Kitson tackles Pulis

Hey folks, super short post today. I did my behind the numbers piece on the Vorskla match for The Arsenal Review this morning and that ate up most of my time and I have to run off to work. But I wanted to address the “bombshell” article published in the Sun by former Stoke City player Steve Kitson claiming that Pulis was to blame for Shawcross breaking Ramsey’s leg.

On the one hand I want to believe this article. It confirms everything I believe about Pulis and how he set Stoke up to play against Arsenal. It also confirms my theory that while players often get the blame for these things, it’s the mangers (especially when it came to this tactic as deployed against Arsenal) that are really to blame. But I still think the article and source is problematic at best.

Kitson is a Sun columnist, he’s also the former “secret footballer”, and now frequent guest on talksport where he regularly courts controversy with his opinions. Earlier this year he came out publicly stating he hates Pulis, that he nearly attacked him with a pair of scissors, and that he tried to undermine him once in front of the Stoke chairman.

He’s also publicly stated how much he hates Alan Pardew and has gotten into spats with Brendan Rodgers and Sam Allardyce. These aren’t people I have the greatest love for but everything about Kitson screams “loves controversy”.

So while I want to believe that Pulis charged his men up like raging bulls and that they responded with a bloodlust that eventually led to Shawcross breaking Ramsey’s leg I also have to acknowledge that Kitson is an unreliable narrator and that in the interest of at least common sense we should wait for others to chime in.

And that, ultimately, is the real problem for me: the lack of voices. We know this is happening all the time or at least it used to happen all the time. This wasn’t a new template for (literally) beating and (literally) breaking Arsenal. Ferguson did it with United, most famously in the 50th unbeaten match, aided by referee Mike Riley (now head of PGMOL). Sam Allardyce made a career of sending in players to deliberately rough up Arsenal. And when Martin Taylor went in on Eduardo’s ankle, I was one of the first to say that this is a management problem; managers were telling their players to kick us off the pitch. That was 2008. By the time that Shawcross poleaxed Ramsey this was old news. And yet, we hear very little from former players and managers in the way of apologies, explanations, or even admission of guilt.

So, while I appreciate Kitson starting the conversation (albeit in the Sun, which made me filthy to read) I won’t be sitting over here waiting for more players and managers to come out and say “yeah, we deliberately tried to kick Arsenal off the pitch, we were out of control, it was my fault, I’m really sorry for what we did to Reyes, Diaby, Eduardo, and Ramsey.” Because, frankly, they were cowards to attack player’s shins the way that they did and as far as I’m concerned they are all still cowards now.




  1. We have clearly suffered an unnatural number of leg breaks, terrible ones.

    Of all those it was Eduardo had the most damaging effect on the team, the season, Wenger himself, the club and ofcourse Eduardo.

    Apart from wrecking the lead so late in the league schedule, it also broke the belief in Wenger himself, he never really put together another genuine title challenge.

    I’m sure most of the system which was awash with the oil money, were relived that Wenger didn’t go on to show that there is an alternative to money to win the title and entertain.

  2. Thugs. One and all…and no one is accountable.

    Our current, non-football, situation in the good ‘ol US of A proves that true malefactors (if sufficiently wealthy or “connected”) are rarely punished. Crime can, indeed, pay. Good guys often do finish last, or, in the case of Emantic Bradford, finish gunned down. And, if you have enough temerity, you can be can be corrupt, self-serving, and mendacious…and still become the commander-in-chief.

    Sigh. Are you not entertained?

  3. Our midfield was just too lightweight for years, that’s on Wenger. We offloaded Gilberto Silva way too early. However the refereeing was a joke back then too, being overly physical was basically and accepted way to play.

    1. Manchester United kicked Arsenal off the pitch in the 50th match. The players that day were: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Edu, Reyes (Pires 70), Bergkamp, Henry.

      Hardly “lightweight”. It wasn’t a problem with the physicality of Arsenal’s players it was a problem that teams deliberately chopped our players down and if we had the temerity to raise a boot in defense, we got the red card. This happened so often it was almost a joke.

      1. God bless Wenger for swimming against that tide for so many years. I don’t know how he did it honestly.

      2. It happened so often that I never worried when we (meaning Vieira) got red cards because we didn’t miss a beat and continued to attack rather than go into a defensive shell.

      3. mate I am 100% with you on this one, it was such as shame. Also we all know we would have won the league if Eduardo had not broken his ankle. That was with RVP out injured for most if not all of the season – that would have been ridiculous

      4. The pundits played their part in it too.
        How many pre match discussions centered around how if you wanted to beat Arsenal, you had to get in their faces and bully them because Arsenal ‘didn’t like it up ’em.’

        Pretty much all sides were encouraged and encouraging the violence.

        And too many referees let them.

    2. Gilberto Silva lost his place to Mathieu Flamini, who wasn’t that big, but was not a lightweight at all.

      Having players of smaller stature is no excuse to kick them

      1. Song was kind of nasty too and hardly tiny. People forget that.

        I think of several incidents when I think of the referee leniency toward teams that wanted to rough Arsenal up:

        1. Joey Barton, picking Gervinho up by the collar and screaming at him for “diving” after a full-blooded tackle and then pretending to be injured when Gervinho touched his face (he also did a similar thing to Diaby in the famous Newcastle match, maybe that’s a better example.)
        2. Chelsea players kicking Arsenal around the pitch in the League cup final, then diving all over the place to get Adebayor and Toure sent off.
        3. Diego Costa raking Koscielny’s face, elbowing him, diving all over, and getting Gabriel sent off when he stepped on his foot.

        It was a basic strategy of most teams to try to get under Arsenal’s skin (“they don’t like it up ’em”) and then to feign injury at the slightest retaliation.

        1. i also, fondly, remember in that chelsea game that diaby chuck-norrised john terry in the face, knocking him out cold.

        2. What these professional players did to Diaby any time he tried to make a comeback was disgusting. Barton almost broke his leg again. Then there was Mikel who specifically stretched to stamp on Diaby’s ankle. And Bolton’s Paul Robinson also comes to mind. And there were many more.

          All along, the league and its apologists did nothing. Worse than nothing. They all blamed the victim. Often very gleefully. Things are better now, but it can go back very quickly because that is still the English go-to option.

        3. That’s a great point too.

          Sections of the fanbase were angry that we didn’t fight back, but as soon as we did we were booked or sent off.

          People talk about how those arsenal teams wouldn’t fight and were too lightweight, but we were never given any leeway to play that way.

          That’s worth remembering.

    3. The likes of Diaby and Adebayor were man-mountains.

      To actually kick them, you will have to try really hard; like you mean to.

      Yeah, even Adebayor got his leg broken before if I recall correctly.

  4. Wenger had no interest in joining the prevailing trend of canonizing hatchet men and their hatchet men loving managers and fans. This “full blooded” approach is part of what makes the PL highly entertaining even for people who don’t understand or watch much of the game; the intensity is sky high! Simultaneously, it also makes a large section of PL footballers one dimensional because graft is so highly valued, they get by on elbow grease and maybe one particular technical skill for most of their career. Some, James Milner being the prototype for this (sweats buckets, has a strong right leg, not much else), can turn that into a pretty good career, but there’s a reason England has been awful on the international stage for so long and it’s because they don’t train their youth to be well balanced, technically polished players. Instead they have a bunch of one-dimensional workhorses who can’t reliably pass to each other. They have been a country with the most rich football tradition who voluntarily set themselves up to play like Iceland with roaring approval from fans and pundits alike after set piece goals ricochet in off their backsides. At least Southgate has embraced that identity and played to his players’ strengths, but the applause for such a limited way of playing football and the distrust with which technical players with slighter builds are regarded has always boggled me.

    This mentality and Wenger’s brave one man stand against it is perhaps a chief reason I’ve always been such a staunch supporter of him. I do think he took his philosophical stance against the English hatchet & hustle too far and in the end it probably cost him a title or two. But he always stood on the side of professionalism, of playing good football and of believing that players who don’t conform to English norms can excel in English football which is more than I can say for most of his contemporaries. Whatever the literal truth of Kitson’s words, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that rough, physical play was in fact the antidote to Wengerball and several teams pushed the boundaries in what seemed at times like a bloodthirsty quest to prove that Olde English ways are superior after all.

    1. doc, i laughed with glee as i read your post. fyi, i agree with every word but my entertainment centers on a discussion we had the other day about mesut ozil.

      the point i was going to make is if a player like ozil or zidane were immigrants who grew up in england instead of france/germany would they have even made it as professional footballers? such is the cut and thrust nature of football in england that one can struggle to imagine england ever having a player like that, despite them being generational talents. the closest thing i’ve seen in england is chris waddle or joe cole; maybe paul gascoine.

      i’m sure that in a football-mad country like england, they have these types of talents. however, they don’t run hard enough or get stuck in enough to be appreciated. zidane and ozil are generational talents who’ve won everything in football but would probably never make it in england.

      1. The more telling point is that England has never produced a generational footballer that is hailed the world over. The closest they’ve come is Charlton and Best and for those players, you have to go back to the mid-1960s.

        1. And Best is actually Northern Irish, so just Charlton. And maybe Rooney between 2004 and 2006.

          1. Beckham might’ve been special if he wasn’t coached to be a one footed winger like most British boys with speed and skill on the ball. He still had a great career but nothing like he might’ve been had it not been unconstitutional to play something besides 4-4-2 at the time.

    2. I agree with your broader point re: English football has shown a preference for size, physical play, and speed at the expense of smaller, more technically gifted players-and it’s not at all necessary, as it may be for a smaller country like Belgium, Portugal or Iceland, given England’s size and rich footballing tradition.

      I do however, take issue with your using Milner to illustrate this. The man broke the record for Champions League assists. He may sweat (and run) a lot, and he may not be an ambi-footed Spanish midfield maestro, but he’s demonstrated he can do more than simply tackle and shoot.

      1. i agree with your milner assessment. i remember him breaking into the leeds team when he was 16 and all the hype surrounding him. then, i remember watching him play and that’s when i was impressed. he struck me as a guy who gave it his all to make it. he’s played at a very high level at virtually every position for very good teams for a very long time. he maximized his potential and i don’t have a problem with that at all.

        the problem with the english is they tend to only look for the milner-types. while that’s impressive and while milner has won tons of trophies throughout his career, he’s needed those brilliant players around him to help him find that success but those players don’t seem to have a role in english football and that’s a shame.

      2. Yes, I meant that he’s an example of a player who made a fine career despite not being particularly technical or well-rounded. Most British players are not so fortunate.

  5. in adebayor’s last season with the club, i remember he spent a lot of time out injured. it, too, was because of ryan shawcross. adebayor was like 3 yards out of bounds when shawcross came in and put his studs on adebayor’s legs. why? especially when the player’s off the pitch? the referee didn’t even blow the whistle, let alone caution or send off shawcross. even the british commentators condoned the no-call because the incident didn’t happen on the field of play. nuts! adebayor was out for like two months. they’re quick to say, “oh, he’s a good, honest lad”. nonsense. he’s a hatchet man with no skill.

  6. Patrick Vieria was a sublimely gifted footballer in a team of supreme technical talents. But what made him a standout and an all-time great was his ability to give as good – more – than what he got while playing Wengerball in the “full-blooded” English top flight. Bergamp too. They could be nastier than the nastiest neaderthals to who tried to kick Arsenal off the pitch. Nobody ever accused Arsenal of being soft back then. How and why it changed is a great topic for discussion but change it did and we have suffered since.

    1. The refs weren’t as one sided then. It was a rougher league, but also fairer. In my view it started going downhill, gradually, since 2001 when the refs turned professional.

  7. Pulis is a big Mourinho admirer therefore everything Kitson said must be true. Case closed.

    Nothing we didn’t already know anyway.

  8. To Tim’s point, I will await the corroborating testimony from the likes of a Glenn Whelan (who held Ramsey’s hand) and others who are willing to testify as to the instructions and the mentality instilled in the team by the manager.

  9. Glenn Whelan: “ and then Pulis brought out a kitten dressed up in Arsenal gear. He took a baseball bat and proceeded to break the kittens tiny little legs”
    “There! This is what I want you to do to their legs” said Pulis.

    “After that I just held the little kitten’s paw and cried but on the inside so Pulis wouldn’t see”

  10. the first instance I can remember was in the last match of the AW first double season vs Everton (we won 4-0 with Tony Adams scoring the last goal with a volley from a through ball from Bould IIRC).

    I was sitting/standing in the penultimate row of the north bank and I watched seemingly in slow motion as Hutchinson went in shin high on Petit by the side line about 1 second after the ball had moved on. Petit was in agony rolling around on the ground off the pitch; when he finally got up he started waving a bloody shin pad at the ref which was clearly broken in two byt he force of the tackle, but the ref wasn’t interested. And neither it later transpired was anyone on TV commentary either – and I think that is where the problem really starts in terms of defining public perception about what is and isn’t acceptable.

    I honestly thought Petit wouldn’t; be able to play in the World Cup in France but luckily he could – and he was on the pitch to receive a beautiful pass from PV4 to score France’s third goal against Brazil (another match I was lucky enough to see having purchased a ticket from a McDonalds exec outside the ground).

  11. While we’re piling on the backward English football culture, we would be remiss not to mention the Heysel disaster and its victims. Has any other nation been excluded from European football for 5 years? It’s still shocking after all these years.

    1. It’s also something the English media never really talked about. I started watching the PL in 97, and the first I had heard of Heysel was when I read Fever Pitch many years later. I knew Arsenal hadn’t been able to play in Europe because English clubs were banned but didn’t know what that was about. It truly was shocking.

  12. There’s a very good chance that Tottenham will end our unbeaten run. They’re big, solid and assertive at the back, good in midfield, and very good in attack. I’d be happy to get a draw out of this. Win, and everyone on this forum gets a bottle of Angostura Bitters posted to him.*

    All the talk is about Harry Kane, but their form players at the moment are Lamela (who I’ve . a feeling will score) and Sissoko. Kane himself has added cleverness to his game. He now drops deeper to collect the ball and play combinations with willing runners from wide and midfield. I expect them to play for a lot of set pieces, because theyre have a height advantage and are very good aerially. Our full-backs and defenders will have to be very vigilant about giving corners away. Make no mistake… this is our toughest test since Manchester City.

    Ozil should get restored to the starting XI. He and everyone else will be up mightily for this game. It’d be interesting to see if Mhki’s hard work and graft win him a start once again. If Laca isn’t fit, I’d play someone who knows where the net is instead, and that is Ramsey. Even wide right. Spurs will make it very hard for us to score. If we play a back 4, will Mustafi or Holding accompany Sokratis?

  13. Mike Dean front and center as usual. Two fouls on Son, both the 50/50 variety and subject to interpretation, both given. I was actually shocked he gave a penalty to Arsenal but I guess it takes a handball that clear for him to point to the spot for us.

    We haven’t defended badly but conceded two goals in one half. It’s hard to swallow.

    Big ups to the Arsenal bench for sticking up for Arsenal!

    1. I wasn’t too sure about the first foul on Son (from which Dier scored from the resulting free kick), but he definitely was not touched by Holding for the penalty.
      I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s a diver (I actually like him), but he does seem to have an aversion to the perpendicular.

      1. In his best moments, he reminds me a of Cristiano Ronaldo because of his build and the way he can move so quickly on the ball with his head up. He does terrify defenders when he has the ball and draws a lot of fouls. I watched them play Inter and that game was headed for a 0-0 before he and Eriksen came on and changed the game. He also has Ronaldo’s talent for crumpling like a flour sack at the slightest contact and in this game he was rewarded for it.

        (Obviously Ronaldo is a generational talent and Son doesn’t have his same instinct for finishing, his rasping shot or technique with the weak foot among other things.)

  14. i was surprised to see the referee award arsenal a penalty…….but there always had to be a twist.

    remedial goalkeeping 97; the goalkeeper should always position himself outside of the goal mouth so that if they can’t handle a ball from a wide area, they flap it out for a corner kick, not into their own goal. leno should have been past the front post, not in the goal mouth.

    while all goalkeepers make mistakes, the top goal keepers don’t make fundamental errors. last week against bournemouth, while it was a great finish he conceded, leno never set his feet before the shot came in. with that, leno nearly made the save. if his feet were set, he would have made the save. it’s why leno will never be a top keeper. i don’t like keepers like leno and even manuel neuer. their quality is based on talent and athleticism and not on fundamentals; meaning once their athleticism slips even a little, the quality of their play slips a lot. give me buffon over neuer every day of the year.

  15. Halftime.

    The critical incident for me is Iwobi shooting straight at Lloris with Arsenal 1-nil up. As much as we glory in his huge development under Emery, his inability to finish better is very frustrating. We were so dominant first half of the half, that we needed to cash in. You felt that they could hurt us if we didn’t.

    We were absolutely, untouchably brilliant for the first half hour.

    Second critical incident is Sokratis’ dumb foul on Son, who’s been the best player on the pitch. Son was going nowhere. Why? That changed the game.

    Im afraid that Holding took a page out of Mustafi’s book by sliding in in his own box. You’re a hostage to fortune when you do that.

    Another point of frustration is over-elaborating on our corner kicks. We caused panic by being direct, and in the last 5 minutes as we won 4 or so corners, Xhaka and Mhki decide that fancy-pants fannying about is the way to go.

    Auba. Leading scorer in the league. But man, he did just take Theo’s shirt number. He also inherited his gift for going offside.

    1. Oh, and a word for Kolasinac. He was murdering Spurs down the left, but they adjusted. Need Tim’s better analytical skills to work out how, but they did. Poch has been very good at not allowing Bellerin a run on right.

      I’d take off Mhki for Laca, move the Frenchman up top, and play Auba wide right.

    2. I don’t think Sokratis meant to foul Son. On the slo-mo it looked like he accidentally stepped on the outside of Son’s shoe.

  16. Good grief.

    Who lit the firecracker? Game of the season. Auba is the league’s leading goalscorer, and scorer of 2 of the best goals this season. What a hit for his second.

    Decisive halftime subbing by the coach won this. Ramsey and Laca were outstanding when they came on. They brought more fight. Two assists for Ramsey? Aubameyang ran himself into the ground for the cause. We won every 50/50 in the second half.

    That was a good Spurs team that we put to the sword second half.

    Son best player in the 1st half (we couldnt handle him), but boy Spurs faded when we turned on the pressure.

    So proud of that fighting performance.

  17. If Emery didn’t know about the North London culture of a NLD, he certainly does now. Six goals, six yellow cards, one red, two penalties & a mass brawl. Does it get any better?
    Terrific game which Mike Dean inevitably left his stamp on.

  18. So apparently Arsenal lead the league in goals and assists by substitutes.
    How interesting.
    Talk about influencing the game from the bench.

  19. it seems my concerns about how few north london derbies had been played by the men that started the game were unwarranted. boy, did those guys fight today. great game to watch.

    didn’t agree with the early substitutions because i didn’t think they were required; arsenal were in control. the only reason spurs were in front was a free kick and a penalty. shows what i know. those changes were inspired. ramsey with two assists. lacazette with a goal and an assist. well done, emery.

    nice to see torreira open his account with a well-taken goal. i really loved the celebration. i can’t help but have a good day today. you boys enjoy.

  20. how must mesut feel watching his team beat the brakes off of spurs while he watches from home?

  21. Honestly I can’t really be too bothered about Mesut Ozil’s feelings right now. Emery is proving to be a strong leader who plays players who deserve it on their performances and the last time Ozil pulled on an Arsenal shirt, we laid a giant egg at home to Wolves in probably our worst performance of the year. It’s not all Ozil’s fault but as captain and titular best player he has to set the tone and he did not do a good job of that in that game. Hopefully this will have the effect of galvanizing him to show what he can do as part of a complete performance on the ball AND off of it.

    I also have to doff my cap to Aaron Ramsey, without whose quick thinking and fast ball movement in the final 3rd this game may have ended 2-1 to Spurs. The finish from Aubameyang for that third goal though, RAWR!!

    1. concerning mesut, i was talking about to have that performance happen with the crowd going bananas against spurs and not be involved; sort of like koscielny not being involved with france for their world cup win.

      1. I have a weird feeling Emery feels Ozil is the one that needs to go this winter transfer window, and Ramsey will be given a contract extension once that happens. We really dont play with a 10 anymore on a regular basis and for the money Arsenal pay Ozil, they could get someone more value for money.. while also retaining Ramsey.. just a gut feel..

  22. Why was Son’s dive given a penalty? I guess Dean just couldn’t help himself. It’s wahtbhw does.

    This match will stay on my PVR for weeks to come. Finally, a performance of swagger, grit and the kind of reseliance we never seemed able to muster in the latter day Wenger era, when so many of those teams would have folded up like a cheap pack of cards after going 2-1 down from 1-nil up.

    We do in them Mancs on Wednesday and we’ll start doing something we haven’t done in many years: make teams afraid of us.


    1. i agree with you. the satisfaction is spread throughout all of goonerdom. by the way, the crowd was fantastic even before kickoff; what an atmosphere. it was also nice to see the players interacting with the fans after the match.

      at halftime, i always believed arsenal would win. i mentioned it a couple of months ago that arsenal don’t play for the first half hour but have been a last hour of the game team all season. scum might have been a bit tired after their performances last week but that’s not arsenal’s problem. they were rested and took it to scum. good vibes.

  23. Minimal contact at best.
    Didn’t see Emery say a single word to the forth official about it thought.
    Too busy plotting his next move and half time changes I suppose.

  24. 1. It’s Dave Kitson not Steve, and I haven’t seen it confirmed anywhere he’s the secret footballer.

    2. I admire Tim’s caution in terms of jumping on a piece of evidence even though it confirms his priors, but I am having none of that and I hereby declare Kitson to be a legend.

    3. I was on a plane for the Spuds match and stayed up on 3hrs sleep to watch it online when I arrived, managed to avoid finding out the score. What a match. It feels like a significant victory right now, but let’s see if we can beat Mourinho.

    4. I’ve read Tim’s by the numbers piece at the other place.

    “6 – Successful passes by Dele Alli in the 2nd half
    4 – Number of those passes which were kickoffs” LOL

    I’d be interested to know how that game measured up in terms of our defensive side, and our weaknesses for giving away Big Chances and high xG against.

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