Robinson on Diaby would not be tolerated in Australian sport

With our first Champions League game of the season against Braga on tomorrow there is only one question on everybody’s mind: how long will Abou Diaby be out for?

Unfortunately at this stage there has been no information from the club aside from confirmation that he will not be playing tomorrow night. Not that we couldn’t have worked that out for ourselves.

I must admit that in the Bolton match report, which pondered why Arsenal supporters cannot seem to enjoy watching their team play, I only very briefly touched on the tackle that injured Diaby, calling it “absolutely horrible”. Yet that description of the incident didn’t summarise how I actually felt about Paul Robinson’s tackle, how much I sympathised with Diaby for wanting to have a go at the Bolton defender despite his clearly injured state.

My reactions to the previous “big three” tackles of the year have been quite different: surprise and disappointment at Diaby’s first leg break, horror at the nature of Eduardo’s terrible break and above all, immense sadness for Aaron Ramsey.

This was different again: pure white anger at the stupidity of Robinson’s tackle and incredible frustration at the fact that Diaby, a player who has struggled with injuries that have undoubtedly resulted from his initial leg break, was so close to suffering another major injury setback. It was absolutely ridiculous.


Much has been said by independent writers about the shocking attitude of the English media towards tackles like these. Indeed, probably the best article I have ever read on the topic was posted yesterday on Arsenal blog 7am Kickoff. It featured no bias, no emotional sentiment, just facts and evidence as to why these sorts of tackles remain an accepted part of the game. I encourage you to read the entire article – it is absolutely superb stuff – but for those short on time I have posted one of the more powerful statements below:

But, the critique goes, you’re a Gooner and you just want to “pussify” the sport by removing all contact and/or rewarding the divers. Unfortunately, this critique is especially loud in the U.S. where “soccer” fans are afraid of being called “faggot” or having their sport perceived as being less manly than suiting up in armor and throwing a ball around in between commercial breaks where you can administer oxygen and Pringles to the starving linemen. The more exposure “soccer” gets in the USA, the louder the homophobia has become and the more the local fans have become outspoken against any perceived “pussification” in an attempt to combat the haters. But I ask you, what is more manly; facing your opponent in a fair fight or a two-footed lunge from behind that breaks your opponent’s leg?

I can relate so much to this particular statement because I come from Australia, a country that perceives the presence of physicality to be one of the most important components of contact sport. Australian Rules Football, Rugby Union and Rugby League have traditionally been the three most popular sports ahead of football (although gloriously, this has changed) and the biggest barrier preventing supporters of those sports crossing over to the world game is a perceived lack of physicality. They see players diving, rolling around feigning injury and think, not unfairly in my opinion, that it is not a man’s game.

But importantly, the presence of extreme physicality in Australian Rules Football, Rugby Union and Rugby League is, compared with football, extremely fair. The rules of these games ensure that players are ready for the contact, are only allowed to make contact in areas that are considered safe (avoiding head-high hits, no striking players off the ball etc) and perhaps most importantly, there are clear and severe consequences for players who do the wrong thing.

Unlike football, which ridiculously has no way to punish a tackle like Robinson’s if the referee misses it, a sport like Australian Rules Football has a clear system that allows referees retrospectively punish someone for any offences they miss during the game, with punishment lengths dependent on the seriousness of the offence and the player’s previous history for offences (see the video below). How the FA do not have a system like this will remain a mystery for someone who has grown up watching a sport that has always had this sort of system, even as far back as the 1980s, but in truth that’s not really the point of this post.

The point is that despite the extreme physicality of most Australian sports, players would not be called a “pussy” for reacting negatively to cheap shots like Robinson’s. For the most part these sports encourage physicality and the rules are designed to encouraged safe physicality, but over-stepping the mark is hugely looked down upon. Our culture is such that fair fights and physical contests are respected and cowardly assaults are looked down upon. If anything, the person responsible for tackles like Robinson would be considered the “pussy”.

For those that don’t know, I am not a big guy. I’m 5’7 and weight just over 70kg. But when I play football I absolutely love the physical stuff.

I love being able to slide in and win the ball. I love shoulder-to-shoulder challenges and block tackles that stop opponents in their track. I even love aerial challenges for the ball, no doubt a result of the Tim Cahill gene* that means all Australians have kangaroo-powered legs regardless of their size. I love all of this stuff and think it is an absolutely vital part of the game.

But I do not like studs-up challenges. I do not like cheap shots off the ball. I do not like tackles from behind, two-footed tackles or Zidane-style headbutts. I do not like players deliberately hitting the goalkeeper when they know they cannot get the ball, or players who deliberately use their elbows in aerial challenges. This is simply not a part of the game.

But until something is done by the FA to properly discourage players like Paul Robinson, Karl Henry, Ryan Shawcross and Martin Taylor from launching themselves into tackles like madmen they will remain an accepted part of the English game.

Anyway, that’s my rant done for the morning. More on Diaby’s injury later today, hopefully.

Thoughts?

* Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a real gene

Have your say on the physicality of the English game by leaving a comment.

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38 Responses to “Robinson on Diaby would not be tolerated in Australian sport”

  1. Greg
    September 14, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Too right. Makes me proud to be an Aussie. The Poms need to follow our example or more and more of these types of players will find themselves in lower teams trying to take it up to the more skilled ones.

  2. MTY
    September 14, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    It’s appalling! The EPL is full of dicks like Robinson.

    Song is the only recognized holding player we got at the moment, though Jack can feature against the lesser teams.
    I think the manager said Kochielny can play in that position as well (when he signed him).
    In that case, we should play Squilaci & TV5 in defense so that Kochielny can partner Song in the holding position (specially for the difficult games like the trip to Chelsea).
    What do you say?

  3. SAGooner
    September 14, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    I hate to say it – cos I dont wish it on anyone – but its gonna take a broken leg on a Man U player like Rooney (Englands blue-eyed boy) from Paul Robinson, Karl Henry, Ryan Shawcross or Martin Taylor — and huge complaints from ol’ purple nose Ferguson before anyone will do anything about these rubbish tackles in the game.

    Arsenal, is not seen as “one of their own” – and neither is Arsene Wenger. So until it happens to “one of their own” – like Rooney, or Lampard – or Stevie G, then nothings gonna change.

  4. Wiseman
    September 14, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Great article, I agree with you 100%. What really irks me is that we have to suffer tackles like these, and pundits ignore our plight, with little talk about the seriousness of the issue. On Saturday, the commentator said very little about the horror tackle on Diaby, and went on about how Cahill’s red was unjust and was the “turning point of the game”.

    Then, on the very rare occasion, that one of our players mis-times a tackle (such as Gallas’s “assualt” on Mark Davies, which was a case of both of the players going in for the ball, and one coming worse off) the pundits are up in arms saying how we are hypocritical, as our players are just as bad as those thugs! Are they not being hypocritical themselves by not saying a word when Arsenal players are hacked at every single week, but then when an Arsenal player mis-times a tackle, it’s headline news for the rest of the week.

    Is this the same type of selective attention to things like we see when comparing the Eduardo incident last year (which occurred in a Champion’s league qualification second-leg), and Defoe’s blatant handball in the very same situation. The one incident was on SkySports news for 3 weeks straight, and eventually tarnished Eduardo’s irreparably, whilst there was hardly a word about Defoe’s “cheating”.

    I know I am an Arsenal fan, and that I see things through red-tinted glasses, but even so, I feel we get treated unfairly, and it makes me rage.

  5. Camberwell Gooner
    September 14, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    Really well written and informative blog post. You’re right to highlight how utterly toothless the English FA are and until they get off their arses and act against this stuff (like they do in your fair country) legs will continue to be broken. Fact.

  6. kiwigooner
    September 14, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    Fair go mate.

    Cheap shots like Robinson’s should involve a lengthy ban and the payment of the injured players wages for as long as he is out.

  7. Hey Nonny Mouse
    September 14, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    The problem is that a few years back (after the Invincibles) manure and then bolton (under Alladyce) figured out the way to stop Arsenal was to get rough – and It worked. Our players started getting banged about all over the place, on and off the ball. When AW began to complain we had the ‘they’re not tough enough’ back-lash and every team started going into an Arsenal game with a boot them off the ball game-plan. The result is the tackles of Taylor on Eduardo, Shawcross on Ramsey, Robinson on Diaby etc. It’s a Kicker Conspiracy. Unfortunately there’s not much we can do about it until, as SAGooner says above, Rooney or Gerrard or lampard get their leg broken in one of these tackles – then will we see outpourings of outrage from media and the FA. I remember when Ronaldo was still at manure the fergusbum said that Ronaldo needed more protection from referees because of his style of play. Typical hypocrisy from the red faced hooligan but also, somewhat typically, he was right. Ronaldo’s gone to play in a league where they probably don’t have players carted off with broken legs every week because of ‘committed’ tackles.

  8. Peter
    September 14, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    Referring to rough tackling I am surprised nobody tries to look at it from parity point of view. Heavy tackle resulting in injury puts into danger career of the player. 3, 6, sometimes more months out of the game. The player making tackle, in the worse – 3 games. From team perspective, having 25 registered players and having bad luck being all the time on the wrong end, it can easily make you short of players. More! Professional clubs pay their injured payers. 6 month for not playing player is a lot of money. The other team loses player’s service for 3 games usually. That might be just one week only. Where is parity? In my opinion the rule should be changed. The guilty player should stay out of the game till the injured one comes back, then he starts serving suspension only. That would make the rough players thinking before risking other player’s career. Obviously some of the players are encouraged by their coaches to rough approach to the game and they might change that knowing that going that way they might loose part of their team for long periods. And if that will not do then there is board that might not like paying salaries for not used players for long periods just because of rough tactics. At least that would be fair. And that has nothing to do with making football no-contact sport. Just fair in all aspects. Players dive, players fake injuries on the field but they do not stay sidelined being fit.

  9. kel
    September 14, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    The tackle on diaby was bad and arsenal players are really unlucky at the moment but i say this with no ill will i read roy keans book and he said
    ” When you come to play MU and you wanted to play football we play football but if you came to kick and fight we will kick and fight” and thats the point arsenal are a soft touch every one knows this
    why when viera and co where present people did not try all this physical abuse that arsenal get now your team must be a combination of both skill and physical presents it is the managers duty to get this right.
    Look at mu now fletcher is one of the nastiest tacklers in the game and he can play a bit too so no one will ever try to kick mu or chls
    At arsenal we need to give as much as we get all skill is goo but the we need a nasty streak..
    GO ARSENAL>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  10. Lil Weezy
    September 14, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    Most disturbing part of all this, that was even a yellow Card..it was even a foul!
    Isnt that outrageous??..
    How can a referee and the FA look at this and not react? This part of the game makes no sense to the rest of the world…
    I need an Englishman to tell how they view this! Because it simply doesn’t add up!

  11. Sylvan
    September 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    You’re right Lil Weezy but right now all i can think about is our
    Champions League match against Braga ….Does anybody know
    the line up ?? If you do please tell me

  12. John
    September 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    Sylvan,

    One thing you can bet on, Sagna and Clichy will start with Squillaci and Koscielny completing the back four ( I doubt Wenger will risk Vermaelen). Rosicky, Fabregas , Denilson, Song and Arshavin. With Chamakh up front and Almunia in goal. Wilshire could start in place of Denilson but wont play more than an hour.

  13. John
    September 14, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    It’s official (it’s on The Arsenal Website) Diaby out for the next two games at least and Vermaelen has not recovered from the achilles injury so will not play tomorrow.

  14. Sylvan
    September 14, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Hey, thanks John 😉

  15. Josh
    September 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    it is a pity that week-in-week-out, Arsenal are dealt the blow of horror tackles and they call us “sissys” rather than put the blame where it rightly belongs. me think until Rooney, Gerard, Lampard, etc as indicated above get their legs broken before The FA does something about this horrific tackles. and to say the Queen supports Arsenal makes it worse for us as we are never seen as an English team irrespective of our success in the EPL, CL, etc. that has been the bane of English football. Only hype and no substance as it affects the England National team. I think our boys can also dish out the tackles but its just not our nature to do so. As you must have noticed that they showed some steel against B’Rovers, Bolton, Hull,etc last term and they didnt fair badly against Rovers last week and Bolton dis past wkend. one thing is certain, they boys will get to a boiling point where they will make others pay for their tackles by giving them a dose of what they dish out but will the PressBoys allow them rest ala Eduardo… time will tell. Anyways, keep up the good job, Andy, i hate to miss your wirte ups.

  16. Uncle Mike
    September 14, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    Unfortunately, SAGooner is right. Every sport has this. Allen Iverson gets acquitted of charges related to a gun incident, and he gets jobbed by referees; but Michael Jordan gets caught gambling and is “encouraged” to retired, while Kobe Bryant (at the very least) cheated on his wife and took advantage of a girl of questionable mental state, and both are allowed to again win championships and get cheered.

    In U.S. football, nobody paid much attention to concussions until glamor boy Dallas Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman was forced to retire because of it — even his predecessor as such, Roger Staubach, didn’t generate that kind of interest (mainly because he was nearing retirement age anyway and hardly anybody had heard of concussions in 1979).

    It may just take a devastating injury to Rooney, or to Gerrard, before they finally say “Enough!” It was one of the reasons I, as an American, had no problem rooting against the Gunner-free England squad at the World Cup. (That, and their moral leprosy. And too many Spurs.)

  17. Andrew Weber
    September 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    @ kel – “Arsenal are a soft touch, everybody knows this”.

    Just because “everybody” says it doesn’t make it right. We are hardly a soft touch, we are in fact quite a physical team at times and the only problem is when other teams overstep the mark and play dirty football.

  18. kel
    September 14, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    @ weber
    Of course its not right but what should we do complain or maybe do what we did before in our most successful period?
    if something not broke don’t fix it When you go for a job and someone who is less qualified than you get the job because he Knows the boss does that make it right?
    We need to set down a marker so when we play antifootball teams they will no were not soft. but every years we play the physical teams and all they can do is play rough they won’t change because it has been a success we have ambition so we need to be dynamic it’s the nature of the game in england.
    As I said before this was not always an issue with arsenal this started about 5 season ago complaining won’t help we must balance our team
    And i find something very strange .
    When wenger had parlor, henry, viera and co they were very physical BUT they palyed fantastic football as well SO why would you change that to a model of smaller players which clearly has not worked
    How could this make sense the ability of the team is as important as the composition of it and arsenal has a composition problem the team is not balance
    Time will tell, for six seasons this has been the statement soon to become fact…..

  19. Andrew Weber
    September 14, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    @ kel – The point of this article is to say, among other things, that it is not Arsenal who should change, but the Premier League.

    We cope absolutely fine with the “physical stuff” but tackles like Robinson’s are not “physical stuff” and have no place in the game. Creating a team that can “cope” with that sort of tackling is not realistic because it is impossible. Another thing: if we were to lower our standards to dish out the same sort of treatment as Robinson and Co then I would be ashamed. Because this is in effect what you are suggesting.

    I think you are making a lot of generalisations that aren’t true about the physicality of our team based on our lack of silverware. We do not get bullied off the pitch and this squad holds their own as well as any other under Wenger’s reign. There were some problems a few years ago with a lack of bulk and height but they have well and truly been addressed. But even the biggest players cannot stop their legs being broken.

  20. kel
    September 14, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    NO NO NO my friend i think you miss read me i don’t think we should try to break players legs or hurt people but find other ways to survive rather than complain
    Why don’t these teams play mau or chel the way they do us? It’s simlpe they wont stick for it they give as much as they get.
    The prem can’t help us with this problem in a big way cause this would have a ripple effect with the contact issue
    every year wenger complains and look no issue.
    And how could you say this team holds its own as good as any team in wenger reign This is absolutely crazy are you for real the last 5 years we have been bullied and beaten by bolton ,blackburn and others teams that would not dear try this in 2003/04 and even before so don’t give me that, what games do you watch?
    This season i agree the team looks more physical then seasons gone and this is my point why did he change it in the first place

  21. Andrew Weber
    September 14, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

    Teams play more aggressively than us because it has become common to say that the best way to beat Arsenal is to be more physical. This was a point of view that emerged more than five years ago, and as is the way things go, is taking some time to be disproved. When you say that other teams “give as much as they get” do you have any statistics or evidence to back this up? Or are you just repeating what the media bleats on about constantly without any facts to back it up?

    Your point about us being bullied for the past five years by Bolton sums up my counter-argument perfectly. We have now beaten them 8 times in a row. That’s four seasons worth of football of beating their style of play. Their physical style of play used to cost us points, now it doesn’t, meaning our team is holding their own well and finding a way to win when other teams are physical. Our results against more physical teams have improved so really, those teams should be thinking up a new blueprint to beat Arsenal, but the constant reminders in the media that “Arsenal don’t like the physical stuff” mean teams will keep doing it. It’s silly and makes no sense.

    Every year Wenger complains because players are getting injured. He is not complaining about teams playing in a firm but fair way, he is complaining because his players legs are being broken and ANY manager in the Premier League would say the same thing if it was happening to them.

  22. Terry
    September 15, 2010 at 1:02 am #

    I don’t buy the argument that teams target us cos we are soft. I think it’s a direct consequence of the brand of football we play – fast paced, on the ground one touch pass and movement. Defenders know that they need to slide in at pace to try to get the ball back and at the speed the game is played a split second late tackle is the result. It’s because we are better than most other teams. The better teams – Chelsea and Manure are smarter so don’t get caught out so easily as the Boltons, Stokes and Blackburns of this world.

  23. Lil Weezy@ Andrew
    September 15, 2010 at 5:43 am #

    I dont agree at 100% with Kel’s point of view but somehow I dont see someone tackling Drogba that way and noone on the Chelsea team not reacting. (Fat Frank will certainly start up a fight)… Maybe we are missing some sort of “enforcer”, not a dirty player but an imposing figure who can step in when tacles start flying and respond in some shape, way or form.
    But this would be anti-Arsenal way of play, we win without playing dirty, we like the ball on the ground and laser point passes, our technique alone has such superiority that we never result to Bolton’s or Stoke’s Tactics… If that day ever comes, it will be a sad day for Arsenal Gunners in the world!
    So lets hope the FA will jump in at some point.
    In the meantime.. keep playing sublime football..No need for dirty tactics..

  24. Sylvan
    September 15, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    I think that most of our players get hurt because certain teams
    want us to lose the chance of winning the league..It might
    be early but still I believe that a bad start wouldn’t help if you’re
    on your way to winning the league

  25. Patrick Weber
    September 15, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    What’s your yellow/red record Andy?

  26. iloveverminator
    September 15, 2010 at 11:56 am #

    it was a ridiculous foul…God only knows how the referee overlooked it. Hearing that Abou could be out for two to three games…it could have been even worse.I completely agree with one of the bloggers that we too need to add the physicality element in our team…need to have players like Vidic, Fletcher, Essien, Viera or Gilberto Silva in the middle third…if we go on hard on some of our opponents, i am sure the incidence of our players getting injured will come down.
    Anyways, all the very best to Arsenal in the Champions league.

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