Avoid witch hunts

February 3, 2011

Arsene Wenger has accused the media and fans of indulging in a witch hunt against Cesc Fabregas, characterized by this blog in The Grauniad. Cesc has been the centre of attention in his last two matches but there are easy explanations in response to the accusations of him trying to get players sent off, accusing refs of cheating, hacking down opposition players, telling them to fuck off when they ask for his shirt, diving, time wasting, taking illegal penalties, holding on to the ball in front of the crowd to stop the other team from kicking off, accusing other clubs of poor tactics and so on. There may well be evidence for all of these things in the last few games Arsenal have played, but that doesn’t stop the media from trotting them all out along with stories of all of his past demeanours of spitting at opposition players and managers, scissor tackles, studs up challenges, feigning injury, throwing food and generally falling out with every club, manager and player he comes up against.


Know your opponent

January 13, 2011

Football is a game that evolves. New rules are constantly considered as a way of improving the game. From the banning of hacking to the introduction of three points for a win, many of these new rules benefit the game. Arsenal’s defeat to Ipswich last night must surely have laid the basis for a new rule change so that Arsenal get to decide how the other team plays. This can only come about when FIFA introduces rules that allow Arsenal to choose the team and the tactics of their opposition.

 In the vanguard of the need for change is football visionary Cesc Fabregas. Speaking in the wake of the game he said:

”I don’t know if it is long ball or it is a rugby kick but it worked for them. In England, a lot of teams play like that and it works for them, they create chances like that and it is their football. We just have to put the ball on the floor and try to play football. Credit to them because they played well but Arsenal played the football, the other team refused to play football, they were lucky to score with a long ball.’

Well said Cesc. And just to prove the point above is another example to go with the others of how to play football the right way.

Arsenal are renowned all over the world for their ability to deal with setbacks with grace. So it was disappointing not only to see the ref completely misjudge Bacary Sagna’s attempts to congratulate Zabaleta on an evening of sterling defensive work but how the media have also misinterpreted Cesc Fabregas ‘accosting’ Roberto Mancini at the end of the game, much as they did when Fabregas had post match conversations with Alex Ferguson, Mark Hughes, Tony Pulis and Brian Horton.

PS No way did he spit at Horton. Or Michael Ballack. And no way did he encourage Gerard Pique to spit at one of Spain’s coaches on the victory bus after the World Cup.

A chip off the old block

January 6, 2011

Cesc Fabregas used his programme notes ahead of last night’s game against Manchester City to condemn Lee Bowyer for his challenge on Sagna in the Birmingham game. “It’s sometimes difficult to know whether a player goes in to hurt someone or goes for the ball,” said Fabregas calling the challenge by Bowyer inexcusable.

Using your skill and judgement, determine whether Cesc is going for the ball or trying to hurt the player in these instances.

Choose your battles

January 5, 2011

The great Chinese philosopher general Sun Tzu once said ‘He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight’.

Jack Wilshere may only be young but he is wise beyond his years. He picks his fights carefully, knowing not to fight back when headbutted by a grown man like Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia. But not holding back when it comes to breaking the arm of a young woman in the street along with two friends.

Spot the difference

January 5, 2011


Following Lee Bowyer’s three match ban for stamping on Bacary Sagna, much has been made of Alex McLeish’s claims that the FA has an inconsistent approach to disciplinary matters for different clubs. It was disappointing to see the comparisons being made to a ‘stamp’ a year earlier by Samir Nasri on Hull’s Richard Garcia, which not only left the Hll player pretending he had been hurt when Nasri’s boot touched his heel while the ref wasn’t looking, but also led to the incredibly rare spectacle of Arsenal players involved in a brawl with the opposition. It was only right that the FA didn’t charge Nasri with violent conduct, not least because Hull are too small to bother with.

Arsenal once again showed the way for all players to behave yesterday when Emmanuel Eboue confirmed that he hadn’t mean to ‘kill’ Liam Ridgewell when scissor tackling him from behind. In many ways the statement has been overshadowed by Jack Wilshere’s noble apology for his studs up challenge on Nikola Zigic in the same game, but it’s always great to see a player openly admit that he’s actually only trying to break someone’s leg, not kill them.

There were some who thought Arsene Wenger was leaving himself a hostage to fortune by suggesting that the Premier League should consider six month bans for players who commit violent challenges. The predictable furore yesterday when Jack Wilshere mistimed his tackle on whoever from Birmingham was met with the usual dignified response from Wenger. Not only did he concede it was a red card, he has also acted on his own principles and banned Wilshere for six months. Anything else would just make him look like a hypocrite. 

Take the pictures

September 20, 2010

Once again Arsene Wenger found himself at the centre of controversy over the weekend following the disastrous 1-1 draw at Sunderland. Wenger was alleged to have shoved 4th official Martin Atkinson but defended himself with the claim ‘take the pictures and look at it. I complained to nobody.’

Well there you have all the evidence you need that Wenger indeed complained to nobody even though Arsenal were hamstrung by the behaviour of the officials, playing against eleven men for only the second time this season, having Alex Song sent off following a string of merely protective challenges and conceding freekick after free kick.

But Arsene was pushed almost beyond the point of his habitual sang froid by the decision of the officials to keep playing until the final whistle.

Creativity is a great way of getting your message across, especially when the facts may not entirely back up what you are trying to say. As one of the great intellectuals of the world game, Arsene is aware that he sometimes needs to ignore details and focus on the spirit of an idea to help him communicate his ideals. So he was right in principle to say that Ryan Shawcross had ‘kicked’ Heurelho Gomes in the recent league encounter between Stoke and Spurs. While not factually correct, it might have happened, maybe in a different game with different teams and different players and at a different time. And isn’t that all that matters? It’s not lying.