We’re right into the thick of the Interlull now but due to injuries Arsene has a bigger than normal squad of players to work with. Cesc Fabregas is more or less fit now, he claims he didn’t play against Chelsea in case he had a setback and although the result was poor you have to think that was the right decision.
Nicklas Bendtner says he hopes to be back with the first team within two weeks, we know that Robin van Persie’s 6 week spell out ends mid-October, the same with Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey will be back in full training within 3 weeks according to the caretaker boss of Wales and then there’s only Thomas Vermaelen whose Achilles problem remains a concern.
Of those away Abou Diaby is carrying a knock and may not play for France. While in the past I’ve been mildly dismissive of his ability to pick up injury after injury I feel for him this season. It’s like his shins and ankles have big neon signs on them, flashing ‘Stamp on me. Try to break me. Bet you can’t. Chicken!’. He’s been the victim of one horrendous challenge, from Paul Robinson, and one from Michael Essien on Sunday which didn’t get mentioned very much at all.
It wasn’t quite Ufalujsi on Messi but it wasn’t far away either. And it comes in a week when bad tackling, and condemnation of it, has become the cause célèbre. I can’t remember how long I’ve been writing about it on Arseblog, from before the Eduardo incident, I know that, and it’s good to see it get more coverage at last.
It is curious though that very few people had anything to say when Ramsey’s leg was broken just under 8 months ago. Or when Eduardo’s leg was broken. It was easier to trot out of the NTKOP clichés and ignore the problem. Yet a crude challenge from Nigel de Jong, a foreigner with a bit of reputation, has brought the issue to the fore.
I know Karl Henry has been pilloried for his latest piece of deliberately mistimed thuggery but just a few weeks ago Match of the Day sat giggling at Henry’s maintained assault on Joey Barton in the Wolves v Newcastle game. Now that the public mood has changed they were po-faced and tutting of his tackle on Gomez at the weekend.
Newcastle have apparently written to the FA to demand some kind of justice over the Ben Arfa tackle, threatening legal action. While I completely understand Newcastle’s ire at losing a player for a long period I can’t help but think there’s a bit of bandwagon jumping going on here. I don’t remember Newcastle being quite so outspoken when Kevin Nolan did this.
Nevertheless, even if it is just posturing, it might be the start of something. The bottom line is the disciplinary system is fundamentally flawed. Players who commit violent, dangerous tackles rarely spend more than 3 games on the sidelines due to suspension while their victim can miss months and months of football. There’s the tired call for the ban to mirror the injury, so if X tackles Y and Y is out for 6 months then so is X.
I’m not sure that can work, to be honest, but what would certainly make X think twice before launching himself into a tackle which is reckless and dangerous is the prospect that he could miss 10 or 12 or 15 games when the incident is reviewed by an independent panel. If it’s not his first offence then he could be out even longer.
Let’s face it – there’s absolutely no deterrent to players who deliberately go out and ‘tackle’ in the way that the likes of de Jong and Henry do. A three game ban is a rest. They might prefer to play, I’m sure they do, but it’s little more than an inconvenience. Hatem Ben Arfa’s broken leg is far more than that. As was Aaron Ramsey’s, Eduardo’s, Diaby’s and so on.
Samir Nasri has called for refs to provide more protection to players, saying:
What strikes me is the refereeing. The referee saw Hatem exit on a stretcher with an oxygen mask, yet he didn’t punish De Jong. It’s that which has to change in England.
I would entirely agreeing the standard of refereeing is poor and Martin Atkinson is right up there with the worst of them. However, there have been two incidents this season which demonstrated that perhaps there is a willingness on the part of the officials to combat reckless tackling. Joe Cole got a red card at Anfield for his wild, jumping lunge at Laurent Koscielny while Gary Cahill was sent off for jumping in two-footed on Marouane Chamakh.
At the time Bolton complained, pundits moaned that it was just a yellow card, but he jumped in, with two feet of the ground, into the back of a player. That is a red card. That young referee on the day was appalling but he got that decision absolutely spot on. Maybe de Jong’s sly reducer on Ben Arfa wasn’t quite as noticeable in real time but then we have a multitude of cameras at every game. They should be used.
I’ve pointed to the rule in rugby whereby a player can be cited by the opposition for dangerous/violent/foul play and the incident is then assessed by a video panel. There’s no reason in the world why that shouldn’t be introduced in football, other than a complete unwillingness on behalf of the authorities to open up what they consider a can of worms. When you look at how little they do you can only make the assumption that they believe it’s better for a few players a season to be seriously hurt than to deal with what is a genuine problem.
They couldn’t be more wrong. Of course there would be a flurry of early incidents, of suspensions and arguments, but with a new disciplinary system in place and the potential for retrospective video evidence to be used you would find that most players would think twice before launching into a ’50:50′ which is actually a ’70:30′ against.
It would not put an end to tackling, anyone who suggests that is part of the problem. It would make tackling better, it would make it safer and it would improve the game of football. That’s the reality. Dinosaur managers, and we all know who they are, who send their players out pumped up and ready to do damage are the ones who complain. Those players who know no other way of playing than to career around the pitch like a cannonball are the ones who will suffer – but far better them than a bloke trying to play football who has his leg broken in two places.
It amazes me that people will find every excuse under the sun for a player who is violent and dangerous yet practically call for the crucifixion of one who takes a dive or who spits. I remember in the wake of the Phil Brown gozzygate incident Mark Bright, a former player and BBC pundit, said:
If you’re going to elbow somebody, tackle somebody, show your studs, these are all part of the game. I’d rather be elbowed than spat on
Honestly, have you ever heard such nonsense? This is from a man who is paid by the BBC for his expert opinion on football. It’s this attitude, which is so embedded in the English game, which makes change so difficult. When that’s the mindset you’re dealing with, and Bright is hardly alone in this regard, it’s no wonder it’s almost impossible to get anything done.
Now, however, there’s a nasty foreigner who is the perpetrator of the bad tackle, not a young Englishman who didn’t know any better, and there’s more focus on it. If that’s what it takes then so be it. Let’s hope it’s actually the start of something though and not just the latest fashion in column writing. I’m not holding my breath.
And I seem to have rather gone off on there so to finish off the morning how about a nice Q&A with Marouane Chamakh who calls Crisitiano Ronaldo a ‘filthy, thieving tinker’? More or less, anyway.