Almunia: “Cesc Hates Arsenal!”

By on August 8, 2009

Manuel Almunia

There, see what I just did? I just pulled the most common move of football writers in England. I made an article out of some quotes and then put a headline to it which doesn’t represent the article in the slightest. The British press never ceases to amaze me with the depths to which they will gladly sink in their sad excuse for football “reporting.” Yesterday, Manuel Almunia said:

I was surprised by Kolo leaving. He was a big part of Arsenal, one of the greatest players that we’ve had over the last few years. When I see him in the papers wearing a City shirt, it’s very strange for me. When you are with players for many years, you get to know them very well, you know how they play and communicate with them really well.

But now we have to work with different people. We have a new central defender in Thomas Vermaelen and we have to cope with this. In football, people come and go. It’s part of life.

Kolo lived through great times at Arsenal. He won the league as part of a great team, the Invincibles. But when you are at any place for a long time, you sometimes need a change and to change your way of life, the city where you live, the team-mates you see every day. Maybe he was a bit bored, a bit tired of being with the same people every day, in the same atmosphere.

With Cesc, the same could happen but he still has a lot more to offer Arsenal [whereas] Kolo gave everything to Arsenal and won titles. We’ll see the best of Cesc this season and he will help us to win something. Then he will be completely happy to be here and he will do what he wants to do.

Of course, nothing he said is very scandalous and, in fact, in his own way, he is trying to state that he feels Cesc is committed to winning trophies at Arsenal. However, it seems impossible that someone who deals with the press on a regular basis would be surprised that his words would be twisted into headlines such as, “Cesc Fabregas May Quit” or “Almunia Reveals Cesc Fears.”

Even the “Almunia Reveals Cesc Fears” headlines are misleading because Almunia in no way claimed to be relating anything he had discussed with Fabregas. Those headlines would have one believe that Cesc had a conversation with Almunia about this and he then went to the press to tell them about it. If I was to speculate about how Cesc was feeling, I could not then write, “Arsenal Station Reveals Cesc Thoughts.”

But English football writers would never let anything as minor as facts or quotes get in the way of a good headline. I’ve been following English football for over a decade and, perhaps because I am American, I still never cease to be amazed at how football writers in England get away with giving their stories headlines which either have nothing to do with the article or, just as common, actually contradict the quotes in the article. They lose all integrity by then including their headlines in quotes as if the player had actually said their ridiculous headline (see above).

Brian Glanville

You would never see this kind of thing in sports reporting in the United States and, for someone who grew up America, it seems not just strange but highly unethical. We all know that these writers are not even beyond manufacturing quotes and entire stories to fill their column inches. In this way, it makes me laugh at times when people complain about the thousands of hit-seeking blogs out there which “publish” the most ridiculous transfer rumours as headlines solely to drive traffic to their sites. I laugh because they have learned this approach from the English papers themselves. I mean, is The Sun really any better than Tribal Football in this respect?

I have learned, as I am sure most of us have, to never take a headline seriously and almost always expect the article to have nothing to do with the headline. This is bad for supporters and it is bad for football writing in general which has a proud history. One of my great role models when it comes to football writing is Brian Glanville. The man combines a fluid and intelligent literary style with a deep level of knowledge of the game to produce some of the best, most insightful and rewarding football writing of the century. True, there are still a few writers in this mold out there, most notably Henry Winter and Martin Samuels, both fantastic writers. But Samuels’s move to that sorry excuse for a rag, The Daily Mail, is another warning sign that intelligent football writing will soon be facing extinction.

I know there is nothing new in complaining about the British tabloids but just because we have gotten used to something doesn’t make it okay. Writers like Glanville, Samuels, and Winter reveal the soul of the game on paper like players reveal it on the pitch and to lose either through ever-increasing sensationalism on the page or through ever-increasing sums of money on the pitch is a major loss for all past, present, and future lovers of the game.                       [digg=http://digg.com/soccer/Almunia_Cesc_Hates_Arsenal]