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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Two (Feet)'s Kompany

Two feet. Ball. Get over it.

 There’s tackling and there’s tackling. Or something. Here’s Magic Spongers regular Dan Forman on tackling. 

Firstly a disclaimer: I'm an Arsenal fan. So if you want to dismiss this as myopic sour grapes, that's fine, I couldn't give a toss because ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH ME IS AN IDIOT. As is ANYONE WHO SUPPORTS ANOTHER CLUB. That's how we do debate about football these days right?

So secondly, another disclaimer. I quite like Vincent Kompany. I can see he's a really good player. I wish he played for us, that's for sure. He also comes across as a half-decent overpaid millionaire in interviews and I heard good reports about his appearance on Match of the Day, although I maintain that a Belgian bun could improve the currant (geddit?) standard of punditry on that show.

Anyway, all this is a precursor to saying that Alan Hansen, Niall Quinn, Robbie Savage and the FA are idiots. Oh no, that's not a story or an original blogpost, is it?

No, all this is a precursor to saying that I wasn't best pleased by the FA's decision to overturn Kompany's red card against Arsenal on Sunday. To go back to disclaimer one for a second (partly because I'm still not entirely sure what my main point is) I don't for a moment think that that sending off changed the course of the game or that City aren't a better team than Arsenal.

And to go back to disclaimer two for a second more (and buy me a tiny bit more time on the main point), I'm also not going to get into whether Kompany is or isn't 'that kind of player'. My hunch is that someone, however intelligent and nice and multilingual, who has a track record of studs-up, two-feet-off-the-ground, lunging-forward tackling probably is that kind of player. But because I'm a liberal, Guardian-reading kind of guy, I'm quite prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on that count, especially as he is obviously so intelligent and nice and multilingual.

No, I think the main point is that Alan Hansen, Niall Quinn, Robbie Savage and the FA are idiots after all.

To take them in turn, rather than any order of idiocy (which would require a far more scientific system of analysis than I am capable of constructing): Alan Hansen was paid to tell a Telegraph ghostwriter on Monday that Kompany's challenge was "perfect" and that the message would be that the art of tackling would be "gone forever" if the FA failed to rescind his colleague's, sorry fellow member of the centre halves' union's, red card. Well I for one am delighted that instead the message has gone out that, as long as you have enough influential mates in the media, the FA will be quite prepared to overturn its own employees' decisions. For more on this, see here.

Niall Quinn was on hand to tell Sky viewers that the important thing was that Kompany had won the ball. Which, aside from the fact that it showed up how an 'expert' pundit is unaware of the one of the most regularly-discussed rules in the game (YOU'RE JUST NOT ALLOWED TO TACKLE LIKE THAT ANYMORE*), is also utterly ridiculous. Had he won the ball and then proceeded to follow straight through on, into and out of Jack Wilshere's lower leg bones that would have been okay would it Niall? Great, that's good to know.

Robbie Savage? Oh God, is there even any point rebutting Robbie Savage? He is after all a pundit 'who thrives on controversy' (in other words prepared to say any old crap on any old outlet for anyone's money). But even by Savage's own complete lack of standards his statement that he would "never have been able to have a career" had such tackles been outlawed in his day takes the mother of all biscuits. We're seriously being asked to accept that the standard we should set ourselves is whether Robbie Savage, one of the most violent and unappealing thugs ever to have disgraced a football pitch, would have been able to have a career? Well I'm quite comfortable with the conclusion that I would have been content that Robbie Savage would not have been able to have a career, I really think I'd have been okay with that.

Before we get to the FA, let's also deal with one other tired ex-professional, turned media pundit trope: that only those who have played the game at the highest level can understand these issues fully. Now I'm quite prepared to accept that only those who have faced a Curtly Ambrose bouncer or Roger Federer forehand can truly know what that feels like. But anyone who has ever been in a park on a Sunday morning, let alone risked their ligaments in an actual Sunday league match, knows what a bad tackle looks like. And it looks like Kompany's.

As for the FA, I'm sure having had a front row view of the incident himself, Aaron Ramsey, despite still struggling to resurrect his own form following a similar a challenge and year-long injury, would agree that what is important here is that rugged defenders are still allowed to jump into tackles on our most promising, ball-retaining young midfielders. It is a man's game after all and not at all one based on touch, technique and confidence that your fellow professionals have no intention of shattering your shin pads and quite possibly your shins as well. That's the message that young players and youth coaches will take from this latest debacle: that we still prioritise our big, beefy centre halves' right to a two-footed challenge over our Spanish-style midfielders ability not to have their legs broken.

That is, after all, what has brought us so much success in international football in recent years is it not? And the FA deserve all the credit for that.

*unless you have influential mates in the media, obviously


  1. As a City fan, best put that as a precursor, I'm obviously pleased it was overturned. The matter that's not addressed is whether a caution was enough.
    I think there's a dividing line between aiming to follow through and smash your adversaries ligaments, much as I'd love to do with Ashley Young to give him a reason to roll around like a two year old, and winning a ball that's been over-run and clear any danger. Over the years, the old Arsenal backline and Viera went in to similar situations and executed carbon copy tackles, with invariably no card, foul or stop in play given.
    If anything, on Sunday Wilshere throws himself over the ball and at Kompany, and from his reaction, assumes the card is for him. The response by Mike Dean shows that referees know they'll be under pressure and criticised, so decides to even up the numbers. Vinnie certainly isn't a Huth, Skrtel or Shawcross, i.e. consistently dirty and largely unpunished for their misdemeanors. Why no-one shed a tear at Fellaini's treatment of Shawcross.
    The rescinding of the card may have been influenced by twats, but doesn't mean it was a twattish decision. Unlike most of Bushby's...

    1. I don't see the debate here. If Wiltshire had had the ball then it was a tackle - but he didn't - he was just the last person to touch it. He had zero chance of getting to it before Kompany when he pushed it too far ahead of him, but felt compelled to at least try, resulting in him nailing Kompany! The ref got this one completely wrong.

  2. Yup, Wilshere was fortunate not to get a yellow card ( his second in the game - I think and consequently a red ). Poor old Mike Dean ( the best of a very bad bunch ) couldn't sent another Arsenal player off, could he ? The Arsenal fans' sense of entitlement has already been replaced by their overwhelming sense of grievance.