23 April, 2006

Arsene Wenger's guide dog goes "woof!"

Woolwich Arsenal 1, Tottenham Hotspur 1
Well done Anthony.

Donutball wants to accentuate the positive. Tottenham outplayed illustrious neighbours and Champions League (tm) semi-finalists for much of this tense battle for fourth place. Aaron Lennon and Michael Carrick shared honours as men of the match. Robbie Keane scored his 16th goal of the season. Paul Robinson was a rock in goal but could do nothing about Thierry Henry's inspired equaliser.

Most importantly, Spurs have secured a place in European club football next season. Right now they are guaranteed a UEFA Cup berth. The last two weeks of the season will determine whether they can claim a Champions League place. Two wins from two matches or Arsenal dropping points will secure 4th place and (potentially) that lucrative Champions League entry.

But, there were negatives. Injuries: Tainio has picked up another knock; Ledley King and Jermaine Jenas might miss the last two games. Definitely missing for the Bolton and West Ham matches is Edgar Davids who picked up a needless red card. Harsh in our view, but we would say that.

The biggest downer is the sour grapes from Arsenal manager Arsene "I did not see the incident (in which my player garotted an opponent then drank his blood)" Wenger. For those who missed the match, in the 66th minute Tottenham attacked. Two Arsenal players fell over and the ball broke to Michael Carrick. Players from both sides momentarily froze. As both Arsenal men recovered to get up, Carrick played on. Davids broke down the left, slotted a cross to Robbie Keane. Wun-nil!

Arsenal, or at least mental midget Jens "Oliver Kahn sucks" Lehmann, went beserk (for which he should have been booked) believing Spurs took advantage of a couple of injured players. Wenger confronted Spurs' coach Martin Jol whom the Frenchman believed encouraged his players to take that advantage.

Their first goal was a disgrace. They lie when they say they didn't see it.

Well, let's deal with this step-by-step.

The current Laws of the Game (pdf file) state:

The referee:
- stops the match if, in his opinion, a player is seriously injured and
ensures that he is removed from the field of play. An injured player
may only return to the fi eld of play after the match has restarted
- allows play to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in
his opinion, only slightly injured
- ensures that any player bleeding from a wound leaves the field
of play. The player may only return on receiving a signal from the
referee, who must be satisfied that the bleeding has stopped

Under the laws of the game, there is no obligation for a player to put the ball out of play if a teammate or opponent is injured. It follows from the above extract, that if the referee believes a player is seriously hurt, he will stop the game.

Now, in recent years players have got into the habit of knocking the ball out of play if there's an injury. It's claimed that this is good sportmanship. If that is the case, is feigning an injury, conning the referee or pushing a player off the pitch who has just received a red card considered good sportsmanship? Yet, these things happen as often if not more than the alleged fair play action of stopping play to let the medics come on the pitch. Increasingly, players are going down injured knowing (or at least assuming) that an opponent will put the ball out of play.

I'm with Wigan manager Paul Jewell, who thinks players should get on with the game and leave it to the referee to decide whether play should stop. In rugby league and Aussie rules, players can often taken treatment whilst play continues. That probably wouldn't work for soccer, but FIFA should look at how "fake" injuries are being used to disrupt play. (Just to add, that I have no idea how badly injured the Arsenal players were in Saturday's key incident or whether they were seeking to gain an advantage.)

On Saturday, Carrick hesitated. He saw both Arsenal players start to recover and get back to their feet. The referee indicated with a hand gesture that he saw the players on the ground but getting up and saw that there was no blood or serious injury.

Donutball concludes that Carrick and his teammates did no wrong.

As to Wenger assertion that Jol was taking advantage, tapes shown on BBC last night indicated fairly clearly that Jol did not see the incident, or if he did he didn't realise that two players may have been taken out of the game (which they weren't). Jol says he was encouraging Edgar Davids to get onside.

Wenger claiming that Jol and the Spurs staff lied is preposturous and showers little credit on the man. Whilst respecting what Wenger has done for Arsenal, creating an attractive side that's won trophies with style, he has also presided over a side that has had constant battles on and off the pitch with Manchester United and (though this year is an exception) been top or near in yellow and red cards season after season.

If Wenger is so concerned about sportsmanship, why does he tolerate the incessant diving cheating of Pires, Reyes, Ljungberg and Bergkamp? That's gamesmanship.

But, I forgot, Wenger never sees the incidents when his players transgress. Well, perhaps yesterday his guide dog barked and the master took notice.

Now lose 2-0 to Villareal you bad sports.


Blogger Jonny said...

Shame that Arsene has let himself down once again. He just cracked under pressure - and that does not bode well for our game tomorrow against a well-rested Villareal. Spurs will have no problem keeping 4th place.

24 April, 2006 13:18  
Blogger D said...

Let's root for the Yellow Football Team! Onward Villareal! Down with the Gunners!

24 April, 2006 21:36  

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