After Arsenal’s draw against Burnley on Sunday, some supporters accused Mikel Arteta of ‘blaming the grass’ for the failure to win.
If you look at one part of the press conference in isolation, you can see why the fans came to that conclusion. Arteta did talk about the grass in his post-match press conference, and if you only focus on the quotes making the rounds on social media, it does look bad.
“The conditions were difficult, the grass was ‘this’ long,” Arteta said. “They didn’t put any water on it and that’s not a very helpful thing to play football.”
I guess that’s that then. He said it, time to go and write a tweet about the lack of accountability from the person who is meant to be in charge at Arsenal! Or maybe we should look at…
Those quotes were only part of a much longer discussion about the game. For a start, Arteta’s answer immediately prior to the grass comment was about the problems Arsenal created for themselves.
“We were fantastic in some moments, but we were so sloppy and put ourselves in big trouble with a lot of unnecessary situations,” Arteta began.
“We have to improve because that gives the opponent an opportunity where there is no real scenario for anything to happen and we need to improve that a lot.”
Not only that, but the coach went on to say that he expected the conditions. He prepared for them and he accepts it’s a legitimate tactic to gain an edge.
“I didn’t water the pitch yesterday in the training ground so I was expecting it,” Arteta confirmed. “That doesn’t make it easier to play. It’s their game, they do really well at what they do. It’s their strength, you are allowed to do it so we have to adapt.”
Finally, Arteta went as far as to specifically state that it wasn’t the grass that caused them to lose. It was the ‘quality’ of the two sides playing on it.
“We adapted really well in some moments but it is not the grass, it is the quality,” Arteta concluded. “What they (Burnley) do, they do really well and we could not cope with that in the right way.”
Should he know better?
This is the most common response I’ve seen from the few people who have read the full quotes. Though they accept Arteta wasn’t blaming the grass, they argue he should know that’s how the media will report on his comments.
Personally, I have a big problem with this line of thinking. It’s not specific to this situation, but a wider issue with the way people approach reports on quotes in football and beyond.
The onus shouldn’t be on coaches and players to pre-moderate everything they want to say. To read from a memorised script in a robotic fashion such that every quote is a self-contained thought impossible to remove from context.
We’re talking about real people. They’re going to say things that don’t make perfect sense if you choose to look at them in isolation.
The fact is that what Arteta said is true, even if it sounds like an excuse. The conditions were a relevant factor and he’s not doing anything wrong by saying it.
Another easy way to point the finger is to blame the media, and they (we?) do deserve it. But the headline writers aren’t entirely culpable. They know this is how they get attention, which is how they pay the bills.
I’m afraid to say it’s you, dear reader, who has to assume most of the responsibility here. You always have a choice, to fly off the handle when you see half a quote or to go searching for the source, click the link, read the context and judge for yourself.