Arsenal are less than 24 hours away from their 12:45 home kickoff against West Bromwich Albion. There’s some good news (Nasri is fit), there’s some OK news (Toure is in the squad despite being “short” in the manager’s words) and then there’s the spate of news about cheating, diving, dirty play, and respecting the refs.
Let me get to the latter in just a second, first, I want to mention that the team seems to have brought back the 3pm Saturday kickoff — well, a little. Last year there were only a handful of Arsenal matches that kicked off at 3pm BST on a Saturday and almost no home matches. This caused a great deal of consternation among yours truly because, well, I didn’t name the site “sometime between 4am and 9am kickoff.com.” I love the 7am kickoff and I know that the British fans loved the 3pm Saturday match just as much. Yes, I know, kickoffs have been shuffled to accommodate television. I don’t care, can’t Arsenal get the 3pm slot? Every time? Is that unreasonable?
Regardless, it’s good to see the traditional home kickoff time being restored for 10 home games this year. Unfortunately, the first one of those doesn’t happen until October 18th against Everton. Can’t wait.
The other news is that, joy of joys, win or lose, relegation be damned, the Premier League season kicks off tomorrow! And what joys do they have in store for us at the corporate office! Huh? Yes, kickers, the boys at the head office have kicked down a new “scheme” they are calling “Get on with the game.”
The big rule change is dissent. Sick of seeing such shameful displays as Ashley Cole turning his back on Mike Riley, the entire Chelsea squad surrounding the referee when they don’t like a call or just want to disrupt play, or John Terry screaming at the ref when a call doesn’t go his way, the Premier League decided to get tough, to really crack down. So, they wrote up a charter, made a flag, designed a new handshake, and got the broadcasters to agree to have some ex-refs in the broadcast studio so that the referee’s point of view could be shown. They have also decided to hit the problem with a with a major — and I mean major — leaflet campaign, and while it’s reeling from that, they’re going to follow up with a whist drive, a car boot sale, some street theatre and possibly even some benefit concerts.
Look, signing compacts, shaking hands, and waving a flag around aren’t going to stop players like Cole and Mascherano from being disrespectful to the referees. Neither is allowing “just” the captain to talk to the ref. It’s silly, it’s a band-aid on the problem. It doesn’t address the issue of when the captain is the problem, and it doesn’t stop the players from being disrespectful.
If you want to fix the problem of dissent, you give one warning, one yellow, a red, and then further sanctions from there. Refuse to leave the pitch (Adebayor!) and get a 1 match ban for every minute the player refuses. You know, serious sanctions — I don’t know, I’m just throwing that out there to show that something could be done. All this scheme will do is make it look like the Premier League is doing something.
And what did they do about the dangerous tackles like the one that nearly ended Eduardo’s career? Nothing. It’ll be business as usual. “Go on get stuck in boys” will be the clarion call of all managers who are unable to teach their boys how to play football. You need look no further than Everton as the model that the middle of the pack teams should emulate. Moyes has craftily put together a team that has the best disciplinary record, is a baby’s breath away from a top four defense, and still scores goals. They are a serious threat to break into the top four because of Moyes and his ability to teach. Not because they go out and break legs to slow down technically superior teams.
Given that the League won’t do anything about dangerous play, is it any wonder that Adebayor is calling for Arsenal to win “dirty?” Ade says what everyone already knew:
Sometimes you have to be dirty to win some games. You need to do that because it is part of football.
I’d rather they didn’t cheat to win, but given Chelsea’s antics in every match and the fact that they get away with it, I’d have to agree with Adebayor. If the league is going to let it happen, well, you’d be a fool not to join them.
Finally, the other big rules change that I wanted to see was an end to the type of diving that 99% of football fans seem not to care about; that “I feel contact I go down (Ronaldo)” type of dive. I know I’m in the minority here, but I can’t stand seeing a 12 stone man writing on the ground in “pain” after some little striker reaches out and pats his cheek. My proposed amendment is even simpler than the respect amendment; if you couldn’t get away with it in a pick-up game, it’s a dive. Thus, a straight red for the “slapper” because, well, you shouldn’t touch another player’s face, dummy. And a yellow card for the guy on the ground for simulation. I’d also allow post match review for diving and retroactive match bans for particularly egregious displays.
And before the few non-Arsenal fans who read this blog get into a frenzy; yes, Cesc Fabregas went down too easily against Everton. So? It’s part of the game, right? You can’t have it both ways. In my “scheme” he would have gotten a yellow. If you really want fair play, you have to be willing to take on your own team, which most fans aren’t. Since no one, not fans, not managers, not owners, and not the League seem willing to take on the really big issues I expect this season will be more of the same, just with better looking banners. I guess I better just take my own advice and “get over it.” Eh?
That’s it for today, I am genuinely excited for the season. After all, it looks like Arsenal are ready to start playing the way everyone else does, there’s going to be a bunch of 3pm Saturday kickoffs, and the boss is promising a new signing. What more could an Arsenal fan want?