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When old voices gather......

Arsenal ticket scheme members may receive the annual pack which is usually a decent collection of Arsenal artefacts, dvds, giveaways, yearbooks and the like. This season the pack included an edition of Eddie Hapgood`s autobiography. 'Happy` Hapgood was captain and full back star of Chapman`s all conquering pre-war Arsenal side. The autobiography is a fairly rudimentary account of his career for Arsenal and England written in 1945 at a time when he`d set the record for most England caps. Anyone born when Hapgood produced his work would now be qualifying for their state pension.

As historical record it`s an entertaining enough read but maybe what strikes the reader most is how much pain players had to accept for their sport and how proudly they wore their battle scars. These were times without substitutes so broken noses, distressed muscles and damaged limbs might get you moved to a safer area of the pitch but you`d rarely leave it, other than temporarily, if you could stand. As much as you can admire their endurance, bravery, their toughness no real supporter would want to return to those days of laced footballs and industrial boots.

Much else has changed about football since those times which, despite the natural appeal of nostalgia, has been to the good of the game. Substitutes are now allowed - three of them, the same number of points as you can now earn for a win. Changes in the laws restrict the handling of backpasses and complicate the understanding of the offside rule and the abolition of the minimum wage eventually led to some players becoming multi-millionaires in their teens. But among the biggest of changes are changes in the players themselves and the conditions under which they play the game.

You needn`t go back as far as Hapgood`s time to appreciate the differences in playing conditions. A number of old voices, Redknapp, Allardyce, Coyle and Moyes among them have recently invoked the 60`s and 70`s as a benchmark by which to consider today`s tackling issues. Tackles then were often made on muddy, sodden pitches at a pace that allows them to be examined without today`s slo-mo replays. Much of what was done 30 or 40 years ago you could see coming.

It wasn`t just pitches that made tackling less dangerous players themselves were much slower. British researchers looked at games played in the old first division in 1976 and found that the average player covered a distance of 8 to 11 kilometres a game, 25% of which was spent walking and 11% in sprints. Modern premiership players will cover 50% more distance with an average of 11 to 14 kilometres a game while the number of sprints in a game has more than doubled. The modern footballer is fitter and runs much further, for much longer and much faster than his 1970`s counterparts. It probably isn`t possible for a midfielder of the current era to feel contentment with the sobriquet 'Stroller`. Still the physical demands increase each year and it`s clear that the game is getting faster and more physically intense - dramatically so compared to 30 or 40 years ago. The speed and power of the game now means that bad tackles will cause more damage than they did in the past.

When conditions change in other spheres then we expect to have to adjust behaviour accordingly. As more traffic with better engineered vehicles and motorways produced greater power and acceleration and greater average distances travelled cars were fitted with seatbelts and motorcyclists compelled to wear helmets. Similarly, in almost any profession if accidents occurred repeatedly you`d be obliged to look at them, the changed conditions under which they occur, and adjust your behaviour or conditions to bring about a reduction. Most employees, their families, friends, bosses and professional organisations would insist that is done. There`d be media outrage if it didn`t happen. You certainly wouldn`t be permitted to deflect any inclination for action by saying that it was pretty bad 40 years ago too. So why do we expect football to live in a bubble that seeks to exclude it from the simple common sense we apply elsewhere? 'It`s a contact sport - what do you expect?` is no more valid an observation than that cars are still made of metal.

The laws of the game are clear. You cannot tackle in a manner that is careless, reckless or uses excessive force. There's no need to change any laws but there is a need to ensure that they are interpreted to the standards and needs of the modern game and not those that prevailed decades ago. What prevents that from happening? Who is scared of bringing about change that could only benefit the game? Many of the answers can be heard in those old voices locked in the past.

If we can see and applaud improvements in players' technical ability to perform feats of skill at high speed why wouldn't we want that to include their tackling skills? What's wrong with thinking about the purpose of tackling and even redefining it in coaching terms if that's what it takes to make it more relevant to the objectives of the modern game? The ideal should be for a tackle to regain possession of the ball - or as a last resort in the final third an endeavour to clear your lines to avert a threat to your goal. But ugly, careless or reckless lunges, too often with force disproportionate to the aim of winning possession, are made in areas of the pitch in which they can serve no purpose other than to stop the game - and maybe bring a player down. It's a blight on the modern game in its faster and more athletic form and perverse when those similarly conservative voices object to the introduction of video technology on the basis of its potential impact on the free flowing game. In a good tackle there is a desire to win possession not simply to clear the ball. Many tacklers will tackle with absolutely no idea where the ball will end up - but a fairly good idea of where the player will. A good tackler should be looking to win the ball and has the next pass or movement in mind when he does so.

Those old voices seem to feel the only choice to be made is between tackling and not tackling - not one between good tackling and bad tackling. There`s no need to outlaw or abandon tackling it just needs to be appreciated and refined as a skill set relevant in the modern age of football. There`s nothing tremendously difficult about it. It can be done easily enough if the understanding is there and taught and appreciated as an improvement in technique every bit as valuable as any other football technique.

If referees were to enforce the existing rules by defining the criteria of carelessness and recklessness in the context of today`s game and not that of decades past then the need to coach players in the art of the good tackle will become more urgent. Those old voices can only speak of times gone by. We need some new, younger voices to encourage the game to understand and look forward to the needs of the future. At present there are too few of them making themselves heard.

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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday September 20 2010

Time: 9:23AM

Your Comments

It's an excellent article which simply sets out some very simple terms that aren't at all controversial. Sill, I'll bet my bottom euro that some luddite from another club will still trouble the forum with, "yeah, but we mustn't lose the British blood and thunder, it's what makes our league stand out" which deliberately misses the point. I repeat my assertion on another thread, we all know that the day the attitude will change in this country is the day an England regular leaves a football stadium in an ambulance and it won't happen a second sooner.
Little Dutch
Agree LD but the big change will come when a footballer who's career is finalised by a thug pretending to be a footballer and the injured player takes them to court along with the manager and the club they play for. The sooner that happens the quicker the FA will review thelaws.
No I won't listen...LALALALAALLALALALALALAhypocritewengerLALALA LAALAmansgameLALAilovewalrusLALALAmoanmoanLALALA!
insider says
The acceptable face of English football
and if that englishman is from Arsenal, then the attitude or anything else will still remain the same..
I'm not sure i agree that the only way this archaic mentality will change is for a (false) national icon to suffer from a bad challenge. It may be the fast track solution to getting people to look at the state of the game, but the sad truth is I don't have any faith in the FA or media (who determine what joe public believe) to look at anything honestly and without ulterior motives, then act and make the necessary changes without ******** it all up... That's just how the FA do things, they're incompetent! So, for a start change first needs to happen at the top level and then people may begin to take the issue seriously. Media needs to radically improve and this i hope will come around by public opinion through blogs gaining strength and importance over journalists who only write to shock rather than inform. In essence what i'm trying to say is that it'll be a long drawn out process trying to change these archaic industrial mentalities but Wenger is planting the seeds in the cracks of the aging infrastructure. He's taking the flack now and being a martyr for the good of the game in the future because he really does believe in it. Graham Poll (not someone i pay much attention to) wrote in the mail today ( that reckless tackles must be dealt with properly and refs need to have more consistency. Now this is just 4 days after he writes a piece titled "Do Arsenal need more protection from referees? No Way!". Peoples initial reactions to Wengers statements are rejection with abuse added to give the (over)reaction an English flavor. Now people are starting to talk and that is because Wenger brought it up and asked the question 'what if?'. A gathering force of opinions & voices in the public domain will encourage journalistic self-reflection (one hopes) and organisational remodeling throughout the FA. How long do you expect that to take?
insider says
...Or we could just break Gerrards leg and see what happens!
insider says
That's a good post insider (not the one about breaking Gerrards legs!) and exactly the lines I was thinking of. The louder we can bang this drum on blogs and internet sites the more likely the mainstream media will be to pick it up eventually. It doesn't need to be sensationalist in nature or to sound self pitying just simple logical arguments for the greater good of football that asks the questions persistently. It'll take a while to get through but the counter arguments are illogical and ultimately that's where they'll be defeated.
Consider the campaign under way
Little Dutch
Good points made Amos. They are not brilliant in its insight, simply common sense, which the wider media is unwilling to see as it doesnt create headlines. If Redknapp talks abt the tackling in the 60s as a comparison, then is it ok for him to be paid the salary of a 60s manager? Clearly not. There is so much about football that has changed, and it beggars belief that such a simple point cannot be acknowledged. Wenger's words are twisted continuously - he has never said tackling should be banned, just that reckless tackling should be punished. But you wouldnt believe that if you read the papers.
prits,17033,9405_6389926,00.html Interesting article as Messi was taken out by a bad tackle on Sunday. According to this article at least, the Spanish press appear to have taken the route of castiagting the man who committed the tackle (without all of the "part of the game, he ain't that type of player" nonsense). However, whether that's purely because it was Messi on the receiving end is open to conjecture I guess. Much like the British press were happy to villify Duscher for his tackle on Beckham pre 2002 World Cup.
Little Dutch
said it before...the more things change the more they remain the same....i see the logic of what you say...very good article.....a point i want to put across......there are sensible fans here saying sensible things but at the sae time you have some SO CALLED ARSENAL out there who i will point out i dont see most of them on any official arsenal sites.....mostly like the sun etc. who with their stupid comments poison all the good that the true fans try to do .eg you want to prevent broken legs and they pout nonsense like wanting to see another clubs player injured...that goes beyond the realms of banter.....THEY MAKE REAL FANS LOOK BAD.....and somehow the bad seems to cover the good..why i dont know...i mostly read posts on here by amos and jaelle plus a few others who make sense....why people want to see the players that excite the game injured is beyond me....
Why single out only some Arsenal fans for making stupid posts elsewhere? That's no more true than it is of any set of fans from any club. We get a fair proportion from one particular club here that far outweighs those sensible posters that we all know exist.
@rovinella62spurs. I'd just like to point out, in case you were motivated in any way to make that very valid observation (although i agree with what Amos has just said) that my earlier comment about breaking Gerrards leg was completely tongue in cheek and i thought it would have been obvious from from the post i made just previous that that. If that wasn't your motivation nevermind, carry on. =)
insider says
@insider....nothing to do with what you said....asi said i dont see those clowns on any official arsenal sites...hence i said SO CALLED FANS....@AMOS..iknow brov and it is generally speaking for all clubs
On the Vital spuds Carling cup thread: If Sandro breaks Chamakhs leg, he'll be a legend for life! The Horses Mouth. We of course would not tar all you spuds with the same brush.
The media cant be so stupid as to not see the distinction AW makes about reckless tackles and normal tackles. It just suits their agenda of seeing issues in black and white and to purposely ignore the greys. Writing about grey areas would probably make the average reader of the daily racist blink, shrug and shift to the page 3 site in the next window.
Deltaforce i said ..generally speaking ....there are those and there are those....heres hoping for an injury free game where we whop you...cheers
They always point back to the Vieira red cards and call Wenger a hypocrite. They neglect to mention our fair play rankings over the years and the fact that our disciplinary record had nothing to do with the issue of reckless tackling.
True gronedrome, again, it was mentioned that we have had 50 red cards under Wenger. What was not mentioned is how many games over how many years that statistic was calculated. Thats 50 reds over some 700 PL, FA cup, Carling cup and CL games. An average of 1 in 14 games. Another stupid and naive assumption of the media is that ALL the red cards under AW were for reckless tackles. Thats bullcr*p. The majority were 2 yellows for niggling fouls and a piffling minority were straight reds for bad tackles.
Just heard theboss is being charged by the FA for improper conduct; what next.
alwaysgunner....they were alwaysgunner charge him....blabla from media if they dont and blabla if they do......standard and then they drop it or fine him £8000.....
His frustration was understandable - it is for most managers in that situation even if not really excusable. Probably fair enough really. One game touchline ban and an £8k fine - not even half a days pay by my reckoning. He may think it's money well spent. It isn't his first and won't be his last.
The Arsenal blogoshere is awash with camaraderie today against the media's brainwashing. Along with ACLF this morning, Threeand In here's another well written piece worth a read;
insider says
well god news 4 u lot....fab expects to be back in 2 weeks,,,chelsea?
Very good piece. If I remember correctly, I seem to recall the Spanish league having a reputation for being very rough, physical and almost dirty (see this horrific challenge on Maradona - I'm not sure what happened in Spain and whether they suddenly or gradually changed things, but it seems to have benefited the league and the ypes of players/football they produce. I'm not saying this is a fact, it's just based on my opinion. Perhaps someone else knows more.
@goonervin...didn't watch the video but are you sure its spain you mean...maradonna was playing in italty for napoli.....watched a lot of italian football them times and brov it was nasty or worse....think at the time it was the roughest leage ...that i think is where maradonna got mashed up.....had no ankles left hence the coke to ease the pain
ok...that was b4 he went to napoli.....but italy was worse
One reason Gooner-Vin might be because they are quicker to dish out red cards in La Liga. Last season their refs gave out 40 straight reds (27 in the PL) and 46 red/yellows (41 PL). I think that pattern is much the same in the other major European leagues too.
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New York City Wolf
Sport is followed like religion, it amazes me that people are still genuinely surprised it is followed as dogmatically. Sport, like religion is so heavily based in tradition it is afraid of change, football more than most.
Ozi Gooner
Amos - I think that's right. If you hear our commentators on an European fixture, they nearly always say "oh our referees would let that kind of challenge go". That's the big issue here really isn't it - the different football cultures. I've always wondered whether the physicality of English football stems from its roots with rugby.
cont... Whereas other footballing countries haven't had that joint heritage with rugby, and hence their football is based on technique and other values such as flair. For me, this wonderful English game that the managers/pundits keep sticking up for is a strong contributor to why England doesn't do well at tournaments against the very best teams.
Brilliant article Amos and some nice comments in the thread. Unfortunately the British managers that perpetuate the notion of “blood and thunder” are the ones who seem the most vocal (‘arry and Fat Sam) and of course players who have forged a career on this principle and who go into punditry and journalism (Robbie Savage, Stan Colleymore). They are championing the traditional British approach and are often perceived to be the English footballing “establishment”. This is helped along nicely by of the impotency of the FA who panders to the simplistic ravings of the media. Frustratingly it is the FA who has it in their power to change things. The FA need to have the courage to apply the current laws vigorously and consistently and to nurture the idea that commitment must come with control and the sole intent of winning the ball. Perhaps a period of over-compensation is needed to punish recklessness until the message is received and understood.
Sir Henry
I'm late to this article/thread. Superb, superb article, Amos - in all respects. "If referees were to enforce the existing rules by defining the criteria of carelessness and recklessness" - agreed, but it would be nice if the refs in England at the very least applied the rules as they exist now---that is to say, the rules never ever mention "intent" or whether or not a player got the ball. Because the rules as they are stated NOW wisely assume that both are totally irrelevant. You cannot measure intent, it is a debatable point, therefore refs cannot be expected to be judges of it. The rules clearly refer to RECKLESSNESS and indifference to duty of care. If THAT is something that pundits/fans/fans/managers in England willfully, stubbornly refuse to grasp. English football is still in the dark ages on this point. It is absolutely ludicrous listening to the blatantly selective, hypocritical discussion in English football about the intent of a tackle, "he's not that kind of player," when that is a total nonsequitur and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with judging any challenge. It's made worse by its selective application---Gallas' tackle is replayed over and over again on sky whereas the FA removes all video evidence of Robinson's tackle on Diaby from youtube, and sky never shows it. Similarly, whether or not a player "got the ball" is completely irrelevant to whether or not a tackle is worthy of a booking.
Further to Amos' point about bringing the game into the 21st century on this point, look at how Mourinho's Inter and Barca have approached the task of defending. Barca have taken an old tactic--collective pressing--and refined it even further so that they rely on very little tackling. Mourinho is known as a defensive, conservative coach yet his Inter did very little tackling. Watch their games v. Chelsea, Barca and Bayern in last season's CL. They rely on DISCIPLINED POSITIONING and well-timed INTERCEPTION -- i.e., prevention. This is why Denilson is so good at what he does and why he's so dismissed and sneered at in England -- his interceptions are clean, unfussy, preventive and mostly accurate. The kind of tackling that is so lauded in England is the result of desperation, lack of football intelligence and and poor skill. Both the Inter and Barca approaches are developments in the modern game that you do not see in England, nor should you expect to see any such innovations in the game in England. On this point, English football is incredibly insular, provincial and backward.
jaelle, that last post was magnificent, absolutely spot on.
Sir Henry
*" If THAT is something that pundits/fans/fans/managers in England willfully, stubbornly refuse to grasp." - correction: take out the "If" in that sentence. // Also wanted to mention something that truly upsets me: last season it was clear we were denied several penalties throughout the year because of Eduardo's dive. I really believe Dowd's performance on Saturday was influenced by AW's recent comments. I often wonder how we can win any trophy when the FA is clearly punishing us. I remember reading a couple seasons ago how the TVs in the FA offices are turned onto skysports 24 hours a day every day. They're heavily influenced by sky and sky is blatantly biased against Arsenal.
Much appreciated, Sir Henry. :-)
AW has admitted the FA charge and will serve his ban at WHL -
Great read Amos
Jaelle - great point. You should also contribute articles for Vital Arsenal.
Btw - Cesc just put out a great tweet on Twitter: "Hate being injured and not being able to help the team, but wish them good luck agains spurs tonight! Come on lads!"
Thx for that info, Vin - twitter was hacked into today and I can't read much of it as a result, it's a mess.
Great tweet on the twitter hack by eastlower "Dont worry about this twitter hack folks-Sam Allardyce says he's the man to fix it"
Jaelle, a little tired and confused at your continuous reference to England. What has England done ? Do you mean all English people are morons? I concur that the methods of some teams are without doubt (in England) play football in a thuggish manner but that appears to be the ruling FA) allows. I can well remember the continual way of playing football which has arrived on our shores of faking injury to get a player sent off or a penalty awarded. The Italian football team were masters of that tactic, scored a goal and spent therest of the game defending that one goal; boring as hell. And don’t tell me we (Arsenal) as the boss has said used strong arm tactics too. No matter where you live in the world the home country has the bias in its favour. Football journalist is pandering to the mass audience. And it’s a favourite pass time of other countries even within the shores of the UK to mock deride anything English. Arsenal unfortunately is has and always will be a successful team. We have a manager who has IMO wanted our team to play the style of football that the best teams in the world, such as Brazil and at the moment Barcelona. The ‘Special One’ tactics without the money spending Russian were not dissimilar to Bolton etc. Would you call Manure/Liverpool dirty English teams? We play a great football style and are getting better every year; we are an English team; just as Inter Milan is an Italian team. Once again I concur about thuggish tackles and would dearly love them to stop; but IMO you lose the argument when you blame every thing on the English and England. (Psst remember you wouldn’t have Football if it were not for the ordinary English workmen).
Continental, sorry spelling mistake
ag, your response to my post is ridiculous. I clearly state that English football IN THIS AREA is backward--I stand by that & won't apologize. Meaning - how to approach defense, the way pundits and managers view the concept of tackling and that the modern game is developing new approaches to defense. "blame every thing on the English and England." - what a ludicrous OTT strawman argument that you invent out of whole cloth and that speaks of your own sensitivity and is NOWHERE in my posts. "Psst remember you wouldn’t have Football if it were not for the ordinary English workmen)." - gee, thx for the patronizing history lesson. I happen to love England--I'd move there today permanently if I could. I happen to enjoy English football for many of the same reasons AW does - the fans' passion, the speed and intensity, the way the stadiums are laid out (the older ones), the football pub culture (not quite the same in any other country that I know). But I detest the xenophobia, the insularity, the ridiculous scapegoating of foreigners for the national team's problems and the persistent refusal to confront problems at the grassroots level. Unlike some gooners, I would dearly love to see the English national team do well in int'l tournaments--I get angry because the FA won't do anything serious about the problems of the national game in England. As for Brazil and the continental game, I could fill several threads here and talk about the problems there. But we're talking about the failure of England to change in this one particular area. And that's all I addressed.
Jaelle see comments below, seems to make a mockery of your statement "I happen to enjoy English football" something that pundits/fans/fans/managers in England willfully, stubbornly refuse to grasp English football is still in the dark ages on this point. It is absolutely ludicrous listening to the blatantly selective, hypocritical discussion in English football Both the Inter and Barca approaches are developments in the modern game that you do not see in England, nor should you expect to see any such innovations in the game in England. On this point, English football is incredibly insular, provincial and backward Yes a history lesson we all need sometimes, failure to learn from history we do at our own peril. Finally I do enjoy and concur with your comments but your closing arguement loses my vote But I detest the xenophobia, the insularity, the ridiculous scapegoating of foreigners for the national team's problems and the persistent refusal to confront problems at the grassroots level.
Alwaysgunner, you don’t need to feel insulted about what jaelle wrote because she provides an important insight into the English footballing psyche from a third party perspective and it’s very useful. Instead of looking at it as some kind of wind-up why don’t you embrace it and accept is as constructive criticism designed to help rather than antagonise. I think she mentioned before that she has Brazilian roots and she certainly has a knowledge of Brazilian football and since they seem to do quite well on the international stage I think it’s well worth considering her views. Apart from that, her footballing viewpoint is quite cosmopolitan and rich in information so it’s all good stuff. You don’t have to agree with what she says, but take it as it was meant.
Sir Henry
I don't see anything even vaguely antagonistic about what jaelle says (I know she is equally capable of being critical of Brazilian football too). The only nationalistic vein I can find is your quite pointless, "we wouldn;t have the game if it weren't for the English workmen" point. That's exactly the sort of aloofness that holds back the game in this country. "You can't tell us how to play football, WE invented it." You see it all over British society. As a race, we are very innovative and have given the world a great many innovations. But then we usually allow the good work of the trailblazers to stagnate with precisely that "we invented it so shut up" attiitude.
Little Dutch

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