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Confirmation bias or the cold truth?

OPINION: Frank Lampard got involved in a wordy war with a journalist – a call from the Chelsea chairman’s PA may have come soon after

28 January, 2021 — By Richard Osley

LAST week Frank Lampard was taking questions from the press as the then Chelsea manager when he suddenly started laying into a reporter from The Athletic.

For those not aware of The Athletic, it’s a subscription website that has insider stories and long reads about football in which the writers use five more words in each sentence than they used to do in their previous jobs.

Then, in the most crushing exposure of how all journalism works, when their stories are published, the interviews are promptly ransacked for quotes by other journalists and published on websites that you don’t have to pay for.

At least Lampard was paying for the full service, it seems, as he appeared to have read every single word the website had ever published about Chelsea.

And fighting fire with wordy fire, he used the conspicuously intelligent term of “confirmation bias” as his riposte to the man from The Athletic, who had asked him if confidence was dropping at the club. “It’s like a social media pundit trying to get a reaction in a negative way,” Lampard added, about the writer’s work.

Now, you can do sarcasm, putdowns, wordplay, funny faces, maybe mum jokes, the lot, but what you can’t do is tell The Athletic that they are acting like Twitter hacks and curling out provocative opinions simply for web hits. I mean, they do sometimes seem like they might be doing that – but only in the most eloquent, informative way.

The moment a manager goes to war with a journalist, then you know that one of the next calls they will receive is a message from the chairman’s PA: Training has been unexpectedly adjourned and you are wanted for a brief – very brief – meeting at 8.30am.

Mainly because there’s usually some truth in that “confirmation bias” that Lampard was trying to figure out. The reporter asked about confidence … because Chelsea looked short on confidence. And sure enough Roman Abramovich had lost confidence in Lampard’s ability to get the best out of his £200million pandemic spend on players; calling him on Monday like a Bond villain despatching a blundering henchman who had failed to simply shoot 007.

People say the Chelsea way is brutal and ruthless, but it usually works out for the owner in the end; you wouldn’t want Arsenal to construct the full Stamford Bridge guillotine, but a slightly more expectant board might be nice.

Lampard himself benefited from Chelsea’s hard lines as a player, winning trophies thanks to Abramovich’s absolute determination to be victorious – and his grotesque wealth. But shoot, I mentioned the Chelsea money again, it’s just my confirmation bias getting the better of me.

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