Match Of The Day is quite a good barometer for what’s going on in football media world, and so it was disheartening to hear the analysis of the Arsenal/Fulham game last night.
The Premier League is a commercial entity, and we all understand that the well-supported clubs are what sustains the competition’s global attraction – but we have to stop treating the less glamorous clubs as a sub-plot in the narrative.
A case in point, the reaction to yesterday’s game at The Emirates. Arsenal this, Arsenal that – there wasn’t even a discussion of anything that Martin Jol’s side did well in North London. The impression given, is that all clubs outside the traditional top-four are just an inconvenience that the glamour clubs have to sidestep through the course of the season, and that when points are dropped to them, the focus is only ever on the ‘big’ club’s failings.
Doesn’t that contradict the oft-repeated mantra about the Premier League and how competitive it is and the maxim chanted continually by journalists who subsequently treat the competition as a four-team league?
The sum of MOTD’s analysis on Fulham yesterday was a one-liner about Dimitar Berbatov’s myriad abilities, and even that seems to play into the ‘neglect’ theory, because the Bulgarian is a former Manchester United player.
You suspect that a lot of this stems from laziness, and the unwillingness of pundits to properly research teams and players who aren’t playing at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge. Sure, we can all speak educatedly on Eden Hazard’s impact this season, but how many members of the media can make an accurate summation of Alex Kacaniklic’s pros and cons?
It’s not just Fulham, look at the reaction to West Brom this season – they’re treated as some kind of anomaly who will hopefully drop back into the pack at some point. ‘False position’ is a phrase which has been used to describe their start – really? Have you watched them play? Have you seen the chemistry and understanding that Steve Clarke has built into his side? It’s not a surprise at all, they’re a good side populated with players who are performing at a very high level.
But they’re just not box office enough, and so, like Fulham, will be dismissed with lazy platitudes.
What was so impressive about Fulham yesterday was their resilience. In seasons gone by, at 2-0 away from home, they might as well have got back on the coach and gone home – they didn’t recover deficits like that at those kind of grounds. But yesterday they did, yet nobody seems the slightest bit interested.