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How unfounded amateur psychology becomes bad journalism

The media backlash against Arsenal was as guaranteed as the rain in monsoon season after yesterday's draw at St. James' Park in Newcastle, but sometimes, one has to laugh, publicly, at the uninspired sluck that writers actually receive compensation for from respected media outlets.  Paul Hayward, at the Guardian, just quite often happens to be one of these.

Well, it just so happens that Graham MacAree, over at We Ain't Got No History, SBN's Chelsea blog, started a blog section entitled "Fire Paul Hayward", named after the retired Fire Joe Morgan blog.  Like FJM, Fire Paul Hayward articles are dedicated to pulling apart badly conceived, poorly argued, unsubstantiated and unhelpful opinion.  Today's Hayward entry entitled "Joey Barton's maverick inspiration proves just what Newcastle need" practically begs for this treatment before one even finishes the headline.  So, here we go:

"Joey Barton's maverick inspiration proves just what Newcastle need"
by Paul Hayward

Into the vast hole where Andy Carroll used to be stepped Joey Barton, agent provocateur and expert penalty taker

"Agent provocateur" makes sense, except that real agents provocateurs aren't supposed to, you know, get caught on television cameras actually committing illegal actions.

"Agent provocateur" is defined by wikipedia thusly: "Traditionally, an agent provocateur (plural: agents provocateurs, French for "inciting agent(s)") is a person employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act."

Let's hope that Barton isn't actually being employed by the police, now.

Also, when you search for the phrase on Google, the first five results are for a French lingerie company.  Just sayin'.

First half good, second half not so good: for Arsenal, that is.

Har har har...

For Newcastle this astounding counter‑surge saved the club's owners from a week of accusatory comment about their willingness to sell the team's most valuable player for £35m

Who's accusing?  35 million pounds: not at all a price that would cause any sane club owner to scream with laughter all the way to the bank for a striker who's currently hurt for falling off a stool at a casino.

[EDIT: I completely understand the pain of losing Carroll for Newcastle supporters, and I sympathize with them.  I just don't think there are many people out there "accusing" Newcastle of doing what many clubs regularly do.]

on the last day of the transfer window – too late to replace him, and with the possibility of relegation greatly enhanced.

This kind of makes sense, except that Carroll wasn't in Newcastle's back line when they conceded four goals in 26 minutes, and he also was not there when the Magpies scored four in 20.

...The only way Newcastle could have found a use for their £35m windfall at this stage was to pile it up in banknotes between their own posts to stem the tide of Arsenal goals. Carroll, the lone scorer, was the difference when these sides met in London in November, and Carroll was what seemed to be separating them again in this apparent thrashing.

Again, Mr. Hayward: Andy Carroll plays striker, not central defender.  Even his hold-up play wouldn't have kept that first half from happening yesterday.

With his thigh injury, Britain's most expensive home‑born footballer would have missed this epic anyway


But unavoidably the sale of their brightest hope since Alan Shearer was at the heart of the grandstand talk about Arsenal's early brilliance and the apparent collapse of Newcastle's confidence.

Were you actually in the grandstand, Mr. Hayward?  Then how could you hear Fabricio Coloccini saying "Man, the loss of Carroll is really affecting this team's ambition, and consequently, my confidence", as Theo Walcott held him off for Arsenal's first?

...The memory strains to recall a result – a performance – more likely to shape a club's campaign. After half an hour, a relegation struggle loomed into view. Cashing in looked like a supremely destructive act: the final triumph of money over ambition.

Having 35 million pounds to use, theoretically, has absolutely nothing to do with long-term ambition.  There is no nuance to selling one player at an inflated price in a transfer window.  None.  The only possible conclusion is that this was the act of a greedy person who wants to see his football club in League Two. 

(Yes, I know, it's Mike Ashley).  (Well, okay, Hayward may have a point).

It was amateur psychology time.

Oh, now you tell us.

The Carroll sale had broken the club's spirit. Shola Ameobi's cheek was fractured at Fulham and now an unfair burden was falling on Leon Best and Nile Ranger, the last of the Magpie centre‑forwards.

Well, and Peter Lovenkrands.  But who's counting?

A morality play was forming. Mike Ashley had destroyed Newcastle's morale.

Again, no nuance here.  It was total destruction forever and ever.

But then the teams came back out, Barton delivered one of his patented brutal tackles...

That's one way to put it.  Any words about the one in the first half on Andrei Arshavin?  Oh, what, that doesn't fit your fairytale narrative?  Ah.

...and Diaby lost his cool, grabbing his assailant by the back of the neck. Barton has been collared a few times in his life. Unfortunately for him, Diaby is not an officer of the law, so the gesture was badly received, especially by Kevin Nolan...

Abou Diaby forgot to wear his badge again, the stupid French idiot!  That was the problem.  That was the only problem with this whole situation.

When Diaby shoved Nolan as well his departure became a formality. Then the avalanche began. A soft foul by Laurent Koscielny on Best brought Barton his first from the spot. Twenty-three minutes left. Then Best pulled another one back. Sixteen minutes on the clock. With eight minutes left Arsenal conceded another penalty and Barton scored again.

So very little description of this third goal, for some odd reason.  Oh well.

Then the coup de grâce. A Gaël Clichy clearance dropped to Tioté, on the volley, 25 yards out, and the ball blazed low into the right-hand a corner...With this the game relaunched itself as a comic strip.

Only THEN it had become a comic strip?

[...] For the Arsenal manager and his trophy-chasing team this was a mighty psychological blow. Can't defend a 4-0 lead at Newcastle? How will they cope against Barcelona in the Champions League?

After Xavi's "maverick spirit" leads him to almost break Alex Song's leg, ask that question again.  But for heaven's sake, don't actually wonder about things like how Emmanuel Eboue will cope with David Villa, or how Aresnal's midfield might struggle with Barcelona's pressing game in midfield.

But for Newcastle there is the reassuring sense now that no cause is lost.

In being that this was the largest comeback in Premier League history, it's probably reassuring for every English team.

Even more importantly Carroll's sale to Liverpool has not pulled the ceiling down on St James' Park

Funny what 35 million pounds will do for a stadium.

...where the patient barcode hordes started out having one of the worst afternoons of their football-watching lives, but went home jubilant after one of the best.