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The 'Traditional Game' Is Holding England Back

Following on from Amos's article regarding the disparity of number of yellow and red cards between the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A, I'd like to expand even further.

With the World Cup just around the corner hopes are high (as per usual) for the English national team, many people believing that this 'could be our year'. Of course, the over hype will most likely end in tears as the primadonnas in the three lions fail to perform ... yet again, and photo-shopped pictures of Fabio Cappello will appear in the sports pages of the red tops with has face crudely imposed on to a banana or other such piece of fruit or veg.

The manager of the team is always the easiest of targets (of course we couldn't blame John Terry or Stevie Me for poor performances now could we?), but the real problem is actually much more deep rooted than that. A problem so severe that it is going require a complete and utter overhaul of ways of thinking and doing things to eradicate it.

When the white pieces inside Aaron Ramsey's leg split in two on Saturday evening, it should have ushered in a new age of looking to remove recklessness from football, and not, as we have seen instead, form an army of Shawcross apologists. Because burying your head in the sand and putting this injury down to 'luck' or lack of it, is a very dangerous path to go down.

One of the big problems in this country is that referees all too often allow over physical football as a way to bridge the gap between your Arsenals, Man Utds, Liverpools and your Stokes, Boltons and Blackburns. In the last few days a disturbing amount of people have made comments and published articles talking about how to remove the physical side of the game from English football, would be to remove it's identity.

When that identity is akin to that of Charles Bronson, maybe it's time it was removed?

Many fans of 'English Grit' say they love a tackle and don't want to see out game end up like the Spanish or Italian game. However the Italians have always been masters of the tackle. Defence is a way of life, and because they're taught to do it responsibly via the strict discipline of the referees, they're bloody good at it.

Moreover, what has the 'traditional English game' really given us? One world cup in over 80 years, 0 European Championships in 50 years?

The English Premier League is the most watched league in the world ... is this down the physical football? Or is it down to the influx of technical players over the last 15 to 20 years?

The truth of it is, English football and it's traditions are so far behind the times it's prehistoric. Instead of young players being tossed footballs at a young age, they're taught to run laps, improve physical strength and to 'get stuck in'.

People might think that the French, Spanish and Italian leagues are 'softer', but in the bigger picture, they produce results.

The sooner the powers that be make the link between technical football and the results it produces and rid our game of the cancer that is 'true English grit' and concentrate on the technical side of the game, the better it will be for not only the health of our players, but for the trophy cabinet too.




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The Journalist

Writer: Rocky7 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday March 2 2010

Time: 3:40PM

Your Comments

don't agree end of.
vangogo
Don't suppose you want to qualify that statement? Where's Englands success then? What else should we blame it on? Not the manager this time, he's utterly world class.
Gunnerman
Fantastic piece Rocky - no doubt it'll bring out the knuckle dragging nationalists blind to the problems endemic in our national league and game. Great to see you and Amos put the disparte forum threads in to something substantial and well worth debate.

The sooner we get parity with the other top leagues around Europe, the better it'll be for the league, and for the national team. The EPL would then go from being the most popular, to the most popular AND the best quality.
Gunnerman
Don't agree end of??? That's why one day you'll have Baddiel and Skinner old and grey singing about SIXTY years of hurt! England won't win a thing until they start teaching youngsters how to play the game technically! Even a world class manager like Capello won't pull it off this year.
julieloveshenry4ever
See how we do with an Italian manager...
shewore
Julie - interesting reply on Vital Liverpool. There are people over there after all. "julieloveshenry4ever, In Rafa's first season we had three players breaking their legs, Gerrard, Alonso, and Cisse. That's three players in one season, not four. We also had two players breaking their legs in one game against Blackburn a few years ago. It happens sometimes. "
RealDanger
The culture of English football is changing but we still have this hangover of feeling that the old ways are best. There is a passion in the English game that isn't always there in Spain and is definitely missing from much of Serie A but there must be a point where the line can be drawn that keeps the best of the pace and excitement of English football while removing the clogging. Did Coppell's Reading or Mowbray's WBA team do any worse than the yo-yo teams that clogged there way in and out of the PL? It can be done playing good football. It's only fear that keeps the cloggers stuck to their limited beliefs.
Amos.
I think you'll find the Alonso and Gerrard injuries were metatarsals not broken legs. We've had 5 of those over the last few years ourselves.
Amos.
The best thing Arsenal can do to relay this message is to win the bloody league! (Also point to Barca, they play some nice stuff with moderate success I guess.................)
Little Dutch
I have to challenge this UNQUALIFIED notion that the Spanish, Italian, German leagues are somehow less exciting and that the English league is far more exciting than they are. I've watched all these leagues for years. The belief that the English league is uniformly better to watch simply isn't true. Yes, a few teams can be quite exciting to watch because they combine the speed/physicality of the English game with top class technical skill. But there are an awful lot of really poor teams in the PL - Blackburn, Hull, Bolton, Stoke, etc. -- that just don't deliver good quality football (well, not for me anyway). There were a couple of rounds last season in which teams in the bottom half of the table in the PL didn't even score a goal. I'd rather watch midtable and even some lower table teams in Germany, France (yes, France), Italy and Spain than a lot of the teams in the PL. English teams outside the top 4 in England do poorly in the UEFA cup. Give me a choice between Stoke-Hull and Hoffenheim-Bremen or Espanyol-Bilbao, I'll take the latter two every time. Mind you, I don't think only the top 4 are worth watching -- I'm just saying that there's a lot more dross in the PL than many realize.
jaelle
To expand further: the attraction of the PL is its speed, something I too enjoy. It's true Spain and Italy are slower. But speed has its downside as well and I can also take enormous pleasure in the slower, more studied games in other leagues that allow for thought and the application of greater skill on the ball (altho I've often seen slow games in England and very fast games in other leagues). Anyway, all this points to why I think Arsenal under Wenger is extraordinarily unique, you really can't find another club like it anywhere -- it's a special hybrid of 2 or 3 different cultures. We saw at Milan how Arsenal's English style speed and strength combined with skill flummoxed the old boys of the rossoneri. Domestically we see how opponents' only answer to our continental skill is to break our players' legs. All that said, these polarized categories of continent=skill, England=speed and aggression can be overdrawn and simplistic. And ditto to LD's post about winning the league!
jaelle
Decent article from the Times' Matt Dickinson, entitled "Arsene Wenger right to question physical culture of English football": http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/columnists/matt_dickinson/article7046045.ece
jaelle
I'd say that's better than decent jaelle. First class piece, and finally someone who understands that none of us are claiming it was an intended leg breaker. Very refreshing.
Rocky7
I think the point is, when Shawcross when flying into the challenge, look how far back his leg was cocked before he swung it forward at the ball - what was he going to do with it? he wasnt going to pass it, he wasnt going to shoot it, he wasnt going to 'dink' it away from ramsey and run on with it....he was going to blaze it into the stands...all for the sake of the 'english grit' and heavy tackle, let them know theyve been in a game - i dont think that would happen in other leagues as theres no technical footballing reason to do it other than 'they dont like it up em'
bootoo
Cancer of the english game? What is exactly, people sticking up for Shawcross? or people blaming bad managers like McClaren? Or our terrible press? You dont think all world press go after each owns leaders? What in gods name has the Ramsey injury have to do with England in the world cup in 3 months time. Stop making it out to be a bigger deal than it is. Most people do like a physical aspect of our game, me included. Other things i like too which you NEVER point out everytime another article attacking the England national side appears on here (Have you noticed you only find them on Vital Arsenal, wonder why) Britain on general through its history in other sports such as Rugby and Cricket always has alot of sportsmanship, the benefit of the doubt in cricket. In rugby in the last century everyone likes a "tough lad" - imagine Didier Drogba in superleague lol. I think both those sports have rubbed off on Britain over the years. Also Britain has always hated the much maligned "diver" from Klinsmann to Ginola to Pires to Eboue - something which i was ok with. Nope no cancer there. With regards to tackling hard, i love that part of our game aslong as its an honest attempt at playing the ball. Im all for video refs and extra punishment of players tackling recklessly with 2 feet or jump tackles. I believe tackles like Dan Smiths on Diaby - or Kevin Nolans on Anichebe should be treated in the same vigour as anti-doping punishments. Smith whos ***** anyway should have been banned for 12 months. Why not? Great way to tackle the problem i think. But going in hard and fair? Nothing wrong with it in my opinion, call me outdated, traditional or whatever i dont give a *****, but im sure the majority of the country dont think its a "CANCER" in anyway.
HuddersfieldYiddo
Wow i really rambled on, many apologies
HuddersfieldYiddo
If you can really only find articles pointing out the deficiencies in the English game on VitalArsenal HY then you really do need to read a little more widely. We do get some one-eyed, prejudiced and plain daft statements made by visitors here from time to time and that ranks amongst the more absurd of them. Here's something to get you on your way: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/7137071.stm
Amos.
Glad that someone mentioned WBA & Reading, I'd add OCs Burnly to that. Also Fulham, who admitedly don't play great football, but they play very fair. Hardly ever slide in and they're doing alright without technically great players. I bet any Stoke fan would give their right leg to have Fulhams season...they got to Europe through the fair play league!
No 10
Just to bang on about Fulham again; i watched them play Bolton, very dull nil nil but Bolton left with 6 yellow cards and a 25k fine fulham just left with 1 point gained. Fair and measured play can reep rewards
No 10
Well the football and quality of international teams, and general level of players is better in Germany, France, Italy & Spain. If that's not reason enought to investigate changing out ridiculous cultural mentality then I don't know what is. Do we not have a desire to improve? Or are the majority to stupid to know better? I think we know the answer.
Gunnerman
Too right. There is a way to utilize physical strength and athleticism in the game WITHOUT making brainless, wild tackles. Villa, Everton, Fulham can do this. The managers of Stoke, Hull, Blackburn and Allardyce's Bolton don't get this. Knuckle-dragging cloggers the lot of them.
julieloveshenry4ever
HY, I admire many a good, technically perfect tackle where the ball is won cleanly and the competing players get to play on without danger to life or limb. I often hear myself say "good tackle" in the course of the game. That is NOT the issue. What we want removed is the tolerance of "lunging, feet-off-the-ground" tackles. And UNTIL there is a revision of this "blood-and-thunder, get-in-about-em" culture, England won't win a god damn thing. The record in inernational tournaments is all the evidence you need.
julieloveshenry4ever
http://www.dangerhere.com/shawcross-and-ramsey-an-interesting-study-into-the-emotions-of-the-uk-football-family/ says it all really.
Gunnerman
GM, I just lol'd but it's pathetic really!
GoonerLou
But Spain have never won a World Cup and have only recently won the European Championships. Criticism might be levelled at the idea of 'English grit' levelling the playing field, but surely with four teams frequently competing for the title it is better than the two horse race which is La Liga. And the quality of football comes in different ways - I seem to recall Arsenal mounting a 115mins rearguard action to win the FA Cup against ManU not too long ago.
kernowboy71
I think the reason the PL is the most watched league in the world is because it is more exciting. Part of that excitement comes from the pace and the aggressive attacking and defending. I agree with the idea that youth football should focus more on technique. Tonights england game showed that when we put on three players who are comfortable on the ball (carrick, milner and crouch) we were better than when we had three players who are less impressive on the ball (lampard, walcott and defoe). But improving technique wont mean an end to the physical nature of the english game and nor should it. Arsenal should not be held up as some sort of ideal for how the english game should progress because quite frankly their methods arent working - on the domestic or european stage. Arsenal and Barcelona are completely different beasts. Outside of messi, xavi and iniesta there isnt really a player in the barcelona team who would be suceptible to the intimidation that the arsenal players are. Even those three are a lot tough than they'd initially be given credit for. The best arsenal team of recent times were nothing like the current one. They perfectly mixed good technique with athleticism and aggression. The problem at the moment is not that teams are overly aggressive towards arsenal, but that arsenal cant handle it. You cannot tell me that there is an arsenal player who gets more kicks than cristiano ronaldo got. The difference between him and the arsenal team is that he had the courage to get up and keep playing. Im not saying you have no right to be upset about your players getting injured. But this Ramsey situation was purely bad luck and in no way indicative of a wider problem. I know arsenal fans feel their team is targetted for rough treatment more than other clubs, but from an outsiders point of view it just looks like they cannot handle it. Chelsea, Liverpool and United players have just as much ability and will get kicked just as much - but they survive. You only need to look at arsenals injuries which arent broken bones or impact injuries to see that the problem you have runs much deeper than rough treatment. Your players are fragile - physically and mentally. It comes from the fact that wenger has started selling anybody over the age of 27. Young players coming through at arsenal have no experienced old pros to look upto and essentially raise themselves. They become pampered petulant brats who cry at the first sign things arent going their way. Im exaggerating to make my point, but you have to admit that youngsters coming through at United do seem to have an entirely different attitude. Granted your players are probably more technically gifted, but united players are more capable of imposing themselves on a game and adopt a never-say-die attitude far easier. Im not saying teams should be allowed to run around just kicking more talented players and maybe it should be looked into. But I believe the outcome of any investigation will show that things arent that bad - Ronaldo claimed the other day that he got more protection in the PL than he has gotten so far in spain. I think your club is a little too quick to look at other teams "inferior" style of play as an excuse for your own shortcomings. The much derided stoke team beat you fair and square in the cup. They might not have done it with perfect technique, but they certainly didnt do it just by kicking you.
tuscan3000
A long post to make a simple point that the current Arsenal team is less experienced than the team of Vieira, Bergkamp, Petit, Pires et al. You are right though that the team we have isn't yet as physically developed as that team was, certainly by the time they reached invincible season. But that will come. Cesc is already far more effective physcially at 22 than he was at 20. Much of our midfield falls into the same youthful category. I won't bother trying to explain for the umpteenth time that the youth policy was borne out of the financial neccesity of stadium funding but anyone interested enough can see the timeline for themselves. But this team is maturing as it was always intended that it does. Diaby, Denilson, Song, Nasri and even Cesc are still short of their athletic and physical peak of development but it will be there soon enough. Wenger hasn't started selling players over 27 he bought Arshavin at that age - 26 year old Eduardo has recently extended his contract as has 29 year old Rosicky and 27 year old Sagna. To describe our players as physically and mentally fragile while at such a young age they manage to sit within 3 points of the PL leaders three quarters of the way through the season is a foolish media fed stereotyped version of the truth. To imply that 19 year old Ramsey's injury can be attributed to physical fragility is stupid beyond words. He was kicked with great force - that and that alone is what broke his leg. I don't agree that youngsters coming through at United have a different attitude at all - there is no evidence to support that opinion. No one is taking credit away from Stoke's cup win anymore than they should lose any credit for the cup win over the more experienced and physicaly developed players at Man City. You could of course look at the game in a broader context and decide that the win wasn't entirely without reasons other than any shortcomings we might have physically. I think it's perfectly fair to point out the shortcomings of players like Shawcross and the managers and coaches that act as apologists for a player with a history of brutal play at a young age. His 'tackle' was careless, reckless and used excessive force all specifically outside the stated laws of the game. Those that can't see that and worse still se it as a stick with which to beat Arsenal's ways lack the foresight and perspective to set aside their prejudices and see the consequences of what they are really supporting.
Amos.
26th November 2008: Sir Alex Ferguson last night accused teams of a deliberate and systematic campaign designed to kick Cristiano Ronaldo out of the game. April 2008: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted Cristiano Ronaldo is offered more protection by referees abroad than he is at home. So was Fergie just protecting the physically and mentally fragile Ronaldo then?
Amos.
25th Nov 2007: Ferguson's complaint was that the Bolton tactics were, at best, primitive and, at worst, dangerous. 21st March 2008: “I will continue to hammer away at the need for protection for football’s most skilful players,” Ferguson said.
Amos.
This stereotyped argument around Arsenal's lack of physical presence ignores one fact. The first of our trio of players to suffer badly broken bones at the hands of an opponent was Abou Diaby- hardly the slightest specimen. I've even seen the excuse trotted out that Ramsey should have beenw earing better shinpads! I think people are deliberately failing or refusing to see the grey areas when they come out with hackneyed arguments such as, "oh you can't take away tackling, how will teams ever compete with you blah, blah, blah." Nobody is saying that, but I don't think it's at all controversial to expect players such as Shawcross to show some responsibility. If he isn't good enough to tackle responsibly then he needs to be taught and not condescended to about what a good boy he is. Some of the counter arguments have been pathetic. I feel like I'm a guy who's been really upset by witnessing a rape, only to have the moronic hordes turn to me and say, "Well it happens you know, I expect you just want sex banned altogether don't you?" http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2010/03/tony-pulis-capitalist-lackey.html
Little Dutch
It is not the traditional game that is holding England back. Teams are told to 'get in their faces' when playing Arsenal because they are not as 'skillful'... for a bunch of men who are paid thousands of pounds per week to play football, instead of trying to improve their skills, they try to stop the other team from playing. It is this defeatist mindset that is holding back England from developing more world class players.
xtzheng
Wenger was supposed to have said that the only country to match Brazil’s expectations of their national football team is England and I have no reason to disagree. I can fully understand that the average Brazilian expects to do well in all international tournaments because of their past successes. But why does England have such high expectations when it has only won the competition once, at home, when Pele was kicked out of the tournament early, and after the benevolent intervention of a Russian linesman? Is it because we invented the game or are we just plain arrogant - England are the best simply because we’re English? Whatever it is, it’s not healthy because we have absolutely no reason to expect so much from our footballers. Brazil has introduced a more physical aspect to their recent sides but ultimately it is technique that paves the way for them. England need to emphasis less on physicality and improve their technique. Shawcross, Smith and Taylor all epitomise the approach that we covet so much in this country, the wrong approach in terms of our national footballing expectations. The big winners of the world cup, Brazil, Italy, West Germany and Argentina did not do so by kicking the opposition off the park, its not rocket science.
Sir Henry
 

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