This isn’t rugby

August 30, 2010

Arsene Wenger has been plunged into yet another media firestorm with his latest comments on how certain clubs are turning football into ‘rugby’. Completely, absolutely and utterly coincidentally, the comments were made immediately ahead of a game against one of the clubs he cites as being responsible for this perversion of the Wengeronian Ethics that have characterised the game in England since he sold Patrick Vieira.

No doubt he was concerned following last season’s game against Blackburn which saw the dirty Northern monkeys deliberately send players into the penalty area to try to score from corners. Once more he was proved right to share those concerns. As the above image from the weekend’s game shows, a defender is quite clearly hauling down an attacking player in the penalty area at a corner. As usual it went unpunished.

Arsenal have enriched our lives in so many ways. Here’s one more.

It’s important to overcome injuries quickly.

People often make judgements on first impressions and sometimes that can lead to misjudgements. Martin Atkinson fell into this trap when booking Sol Campbell for what looked like a studs up challenge on Morten Gamst Pedersen yesterday. Campbell was understandably incensed as Atkinson’s rash decision meant he became the first Arsenal player to be booked in a game since Anselm of Colney during a Shrove Tuesday match in Buxton in 1564.

What the above photograph clearly shows is that Campbell’s studs weren’t up. Pedersen isn’t flying through the air and none of this happened. Move on.

Football continued in its lingering death throes yesterday as Arsenal were defeated by a Blackburn side who blatantly had players standing in positions in the penalty area trying to score from corners. 

As usual one man was standing up for the rule of common sense. ‘He (Fabianski) had two players in front of him all the time and every time it was to stop him getting the ball. I think the referee cannot allow that. I am very disappointed the referee lets that happen in a football game, it is unfair to a goalkeeper. That is completely unfair.’

Clearly rule changes are needed. Based on his announcements this season, it would appear Wenger would favour the following:

1. No opposition players to stand in the Arsenal penalty box at corners

2. No taking the ball off Arsenal players anywhere on the pitch

3. No trying to score goals against Arsenal

Anything else is clearly unfair. On Arsenal.

The day football died

April 18, 2010

 

The world of football was plunged into mourning today as the most beautiful team the world has ever seen was robbed of silverware for yet another season. They couldn’t even rely on their productive relationship with referee Lee Mason who ignored Sol Campbell (again) kicking Wigan’s Figueroa in the stomach, Abou Diaby (again) kicking some irrelevant Wigan clogger in the head without a booking, Bacary Sagna’s repeated rugby tackles on anybody with the temerity to get past him, Samir Nasri’s blatant tug on Ben Watson in the penalty area and so on.

If this farce is not to be repeated next season, then players must be protected from the heavy challenges of teams like Arsenal, I mean Wigan. Stoke. Bolton. Whoever.

The second leg of the Champions League game follows a similar pattern to the first, as the technically superior Arsenal team are harried, kicked and pressed by an outclassed Barcelona who are lucky to only pick up three bookings.

It is part of the Arsenal philosophy to make sure officials react properly to fouls, tackles, whatever. So it was to the credit of the Arsenal players that they made sure Andre Marriner drew an instant red the moment Karl Henry ‘tackled’ Tomas Rosicky. There are some that have argued that it was the reaction of the players that got the red rather than the tackle, for example in this article in The Guardian , but the cynics are ignoring the way Arsenal players also surrounded the ref in the Champions League game against Barcelona in an attempt to get their own players (Arshavin, Diaby, Song et al) sent off following several shocking late challenges from behind. The last thing anybody from Arsenal wants to be accused of is hypocrisy.

Sometimes when you’re up against technically superior opposition you have to ride your luck and fight for everything you get. So it was for Barcelona last night in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final. The Catalonians were given a first half lesson in possession by their opponents and must have been pinching themselves to go in at half time with a blank scoreboard.Certainly the half time team talk for the fortunate coach must have written itself. 

Barca were reduced to kicking their opponents and launching long balls forward in an attempt to relieve the relentless pressure on their defence. It is telling not only that they failed to win a corner all night and had a mere 2 shots on target to their opponent’s 14, but that they gave away twice as many free kicks as and were awarded 5 yellow cards, three for very late tackles indeed, committed in turn by the usual suspects.

It was no surprise when Barcelona’s luck ran out at the beginning of the second half, as they conceded two quick goals. But then their opponents started to cruise and Barca’s direct style and aggressive approach began to reap dividends. A piece of weak goalkeeping threw the Catalans a lifeline, perhaps understandable given that the poor keeper hadn’t touched the ball all night. The equaliser arrived after the ref awarded a harsh penalty and an even harsher red card following a desperate long punt into the box.

Quiz Time

March 30, 2010

Arsenal are back in action in Europe this week. So here’s a topical quiz.

Watch these two clips carefully.

Using your skill and judgement, decide which of these two goals demonstrated ‘quick thinking’ and which caused Arsene to react by saying: ‘the guy puts the ball down and plays quickly. [The ref] has to make sure the opponent is at nine metres distance. I believe he is incompetent or dishonest, so I prefer to believe he is not competent.’