Let's get stuck in!

Beckham has a question for the teacher

Oh man, I love the Friday pre-match presser. Arsene Wenger, naked, in front of dozens of sports reporters who ask pointed questions… about other teams players… like Ronaldo

Fine, this is really two related issues: hard play and diving.  As for hard play I’ve talked about this before, every Arsenal blogger talked about this issue at one point or another, owing to the fact that Arsenal have probably suffered more than any at the hands of this English cultural phenomena. My argument, in essence, is that we need some hard play, but that some teams, like Bolton, when outclassed by their opponent are told by their managers and the fans to go out and “get stuck in:” intentionally tackle hard in order to disrupt play and make their opponent think twice about dribbling in to their area. Further, it’s a fact that when two teams of disparate quality come together the English referees manage the game differently. The clod-hoppers are allowed to challenge a little harder than the butterflies. After all, it’s expected that Sheffield United will come and kick Arsenal off the pitch but when we do it, it’s clearly intentional and retributive.

From grade school to the Premier League, English players are taught to play like this, English coaches coach like this, and English referees ref like this. Wenger has been on a 5 year mission to change this fact about English football and by all accounts has failed miserably. Yes, the game is a bit less rough than when he came in 12 years ago. But I could argue that that’s down to the fact that the Arsenal herself got less rough! Old heads know what I’m talking about: Patrick Vieira was no butterfly. Actually, what it’s down to is a bit of clamping down on the more cynical tactics that most defenders used to employ in order to try to align the Premier League more with the continent.

But this is Wenger’s thing right now, he wants every team to play beautiful technical football, and if asked about it will launch into a huge tirade. I think he needs to abandon this principle and bring in a Vieira type because after 5 years of trying this new, more technical football, Arsenal haven’t won shite. The reality is that you need some gritty players, guys who are going to go out and employ the dark arts. Not all the time, but when the time comes, you’ll know it. Like whenever Kevin Davies is on the pitch: one good tackle and that fucking clod-hopper will be put in his place.

The other thing, the comment about Ronaldo and how he invites hard play because he’s such a ponce, well, yeah. DUH. It’s true. I wrote about this  issue after the Hleb/Murty incident. And again, the essence of the argument goes like this: I hate to see players “make a meal” of contact. When 140 lb Hleb “struck” Murty he fell to the ground like he had been hit by Mike Tyson. When Cesc was brushed by Arteta’s elbow he went to ground as if he’d had his eye socket collapsed. etc. etc. You all know what I’m talking about and it’s one of the most infuriating aspects of modern football. Can you imagine Tony Adams pulling a Murty? Hell no, he’d be more likely to bide his time, wait for the perfect moment and take Hleb out with a well timed slide tackle. Then stand over him and say “keep your hands to yourself, son.”

Given his history of histrionics and admission that “when I feel contact I go down” Ronaldo is the poster child for this type of feigning injury douche baggery and Wenger points that out. Yes, Taylor’s arm struck Ronaldo on the shoulder, and that should have been a yellow, or maybe a retroactive red. But watching Ronaldo slumped over by the hoardings, grasping his face as if he’d been kicked in the face is a disgrace on the modern game.

He’s play acting, he’s faking, HE’S CHEATING.

I don’t know how you stamp this sort of thing out, maybe have after match reviews and fine players who are clearly feigning injury for bringing the game into disrepute (Eb*ue).

Or… maybe we just let the hard tacklers have at them and call it a wash?

Anyway, Burnley on Sunday and it’s a 6:30am kickoff, live on Fox Soccer Channel, which means sausages and skivvy’s and liveblogging for me, you have to tune in for that.

Match preview tomorrow, if you’re in to that sort of thing. See you then!

11 Comments on Let's get stuck in!

  1. That slack-jawed yokel Dida received a two match ban for feigning injury in a Champions League match last season.

    So there is precedent for action by UEFA.

  2. Until the FA or football in general accept video technology, issues such as tackles and non-tackles will always be an issue. Bobby McMahon pointed out, when the issue was a big debate last year, that even with replays on their show, sometimes they cannot get it right or wrong so video technology is either useless or not as refined of a solution as most may think. However, despite my huge respect for Bobby I think he was wrong on that particular point. While it is indeed sometimes hard to determine if the ball crossed the line on a replay or a tackle or handball was intentinal or not, the technology can only do more good than harm. Sure you may miss a few calls but you’ll make more right ones than wrong. Furthermore if video technology is more intentional, there will be far more camera angles implemented to give much better points of view than relying on TV cameras whose purpose is not for analysis but for capturing entertainment. The 2 concepts and usages of the technology are very different. Those who cry that bad calls or questionable calls are ‘just a part of the game’ are living in the past. Times change, but the game refuses to and they’d much prefer to get the calls as they see them rather than get the calls right. I think we’ve reached a point where we’ve much rather have calls be fair than hold on to an obsolete tradition. American sports have implemented video technology to a successful degree, while not extending the length of games. The time eaten up by players who cause a commotion over a questionable call could easily be used by refs to analyze the situation. Essentially you’re also taking the pressure of the players and stadium off of the ref by giving him his own time to review the call via replay. Of course you can’t expect every call to go to video but give managers or captains 2 opportunities per game where they can put a call under scrutiny and with proper training these video analyses shouldn’t take more than a minute or so to be reviewed. There have been very open proposals for this technology to be a part of the game in order to put it into the 21st century but the old suits are being stereotypically stubborn and averse to technology.

  3. great write up tim. yeah i wish wenger would stop complaining about the rough tackles in the english game and just get a big strong fella in the middle of the park to win us the ball. on one hand, i can see the benefits of trying to make the english game more technical than physical ( for e.g. england may actually qualify for euro 2012), on the other hand it’s what makes the epl so exciting, fun, fast & furious. im sure there is a happy balance there somewhere. regardless, the physicality of the english game isn’t going away anytime soon and unless we get someone in MF who isn’t afraid of the physical aspects of the game, we will continue to get pushed off the ball and succumb to injury problems. it’s not just bad luck that we have so many injuries. so either 1) get the big guy or 2) have a deep enough squad so that injury problems dont cripple our team like it’s been doing. right now we have neither and so we will keep continuing to struggle in the prem. peace!

  4. @NYGunner

    Basically you’re saying if we can’t beat ’em join ’em? That’s not the point. What is the point is the rubbing out of unnecessary roughness. I don’t think even Wenger can deny the game will always be a contact sport and there will be physicality but what he is trying to put forth is a systematic plan which will deter players from making rash decisions. Does the spectator enjoy the on-field bust ups? Yes. But that is simply because we’ve come to glorify violence because it’s fun to watch everyone else beat each other senseless as long as it’s at a safe distance from putting our own safety into question. We hardly ever think about those involved. Wenger did not mention it outright but I’m sure he recalls in his mind Eduardo and Diaby’s leg breaking injuries when he talks about unnecessary tackling. Remember Ben Thatcher on Pedro Mendes a while back? Why should that be in the game? How is tackling someone so harshly that they fall into a state of unconsciousness even remotely promoting sportmanship? Wenger will never get every single team playing free flowing football but he can at least try to make the game safer for everyone by offering harsher penalties for unfair play which otherwise demean the spirit of the sport.

  5. @WC

    My only real fear when it comes to video technology is that TV will take the opportunity to fill the review breaks with commercials.

    For me the solid 45+ minutes of action are what make the sport so utterly enjoyable. Just as the constant commercial breaks during an NFL game make that sport utterly unwatchable.

    My two cents.

  6. WC,
    that’s not what i am saying at all. i am football purist myself and nothing pleases me more than wenger’s brand of football. i know when wenger talks about 10 match bans for rough tackes he has edu and diaby in mind – and i agree with him 100% in principle. however, i am also a realist. over a hundred years of a football culture is not going to change overnight. in the meantime, we have to make sure we have someone who can cope with the physical aspect of the game. wenger knows this too – thats why he brought viera along with him. i suspect he got diaby aboard for the same reason although he is turning out to be a different type of player (i hope he can develop the defending side of his game). im not saying we should be like other teams and be a physical side but what i am saying is that we should have someone who can prevent us from being bullied off the boal. ofcourse i wish wenger luck and support him fully to try and make the game safer but its not happening soon and in the meantime if we want to win the prem we will need a midfield general

  7. The Ben Thatcher thing is an open and shut case, that’s not a tackle or a shoulder charge, or even a fair attempt to get the ball, it was an assault. No one wants that in the game and the FA and his team meted out very harsh punishment (by their standards) to him for the challenge.

    What needs looking at is Kevin Davies, Nolan, Mikel, Barton, and their ilk who are allowed to get away with overly physical play. But more important than those guys is the managers who tell their boys to go out and “get stuck in.”

    Look at the Taylor tackle on Eduardo. The fact is that the Birmingham manager said, before the match, that his players needed to “show more toughness” and urged them to get stuck in.

    “We do need to demonstrate more toughness at the back. We can be a bit soft sometimes as the goal we conceded against West Ham proved.”

    Is it any wonder then that less than 3 minutes into the game Martin Taylor puts in a challenge that breaks Eduardo’s leg? That’s about as clear an indictment of Allie McLeish as I can imagine. Taylor was a pussy, by everyone’s account. A guy like that doesn’t put in a studs up lunge at a player’s shin in the 3rd minute of the game unless his coach specifically took him aside and said “Tiny, come on, we need you here in this match, just show them you mean business straight away and they won’t be so likely to try their dribbly, passy, beautiful bullshit.”

    So, for me, banning the players is pointless, unless you’re going to ban the managers.

  8. i actually am in favor of video technology. i think each team should be be allowed two challenges per game in regards to either a offside call or a possible/shown red card call. i know a lot of people will disagree with me here and think its ridiculous cos its breaks the flow of the game. but 1) it would probably make the game fairer and 2)let’s be honest, when there is a harsh foul, the game stops for 3 mintues anyway and disrupts the flow.

    the other crazy idea i was entertaining was why not have a points system for the referees? if you are getting your calls right, then you will end up getting more points than the ones who are constantly missing/ making the wrong calls. the top couple of referrees will be allowed to go on to officiate uefa/fifa games and make more money while the bottom two or three will be relegated to officiating championship games and make less money. i know its sounds absurd but it might work. some of the decisions this year on the pitch have just been atrocious!

  9. You guys should all know this. Here is an explanation of what is happening in Wenger’s mind, and the whole fascination with ‘beautiful football’:
    Back in the 1930s, Uruguay was hands down the best team in the world. The Uruguay National team got on a big ferry boat, and came to France to play a series of exhibition games. Of course they beat every French club and national team by a combined score of gzillion to 1. But what stuck with people more than the score, was the beautiful and flowing style of play they played that was not seen in Europe before. It was an overnight sensation. Every football player and team in France suddenly wanted to emulate the Uruguayans. Now fast forward between to the 1980s. The game of the golden generation of French players like Platini was a modern version of the beautiful game of the Uruguayans. Except that they would beat everybody other than Germany who would invariably would ‘get stuck in’ and kick France off the pitch. Anybody saw the Schumacher-Battiston collision in the semi of the 1982 World Cup? Then fast forward to 1998 and Jacquet’s national team who won everything over the span of 4+ years. The difference? The defense. And physical play in the Midfield. Now Jacquet was the most insulted football manager of all time until he won the WC. Why? Because he was not playing ‘beautiful’ football. Everybody in France was complaining and hated him. Until he won.
    Food for thought.

  10. @matt

    There won’t be any commercial breaks for video review because to implement it would mean to train the refs and stipulate no longer than say a minute. To be honest even when you watch replays on TV in slow motion after 2-3 views you can pretty much make up your mind. If you can’t then leave the original call as it is. No commercial break is going for 1 minute, that would be ridiculous. Furthermore it won’t disrupt play any more than the players who cause a commotion, stop play and crowd the ref for 5 minutes, disrupts play. The only possible exploit is the use of it to purposely extend the time of a call and draw out the game and eat minutes off the clock. However, the think tank can easily come up with certain measures or circumstances where you can and cannot use the video challenges. These kinds of ideas have been suggested numerous times in the past and even louder way back when Roy Carroll got caught off his line and Mednes scored from the halfline only for it to be called a save when pretty much everyone but the ref saw it was plainly a goal. However the FA and football authorities in general have not serious given consideration or re-visited the proposal for some time now and I don’t think the old men ever will – it’s not in their baby boomer personas to come into the 21st century. Even if there were experimental uses of this in smaller competitons like a U-21 or so we could at least believe they are coming around but they have not even given it any thought from what I see.

  11. Guys, all that is going on here is wenger attempting in vain to condition the refs and english fa into protecting as much as possible his young and smallish side. I think it would be better if, as tim stated, wenger brought in players better suited to the task at hand.

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