Mediawatch: Sanchez is to blame for this Arsenal mess

Daniel Storey

Wrong Syed of the tracks
It’s not like Matthew Syed to place his personal moral compass over a burning sporting issue regardless of whether it fits, using it to tell us why, actually, we’re wrong. Aside: It’s exactly like him.

On Wednesday, Syed reveals that he has deliberated and cogitated over Eni Aluko’s accusations of racism against England women’s manager Mark Sampson.

Sampson is being hounded out of his job by ‘Twitter hysteria’, you see. Despite plenty of people arguing with no element of hysteria that they are alarmed by the incidents we have heard about and deeply concerned by the additional accusations of bullying and subsequent weak internal investigations. Blame the trolls, even if they aren’t trolls.

As so often with Syed, it’s difficult not to just stare at the piece as a whole while shouting internally: ‘IS THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?’, but we’ll try and get over that. We’re not Twitter hysterics, you see:

‘So, on the basis of what we have seen so far, this “scandal” is based upon two comments, one of which was judged not to have been made, and the other of which is rather innocuous.’

No and no. This scandal is based upon two comments and general concerns about other accused behaviour, including bullying, discrimination and victimisation. Secondly, the term ‘rather innocuous’ is the opinion of the author, which is a little rich when we’re being told off for apparently not being subjective. Strong start.

‘The ebola comment could have been a misjudged joke, assuming it was actually said, which Sampson denies. It might have reflected genuine fear, given that the ebola outbreak was at its height at the time. Either way, to call this a “racism” storm is to trivialise racism.’

For those unaware, Sampson is accused of ‘joking’ with Aluko that he hoped that members of her family coming over from Nigeria were not bringing Ebola with them. Given that Aluko – and the PFA – describe it as a racist joke, the idea of it being a reflection of Sampson’s ‘genuine fear’ is ludicrous. He is also accused of joking that another mixed-race player had been in trouble with the police. She had not.

It might well have been a misjudged joke – a misjudged racist joke. Calling it such is not ‘trivialising racism’, because there is not a league table. Nor is there a big file in which we keep racist actions and words that will get too full if we don’t ignore some incidents of racism. ‘Actually, calling this racism out to be racism damages the fight against real racism’ is nonsense.

For the record, Syed describes how ‘ebola outbreak was at its height at the time’. Actually, Sampson made that comment in November 2014. Nigeria was declared ebola-free in October 2014. Misjudged and ill-informed, then.

It’s important to add here that Syed clarifies his view in the comments section:

‘I don’t think the Ebola comment was inappropriate per se. Context is crucial, here.’

So there we have it. Even aside from the racism, Syed doesn’t even believe that the ebola joke was inappropriate, despite being made from a boss to someone beneath them, and despite the recipient of the joke being offended and hurt.

Syed then spends a few paragraphs telling us how racism used to be worse in the past so we shouldn’t call out this kind of incident now, just like women shouldn’t expect equal pay because they didn’t used to be allowed to vote and now they are.

It includes an anecdote about his own past where a teacher he liked made a racist joke, but Syed forgave him because ‘I judged the sentence not by its content but within the wider panorama of what I knew about Mr Charters: his decency, kindness and hatred of bigotry.’

Here’s the thing Matthew: that’s fine. In that incident you contextualised the comment made in its wider context. But isn’t that exactly what Aluko has also done, but making a different conclusion based on her own evidence? She was there; you weren’t.

‘Sampson’s comments apparently trended last week, which confirms my opinion of what a shallow medium Twitter can be. Some say that the reputation of the England women’s coach will never recover.’

And some say that a person in a position of authority should have thought of that before making a racist joke about a player’s family (and that’s without touching on the allegations of bullying).

‘Perhaps the most troubling thing of all is that so many young people are among those who rush to be vicariously offended by remarks that have not been substantiated, still less contextualised.’

Yes, the troubling thing in all this is not the accusations of institutional racism, but people being offended at racist jokes. Keep fighting that good fight.

The irony in Syed telling us that it is important to know the context before attacking Sampson in a piece defending Sampson without knowing the context is not lost on Mediawatch. Again, Aluko was there; he was not. Perhaps we should take her view on it.

‘Some might say that Sampson’s remark must have been bigoted since Aluko claimed to have been hurt by it. I have some sympathy with this view but offence alone cannot be sufficient to establish guilt. This would be to place too much weight on the perspective of the victim and not enough on the accused. In a world where subjective offence was taken as prima facie evidence of wrongdoing, normal communication would shut down, for who would dare say anything at all?’

The classic Syed, the verbal flounce. What is the world coming to if people in positions of authority cannot make racist jokes without fear of retribution? Next they will stop us telling ’Knock knock’ for fear of hurting the door’s feelings, won’t they? It’s political correctness gone mad.

Mediawatch has a general rule of thumb that doesn’t stop us ‘daring to say anything at all’: don’t say things that would generally be considered offensive and don’t say things that could quite clearly be construed as racist. And if you are going to say them, don’t be surprised when people call you out on it.


You know Arsenal are preparing to sell Sanchez when…
‘Arsenal’s fed-up players want the club to sell Alexis Sanchez before the transfer window shuts on Thursday night,’ read the Daily Telegraph headline late on Tuesday night.

‘While the prospect of losing Sanchez to Manchester City so late in the transfer window has angered the club’s supporters, an overwhelming number of Arsenal’s players would support the move.’

It is time to raise a glass to Arsenal’s PR department for their most audacious move yet. Having spent the summer insisting that Sanchez will not be sold, now it’s actually a good thing if their best player leaves because he has been causing rifts within the squad.

‘Telegraph Sport understands that the majority of the first-team squad have now had enough of Sanchez and the saga regarding his future. They believe he has no desire to be at Arsenal and has been allowed to get away with putting himself ahead of the team for far too long.’

See, it was all Sanchez’s fault after all. He scored and assisted all those goals last season just to make other players look bad. Get rid!

Unfortunately, judging by the replies to the Telegraph Football and Matt Law’s tweets on the story, not many Arsenal fans are buying this one. Must try harder next time.


And when…
‘Arsene Wenger showed the sort of passion that was missing from Arsenal’s lame surrender at Anfield when he met his coaching staff this week. Boss Wenger was fuming at the training-ground inquest into what had gone wrong 24 hours earlier.

‘According to insiders, the meeting got “very heated”. The manager was furious about the abject nature of Sunday’s defeat — it was 4-0 but Liverpool could have scored twice as many — and it left him questioning the attitude of every player.

‘What quickly became very clear was that Wenger was not prepared to stomach any player who was not fully committed to the cause. And the biggest question mark of all was about Alexis Sanchez after his performance in the defeat at Liverpool.

‘From the position of defiance the club has held all summer, Arsenal are at the very least now thinking about the possibility of cashing in on Sanchez now rather than potentially losing him for nothing when his contract expires at the end of the season’ – Daily Mirror with the same story, August 30.

From promising that Sanchez wouldn’t be sold to leaking doubts about his commitment after a performance in which the whole team was awful. Who could have predicted such a thing?


Still, not long now…
‘Arsenal are ready to spend £200million in the next window to fix their squad — and Arsene Wenger will be the man splashing the cash… as the Gunners prepare for the biggest revolution of his 21-year reign’ – Daily Mirror, April 12, 2017.

It’s going to be a busy 36 hours of Arsenal signings. It sure doesn’t *feel* like revolution.


The Sun always shines
‘RAHEEM STERLING thought Pep Guardiola had his back. Last summer, when some savages on social media were slaughtering him for his performance against Russia at Euro 2016, Pep intervened.’



Cliche what you see
Mediawatch enjoyed Phil Thomas’ comment piece in The Sun on Arsenal for its tremendously high concentration of cliches. These three short paragraphs (in succession) were our favourites:

‘Yet a rudderless ship will always hit the rocks – and that’s where they are definitely heading.

‘That’s why Stan Kronke (sic) has to grab the bull by the horns and swing the axe now. Their greatest ever manager’s reign has run its course.’

‘Everyone in football isn’t slow to tell you what a long old season it is.’

Five in 57 words. The boy done well and he won’t be disappointed with that.


Inadvertent self-own of the day
‘The bad feeling between Sanchez and his team-mates has been simmering for some time, but Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing at Liverpool convinced many members of the Arsenal squad that the club need players who are fully committed to the cause’ – Daily Telegraph.

Finally, something on which we can all agree.


Recommended reading of the day
Paul Hayward on the transfer market

Suzanne Wrack on Lucy Bronze.

Adam Bate with Darrell Clarke.