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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Arsene Wenger Is Admirably Naive

I think it was Arsene Wenger who coined the term 'anti-football', a style of football that is designed to contain and dismantle rather than create and entertain.

The Arsenal manager is one of the last bastions of the purest form of the game, a man who, quite stubbornly and costly on occasion, will never deviate from the pass and move free flowing football most of us have all come to love (and some, rather bizarrely, hate) him for ...... even if it costs us points.

Arsene Wenger believes in the game, he believes that no matter what, teams should try to entertain, to be creative and to express themselves. Nothing seems to frustate the man, often refered to as 'The Professor' more than tactics designed to stifle and break down his beautiful game.

Indeed the Arsenal gaffer has long been a champion of introducing a 'points for goals' style system into world football to encourage teams to press forward and try to earn something from a game that would otherwise be futile rather than let 'anti-football' win the day.

Mr Wenger has been speaking again about persistent fouling in football matches going unpunished, insisting that teams are using the lack of punishment to their advantage, making small fouls in the middle of the park to break up play and slow the game down without attracting the attention of the match officials.

'It is not especially aimed at any particular player, but it looks to me that some players make repeated fouls and do not get punished. The yellow card is not linked with the number of fouls a player makes, but only with the spectacular side of the fouls. If some player always makes little fouls - and in the last four games we played, every single team had one player who did that. I am not saying who in particular it is. I don`t want to make any big fuss over it, I just want to make referees alert to it.' Said Wenger speaking with Arsenal.com

'I think the referee has all the rules in the book that if a player makes three or four little fouls, it is a yellow card. If you make one spectacular foul, like Song did on Saturday, even if it is not dangerous you get a yellow card. In their team you had players who made four, five, six, seven fouls and didn`t get a yellow card.'

'I think I will try and speak to them [the FA], yes,'

'We have already talked about it at a UEFA meeting because in the modern game you play always against 10 defenders. So when you can get four against four, or three against three and you get punished and have to start again from zero, it is difficult. This also goes for Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, everybody.'


I admire Wenger, I admire him for everything he does, I admire his ethics, his morals and his resolve, however I fear he's on a hiding to nothing on this subject, he'll be branded as a whinger expecting smaller teams to rollover and let his team play to their strengths. And I'll admit it does come across that way a smidgin', but I believe what Wenger is talking about, and the things he has proposed in the past have all been done with the good of the game in mind. Arsene Wenger isn't just campaigning for the good of his football club, he's campaigning for the good of the game he adores.

However if he expects anyone with even a modicum of power or influence to sit up and take notice, then I fear he's being a tad naive.




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The Journalist

Writer: Rocky7 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday September 21 2009

Time: 3:47PM

Your Comments

Tha'ts good article Paul. It's an interesting point that I have been mulling over since reading the same piece. Wenger is right in the sense that it is normal now to break up counter attacking play with simple 'professional' fouls. They don't catch the eye because they don't risk injury they just stop play. Too often refs let such fouls go because they aren't considered reckless or dangerous but persistent offenders know they can get away with any number of them. There is no doubt that the game would be more free flowing if persistent, intentional fouls were punished - a mandatory yellow card after three fouls of any kind and another yellow for anymore afterwards. The problem comes in determining whether they were intentional or not. Which I guess is the same problem as determining an intentional dive. Could indeed all be wishful thinking but a nod in the right direction nonetheless.
Amos.
I see what he's getting at certainly, but a lot might point in the direction of Alex Song when considering this point. I don't think you'll ever remove it, indeed Wenger himself doesn't really have a solution here, just a problem.
Little Dutch
When I watched AW make these comments in his press conference, I remembered this blog entry from the Arsenal blog goodplaya, back in March 2007: http://www.arsepod.co.uk/wordpress1/?p=215 . Those figures are extraordinary and they haven't changed since then. So when he made those comments after the Wigan game, rather than focusing on the complaint about players breaking up our play with constant niggly fouls, I focused on Arsene's comment back in 2007 during another press conference in which he claimed that Arsenal are the most fouled against and commit the least fouls -- yet we get more bookings for fewer fouls as compared to other teams. The predictably lazy journalists at the time responded to that by simply trotting out the number of bookings for each team that season, and which teams and players were the most fouled against -- those figures contradicted Arsene's claims. But they didn't really understand what Arsene meant (to be fair, Arsene wasn't completely clear in his comments either): what he meant was the fouls allowed per yellow card. The game v. Wigan bore his point out. Wigan got away with constant fouling before the ref took out his first yellow card against one of their players -- whereas he was very quick to come out with a booking against an Arsenal player. At OT 2 wks ago we saw this pattern again. In our last 3 games at OT, Utd have committed something like 48 fouls and received something like 3 or 5 yellow cards. While we committed 44 fouls yet received 17 yellow cards! So for me Arsene is speaking more about refs routinely allowing teams dedicated to stopping attacking play get away with far more fouls before taking out that yellow card as opposed to the amount of fouls allowed attacking teams, esp. Arsenal.
jaelle
The rules of the game according to FIFA state. . . . "Referees should be alert at all times to players who persistently infringe the Laws. In particular, they must be aware that, even if a player commits a number of different offences, he must still be cautioned for persistently infringing the Laws. There is no specific number of infringements which constitutes “persistence” or the presence of a pattern – this is entirely a matter of judgement and must be determined in the context of effective game management." It seems its very much left to the referee. I've always believed that some of the referees in the league are anti Arsenal. They seem to share the same mentality as most of the so called TV experts who seem to think you can win nothing playing good football and I think this persistant fouling is glossed over because people like to just go along with the adage that Arsenal don't like it up them. We are often slaughtered for our injury record, but getting dumped on your arse every 5 minutes can't help. Nice piece dude, I hope more people pick up on this.
d11gunner
If Song had hauled down Jenas last year and taken a yellow we win the North London Derby 4-2. I think the problem Arsene has is we dont get any freebies in terms of these fouls whilst the rest of the teams are getting 4 or 5 before a yellow is produced.
iceman10
21 fouls committed against Arsenal by ManYoo - 3 cards dished out. 15 fouls by Arsenal - 5 cards dished out (I am not taking into account Eboue's ridiculous dive - yellow card) . 1 card for 7 fouls for Manyoo vs 1 card for 3 fouls for Arsenal. Enough said.
Sajit
Very nice piece on Mr. Wenger's press conference. Tbh, I am yet to hear the Professor make a contribution to the game (usually, he is misconstrued as only seeking changes to the game to suit his side) that is not spot on and worthy of consideration. However, he is bound to get derided on this one, as it is a much bandied approach to "beat" Arsenal: to be physical and niggle the players all through games, football being a contact sport and all.The maturity of the players is also important as they usually, lose their heads and discipline in such games, resulting in unnecessary Yellow cards. It is a tough one to call, as is everything left at the discretion of the refs (take the submission on time-added-on after the Mancs' Sunday Derby). It will be interesting to see how Wenger intends to take this up with the FA; he will have my vote, whatever happens.
Naijagunner
Something that saddens me about the premier league is that it is a widely known FACT that ManU are looked after by the ref's at Old Trafford. I mean, as much as a hat ManC, where the hell did those extra 2 minute's come from on Sunday? I heard someone say (a manU fan) "Well the 4th official said an extra minute for the sub and 30 seconds for the goal. The goal was score before 90 minute's were up (manC's 3rd that is) and even IF that was correct, Owen scored 95m and 58 seconds, thats 28 seconds past when the extra added time was over... so that goal was ********* really. BUT! What really really makes me wanna blow up old trafford (with every ref that has never given a penatly to the away team when they know it is tied to a chair) Is the fact that we'll most like eventually hear Mark Hughes say the same old "thats jut Old Trafford and you gotta expect it" ...WHY? Why exactly should we have to accept the fact that manU are getting special treatment, special treatment that can make or break games, that may end up making or breaking the final posistions on the premier league? Could overall help them to becoming winners? Its an issue i really feel needs to be addressed because its total daylight robbery and cheating.
FuiKaka
I remember Makelele being an expert at committing those little fouls to disrupt play that weren't quite nasty enough to receive a yellow. Maybe football needs to consider incorporating something similar to basketball's foul system (6 and you're ejected).
krismon1
Remember all that there is another consequence of the common approach of fouling as a way of stopping Arsenal - it is our perpetually high injury count. Although rivals and the media make it seem like it is somehow our fault that we have so many players always out through injury, it can't be a coincidence that the same people advocate a "get up 'em" physical approach to playing us.
krismon1
I believe that there's some ruel in Rugby that awards an extra point for 4 tries, or something like that, to encourage the teams to play the game in a positive way. I'm sure something similiar can be done in football...
afri-gooner
One of the beautys about football is that 1 goal, is 1 goal! It makes ten times more exciting. Here in Australia 1 goal, is 6 points, and if you miss to the side posts, you get 1 point ...which is fine for the game because the pitch is twice as bitch and it's just ...yeh, its different. But in football you have to work 10x harder to get a goal, and defend 10x harder to stop one! I personally would be disapointed if the scoring ever got changed.
FuiKaka
afri-gooner, that is true about the bonus point scheme in rugby, but you can also get a bonus point for not losing by too large a margin. This would discourage the 'we're one down we might as well have a go!' mentality. I can't see Wengers comments achieving anything apart from adverse publicity. The cards per foul stats is an interesting point though. Perhaps he should have approached the subject from a different angle.
navydave
The cynic in me says that Wenger is simply trying to get a message across to the refs for future Arsenal games. Time will tell whether it works, but after he talked about the fouls to yellow cards ratio last season, can anyone tell me if its improved for Arsenal (I dont have the stats for that)? Playing only the man instead of the ball has become accepted and even venerated (Makalele, Mascherano...). I doubt we will see a change in attitude on this one.
prits
Got to say I agree with you Prits. Soccer is a contact sport and you know what they say about hanging around in the kitchen if you can't stand the heat. While pointing out the matter may play on the minds of one or two Refs, to Arsenal's advantage, it may count against with some others, who will want to 'prove' they are not affected by Wenger's whining. Tough fight for the Manager, this one.
Naijagunner
Saw the following interesting statistics about time added on, played at OT: * According to a study compiled by The Guardian, an extra one minute of injury-time has been played since the start of the 2006/07 campaign in matches at Old Trafford, that United have not been winning, compared to those that they have been. * Those figures in full: Injury time played in the matches that United have been winning: 191.35 seconds. Injury time played in the matches that United have not been winning: 257.17 seconds. Need more be said?
Naijagunner
To stop any player who is better than you, you need to hinder and upset them by any means depending on the specific situation. On the continent, pulling jerseys or shorts and obstruction is favoured. Over here, we kick people. It’s not new, extremely common and you won’t stop it. All the top four will have the opposition going out trying to disrupt play in this manner and we are no different other than our ability to deal with it and, perhaps, include it in our own game plan. As unpalatable as it is, we need to make more of anti-football ourselves. I think the Spanish have got in right; they will fall over at the slightest touch and do it with some skill. But one of the most notable exponents of this was Maradona who was persistently fouled by almost every opponent, so he developed a self protectionist attitude by hitting the deck if he felt any advantage was lost after any contact.
Sir Henry
4 fouls per player allowed. 5th foul is a red card? Isn't a cynical foul an automatic yellow card? Could this not be applied more readily.
hughied
Yeh, think as it as maybe a sort of, but not quite "points scheme" Say you need 100 pts to get a yellow card, you come sliding in ridiculously, that straight up lets you a 100 pts, Yellow card. You do 5 smaller fouls all worth 20 pts in value ...yellow card. You do you slightly nastier say worth 50 pts, then 2 smaller 25 pts ...yellow card. Please take note i am only using the "points system" as an example of what i'm trying to get across and i know there's no way you could judge a foul on points! But yeh ...4 small fouls is as bad as 1 big one as far as i am concerned. Cheating is cheating.
FuiKaka
 

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