I listened to the Arsenal-Man City game yesterday on the radio. Martin Keown was the expert summariser. Keown was part of a back four that Wenger inherited and was sensible enough not to tear apart. Lee Dixon was the pretty boy of that unit which tells you all you need to know about the rest of them. They redefined the concept of ‘winning ugly’.
Since they left Wenger has proved that he picks centre-backs like he’s playing Deal or No Deal. There could be anyone in his box – Igor Stepanovs or Sol Campbell. Arsene just doesn’t quite know.
As a pundit Keown is pretty sure-footed. When Dzeko went down in the 10th minute there seemed to be some confusion as to why Mike Dean had blown his whistle. When the red card was shown there was consternation. Keown couldn’t see ‘much in it’. After the seventeenth replay, Martin conceded that there might have been a case for the penalty to be given (what, because Koscielny had Dzeko around the waist like he was measuring him for a pair of casual slacks you mean?).
Meanwhile that pillar of the BBC sport establishment – I said ‘pillar’ – Alan Hansen said he didn’t think it was a red card but if the referee is applying the strict letter of the law I suppose you could say that it should have been a red card. What kind of double-speak is this?
There was also that lovely phrase ‘the game was ruined as a spectacle’ – Man City beating their feeder club was always going to be spectacular was it? – as if Koscielny bore no part of the blame for the game becoming ten v eleven.Back on the radio, Keown’s first reaction to the Kompany tackle was that it looked bad from here. But after another fifteen camera angles, it was proved to be a terrible decision by the referee who was already having a ‘mare as it was.
Peter Schmeichel – another of these pundits with an unblemished record in both football management and officiating (he’s never done either) – said that if Kompany’s challenge was a red card then there’s no point in making a tackle in football. Well fair enough. I wonder what you said at the time of the challenge. Cos everyone in our pub was saying he’s got to go, the dirty bugger.To be fair, Kompany himself, a man who regularly rises above the slurry that passes for football comment these days, said he didn’t blame the ref for making a mistake.
Every game of footy has its pivotal moments and it’s much easier if they’re refereeing blunders. Easier to analyse. Easier to declare that injustice has been done. Easier to absolve the player of any blame.
No one seems to have had a pop at Koscielny for getting the wrong side of his man and hauling him to the ground like an amateur wrestler. It was bloody awful defending.Nigel Adkins reached new levels of codswallop on Saturday following his team’s controversial win over the Villa Park 5th Cub Scouts. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/21000076#asset
You might have to wade through a bit of cliché-ridden waffle before you get to the justification of Jay Rodriguez’s ridiculous dive. It really is the sort of self-serving utter bollocks that gives football managers a bad name.Teammate Rickie Lambert thought it was a 'stonewall' penalty. Presumably when he was growing up in Kirkby Lambert's neighbours made their stone walls out of fuck-all.
Paul Lambert says Mark Halsey will be embarrassed when he sees it back. Possibly. It’d be nice, just once, if the likes of Adkins and Lambert would wonder whether Jay Rodriquez might just carry a small burden of shame for his appalling plummet. I swear to God you could make a damn fine mime troupe out of the attacking players in the Premier League right now.
I’m sorry if this is becoming a familiar lament but why the hell can’t football be honest with itself instead of all this mealy-mouthed excusing and shrugging that goes on?
David Moyes said Fellaini behaved terribly the other week after nutting Ryan Shawcross, and everyone looked on open-mouthed as if he'd somehow broken the managerial sacrament on defending the players regardless of whether they've been patently dishonest or not. To be honest I was expecting the age-old 'well he's a physical player and if you take that edgeaway from him he's not [insert thuggish footballer's name]' argument.
So I've been trying to work out why I'm so down on the footy at the moment and you know what - I blame the Olympics.
How dare all those athletes compete so fairly, honestly and movingly? It's like they were trying to say that quiet and dignified preparation and a respect for your sport and your fellow competitors is all part of some sort of ideal. And that it is possible to win things without resorting to deceit, rule-bending and playground banter.
But that just doesn't make sense. I've been watching footy for getting on for forty years and in the last twenty I know that while being good and honest and respecting the officials is all well and good, in practice it won't get you very far. I mean to be frank that attitude is what your modern footballer would call 'unprofessional'.
So yes, well done London 2012. It was lovely, like a beautiful dream. A kind of sporting Shangri-La if you will. But we're back to reality now: managers struck by temporary blindness; pundits prattling on in sanctimonious fashion; and if we're not careful officials cowering in their dressing-rooms. It's great value though boys and girls... just £62 a pop.