Part 14 – know your history

March 5, 2010

The foul was invented by Sam Allardyce in 1996. Allardyce had picked up on some rudimentary shirt pulling while watching a match in Uruguay and decided to develop the idea for the English League. By complete coincidence this was also the year that Arsene Wenger took over the reins at Arsenal. Initially Wenger, pragmatic, intellectual and forward thinking as ever, tried to embrace this new innovation. Early results were mixed. Although the Arsenal team of that era were undoubtedly successful, including two doubles in 1998 and 2002, Wenger was troubled by the criticism that his team were getting for their appaling disciplainary record and the fact that so many players seemed uncomfortable with it.

Wenger was convinced that it was doubts about the new method of fouling that meant players like Patrick Viera, Tony Adams and Martin Keown were picking up so many cautions. So in 2003 he began to turn his back on the foul in favour of the free-flowing game for which Arsenal are now renowned all over the world. Although players like Kolo Toure did pick up the occasional caution while adjusting to the new system, they soon either fell in line or were shipped out to dirty Northern clubs like Manchester City.

Wenger’s record now speaks for itself. No Arsenal player has given away a free kick for four years at a time when other clubs, especally Northern ones, have continued to embrace and develop this outmoded tactic. But only when they are playing Arsenal.

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