While a rash challenge is not good to see, what seems even more frustrating is the seeming impossibility to discuss these things in a rational manner, particularly when they concern the Arsenal Football Club.
Those who watched the game against Birmingham on the weekend would have seen Jack Wilshere’s badly timed challenge on Birmingham striker, Žigić. He was deservedly sent off and will receive the usual FA ban.
Wenger has acknowledged the players culpability, and Wilshere has said it was wrong, both admirable stances considering some of the boneheaded positions taken by other players who have committed harsh tackles on their fellow professionals. (Shawcross and Pulis, I’m looking at you). Considering Wilshere didn’t commit a major injury on Žigić, like breaking his leg, you wonder what all the fuss is about.
You see, certain personalities both within the football world and around the blogosphere rubbed their hands together with glee: here was the noose in which to hang Arsene Wenger, and his team, with.
McLeish inferred that the incident was enough to mop the guilt of Matthew Taylor’s challenge on Eduardo from the record. Some other places within the football blogosphere deemed it suitable to classify Wilshere with other more experienced footballers with track records for persistent fouling. It’s obvious that Wilshere has a bit of grit, but such a fatalistic determination at this stage in his professional career is not only grossly inaccurate, but also terminally grating.
While I will readily concede that Wenger has occasionally been a bit too loose with his criticism of certain players, teams and managers on the topic of bad tackling, I can also empathise.
When your team constantly battles a plague of injuries and it seems that every year a member of the squad is left on the operating table prematurely because of ‘badly timed’ challenges from individuals who ‘don’t intentionally go out to hurt other players’, you can understand why sometimes the boss gets a slight bit annoyed when the FA do little to punish the offenders other than hand out a flimsy three match ban.
And what other teams or managers can possibly know about the persistent career-threatening injuries that Arsenal players have received over the past five years? Probably not a whole damn lot.
You might point to bad luck, you might point to the alleged softness of the Arsenal team. Certainly there is evidence to support both positions. But I feel that a more correct argument is the fact that the FA has done little to deter teams, and their players and managers for making such challenges. It seems that points are now worth more than the players.
I want to now suggest a fairly radical point of view to illicit some further comment and perhaps some rational debate.
Whether that’s to make it into Europe, or avoid relegation, precious points now make or break teams in England. Does it seem that some teams will go out of their way, even if that means chancing injury to the opposition, and bans for their players, in order to survive?
When writing this down, I wonder why managers and pundits and other personalities involved in the game seem so reluctant to stamp down (excuse the pun) on bad tackling. Often the doozy that its essential to the spirit of the English game gets rolled out ad nauseum, but I often think its because these people are inherently afraid of change. It often seems to be the same people who are completely against even experimenting with goal-line technology and video refereeing.
How do we know it won’t work without even trying?
Have your say on the Premier League’s tackling issue by leaving a comment.
A music writer and retro video-game lover, Darragh Murray is a master at satirical writing with a particular focus on taking the mickey out of the English media. He also writes about the Brisbane music scene on the excellent Parallel Lines on a Slow Decline blog.