Change your team, not the game, Arsene
So Arsene Wenger claims to be surprised at criticism aimed at him Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis?
Pull the other one. The Arsenal boss has long been an outspoken opponent of the style exemplified by Allardyce’s Blackburn and Stoke’s Pulis, and has pledged to continue voicing his opposition to what he perceives as bully-boy tactics.
Those managers have quite naturally defended their teams against Wenger’s holier-than-thou attacks. But of course, that’s not how he sees it.
“They shouldn’t (take it personally) because I do not criticise them,” Wenger said. “Most of the time it was down to the fact I criticised violent football, and I am ready to do that at any price, to come out on that because I don’t accept it.”
So how about a quick remember of those non-critical remarks?
On Stoke: “The brave one is not the one who tackles from behind the player who tries to play football. That’s the coward … Do you think Delap tried to play the ball when he tackled Walcott? Or that Shawcross tried to play the ball when he tackled Adebayor off the pitch? All the players have been injured deliberately.”
“We know what we have to expect, we have now had three leg breaks, [Abou] Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey. He is 19-years-old and they were all horrendous tackles, I refuse to believe it’s a coincidence, we know what it is to be physical against Arsenal, we don’t fancy the physical side, that’s the result. I believe in what I see, when you see a player of that quality injured like that its not acceptable, I don’t accept that.”
“You cannot say it is football any more. It is more rugby on the goalkeepers than football. When you see the way Shawcross kicked Heurelho Gomes, how Robert Huth pushed Gomes in the goal, you cannot say that is football any more.”
On Blackburn: “I do not know any more what is a foul and what is not a foul. Every time (a ball went in) Fabianski was pushed. There is no purpose to play the ball from the Blackburn players – they don’t even watch the ball. He (Fabianski) had two players in front of him all the time and every time it was to stop him getting the ball. In football, when you don’t go for the ball and you stop the keeper going for the ball, it is a foul. 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.”
Wenger is right in one sense; he wasn’t directly criticising the managers – just their players and tactics. But hey, why take it personally?
Small wonder Allardyce in particular has hit back with a barrage of barbs, reminding Wenger that the Arsenal team of Vieira, Keown and company was the dirtiest in the Premier League.
Big Sam also came up with this beauty, which could land him in trouble with the FA: “Arsene has most of the media in his pocket now and is almost – almost – affecting the officials so that you can’t tackle an Arsenal player.”
Wenger is an intelligent man, and should hardly expect universal assent from teams he is effectively accusing of being cheats.
The idea that physical teams are betraying the game and not even trying to play football comes up again and again.
The laws of the game would beg to differ. They allow tackling within reason, and if players step outside of the laws, there is a system in place to deal with them through yellow and red cards, suspensions and fines.
While neither side are angels, Stoke and Blackburn have quite legitimately devised a way of securing mid-table positions with limited squads. They don’t play beautiful football because, by and large, they cannot afford beautiful players – they are maximising their team’s performance given the resources at their disposal.
Wenger’s appears to be trying to turn football into something else. Worse still, his claim to be doing it for the greater good is transparent nonsense.
Who would benefit most from an official crackdown on tough tackling? Why, Arsenal, of course.
Wenger has assembled a squad of five-a-side players, and now seems baffled that his group of lightweight flair players cannot handle the perfectly legitimate physical contact that comes with professional football.
It is like assembling a midget basketball team, then complaining that the opposition keep shooting over their heads.
Carlo Ancelotti‘s Chelsea have shown it is perfectly possible to combine brawn with brilliance – outscoring Arsenal by 20 Premier League goals last season.
Yet rather than stiffening up his squad with a few bruisers – as he did in the 90s when the horrifically dirty Gilles Grimandi was his curly haired enforcer – Wenger has taken to whingeing.
It is a bizarre reaction to five trophyless seasons. Rather than campaigning to change the laws, Wenger would be well-advised to change his team.
Story: Wenger defiant on ‘violent’ football