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The life cycle of criticism

Last week, I wrote about the Premier League: “A few teams scramble for third and fourth, slipping up every so often, making the top two increasingly unobtainable”.

    Since my adamant declaration that Manchester United was unsurpassable, they have lost 2-0 to Huddersfield, and come under increasing scrutiny. It is easy to make presumptions based on a few opening games, and draw conclusions for the rest of the season before it has really started.

    I, of all people, am a repeated perpetrator of this crime of presumption. In the past, I have both lamented and heaped praise upon Arsenal in adjacent columns, and this season will undoubtedly cause me to do the same again.

    One thing is clear; the Premier League is unrelentingly exciting and unpredictable. Let my, and all sports journalists’, ubiquitous hypocrisy be evidence of this fact.

    And it is not just my Trumpian lack of consistency that supports this statement. Arsenal’s fan base have become notorious in their lack of clarity within the Wenger Out movement, switching almost daily from one opinion to the other.

    Last week, jeers of disgust rang out at Vicarage Road, this week cheers of admiration at Goodison Park. In the past months, Ozil has been the victim of a vicious, and in my opinion justified, campaign against his style of play, yet against Everton, pundits and fans had nothing but positive words to laud over him. Arsenal epitomises footballing turbulence. As the saying goes, we are ‘consistently inconsistent’.

    What commentators and journalists say today will remain relevant for a short while, before expiring and reaching its inevitable destination of the graveyard of obsolete expert opinion.

    Football is, as Heraclitus would have put it, in constant flux. Everton, a former symbol of top-half-of-the-table stoicism under David Moyes’ guidance, has become a relegation battler under the leadership of the now deposed Ronald Koeman.

    Manchester United received a shock on the weekend after a seemingly flawless star, hopefully for them more of a rejuvenating defibrillation than a destabilising thump to the stomach. But whatever happens in the rest of their season, what is said today will be disproved tomorrow.

    So take what us journalists say with a pinch of salt, because in reality, we can predict and analyse as badly as anyone else. Current analysis is relevant for now, but its pertinence will eventually erode and decompose with time.

    Perhaps it will return in the future, in Aristotelian regeneration style, once more to criticise and inform. But for now, it lives its short life, serves its purpose and, like a mayfly, dies after 24 hours. 

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