arsenal… I mean… it makes their job a lot easier doesnt it? imagine if you are an English ref and have Arsenal in your next game… if you blow too many times then the crowd will get on your back, so to keep the stadium and opposition manager happy you will try to blow as little as possible… basically just blow if they almost killed the Arsenal player.

    As soon as Arsenal try to get a bit rough we get yellow cards for normal fouls and red cards for yellow cards offences… I can remember last season screaming to the TV so many times because one of our players made a decent tackle and got a yellow card… I think I remember Song and Cesc being in such positions.

    If we play Man Utd then as soon as one of our players makes a foul is a yellow, but Fletcher will constantly foul and maybe get a yellow card by the 70th min… making 5+ yellow card offences in those last 20 mins and getting away with it.

  6. Ziggy

    July 15, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Spot on Erik! We all see it and it’s sickening. It puts me off this beautiful country of ours.

  7. neville

    July 15, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Well said mate. England will never win shit till we change our mind set

  8. Sydney Gooner

    July 16, 2010 at 2:37 am

    Excellent post mate.

    The actions of the referee’s will also be watched closely this season, as after all it is them who we depend on to implement the laws of the game.

    The Bias in the English media has gone to far, this World Cup although not the best football was played, and not as many goals as people expected could be ground breaking with the introduction of technology after Lampards goal, and also bringing to light the subject you mention above. Violence to stop superior teams playing within the law of the game.

    It also goes along way to explain why the English national team will never be successful with this prehistoric attitude towards the game, and the inability to see past kicking someone.

  9. Illybongani

    July 16, 2010 at 7:12 am

    it’s absolute rubbish to claim it’s racism because Arsenal get kicked off the pitch too easily. The fact is Arsene is to blame for picking too many similar type players across the pitch. We could dish it out as good as the next man with the famous 5, Vieira, Petit, Henry, Bergkamp et al. But is Denilson going to have the same effect on you standing next to you in the tunnel as Paddy would? Of course not. Arsene needs to toughen up the personnel – a couple of midfield enforcers would go a long way to stopping us getting a kicking. I find it a bit concerning that we spend £10m on a new Centre-Back who feels he needs to go to the gym to strengthen himself up!

  10. Craigie

    July 16, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Good article. It’s a problem with the media but it’s also a problem with Arsenal.

    I think Spain is a bad example to use because they are unique in world football. They are just that good at passing that they don’t need to tackle. Teams like Chelsea though have their creative and goalscoring players like Drogba and Lampard who are not small and bullyable but still able to get you 20-30 goals a season each. Add that to the brick wall players like Essien and they are a strong unit. When they played us for most of the game they weren’t particularly dirty they were just stronger than us and not necessarily less technical. Who is Chelsea’s most foreign flairy player at the moment? I’d probably say Malouda or Anelka but they’re not particularly weak they’re just not massive.

    Northern teams have noticed they can actually bully our GOALKEEPER. He’s supposed to be the biggest guy on the team. Then we go and sign a centre back who admits his weakness is his physicality. These should be two of our biggest strongest players.

    If I was Fabregas I’d probably end up leaving because I’ve never seen a player be so deliberately kicked so much before in my life with referees letting it happen. Whatever Arsenal has done for him, the treatment he gets in this league could end his career. Even players like Walcott you can never see lasting a full season because someone is going to break him again. At least Diaby had the sense to bulk up after getting injured.

    I mean look at our squad. Bendtner, van Persie, Song, Diaby, Vermaelen and possibly Sagna and Chamakh are the only players we have who are hard to bully and we’ll only be putting 3-4 of those players in the first 11 at the same time reguarly.

  11. kyawthu

    July 17, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Thank you for your comments everyone. Many of you have agreed with me cos you are Gooners. But non-Gooners have different ideas although they dont express it here.

    Some of them argued it was not only Arsenal that was fouled or tackled hard in EPL. There are other teams who has been tackled hard. I agree. But I have to remind you guys that within (less than) 4 years time, Arsenal has suffered three horific career threatening injuries on the pitch from bad tackles and other numerous fouls. I agree with Arsene that this is not a coincident. It is also clear that opposition players and managers admited (or threatehed?) targetting Arsenal players for rough treatment, publicly.

    @Craigie, I understand your point mate. I feel it that way as well. I thought we should buy van Bommel, Gattusso, or even Melo and get into the tackles thick and hard. Gilbato did the job for us. But in recent years, we have been too soft that everytime our players make one bad tackle, there’s an outrage. William Gallas has made a bad timed tackle towards a Bolton player in the second half of the second game with Bolton in the league. We played them back to back within 10 days. His stud was showing and the timing was late and he caught the Bolton player badly, the player went down and we scored from the run of play. Commentators, Bolton fans and the media aftermath went absolutely crazy, for the tackle as well as not kicking the ball out. Everton did the same, though not scored, when Denilson collasped mysteriously but not many people raised any issues about it then.

    @ Illybongani, I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s racism against Arsenal or media has an agenda against Arsenal. It’s not. It’s true we lack physical players now, but we can’t be too physical as well cos we are tagged as a non-physical team now and people react (fans, media and refs) badly when we put our feet in the tackles. We need to shake it off and definitely, I’d like to see some physical players in Arsenal ranks.

    The article mainly pointed out the contrast between reporting Netherland and some preimere league teams who used the same tactics. True, World Cup has a totally different background and publicity. Small teams in EPL has their resources limited unlike Dutch. WC was watched by the whole world and it was supposed to be the showcase match. It wasn’t and the reaction was harsh.

    Robbie Savage has published recently that Dutch’s playing style will be seen in EPL next season and he’s all for it. I’d say the style is already here for the last couple of seasons.

    Anyway, the main reason I posted this article is to call the media “to be consistent”. I am not milking sympathy. Big teams, small teams, English players/managers, foreigners, WC games or league games, it shouldn’t have mattered greatly when it comes to fair play. Media needs to be consistent in their judgement and publications.

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