The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty


Well, I am back from a restful vacation…the downside is that I missed quite a bit in the interim period. I don’t have much more to add to Brendan’s post about the United game, except that Rooney absolutely (and quite risibly) dived…more on that later. While Almunia’s decision to come out was probably the incorrect one, the amount of vitriol I’ve seen (especially on the Arseblog forums) about it is yet another example that the general populace’s knowledge of the art of goalkeeping is enough to fit comfortably inside a thimble. You have to make a split-second decision, and sometimes you get it wrong. Seriously, I’m beyond tired of people saying we need to improve the goalkeeping position, without naming any names that aren’t a) prohibitively expensive for the minor upgrade they would provide, or b) never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever coming to Arsenal (Buffon, Casillas, etc). That aside, Diaby’s header was baffling in its stupidity, and I didn’t see Eboue’s dive (seriously, no reason to harsh my buzz this soon after returning from vacation). Other than that, losing at Old Trafford isn’t exactly a major disgrace…and while the timing isn’t all that great, we’ll see who’s up around the top once the season nears the sharp end. I suspect that it’ll be a duel between us and Chelsea, with Liverpool and United far off the pace unless they strengthen in January.

That said, the first thing I wanted to get into was Eduardo’s situation. Again, Brendan went into much of what I was going to say (and as I told him the other day, he practically read my mind with his post about the pedophile chant…I was going to make the very same point in this post, but he beat me to the finish line), but in the end, I don’t know how much xenophobia actually comes into it. Sure, he’s foreign…and his dive was made a meal of, whereas the two more recent examples that followed (Aiden McGeady and the aforementioned Rooney dive) barely registered on the radar. But, Fabio Grosso is foreign as well, and his absolutely APPALLING dive – in a FAR more important game than Arsenal-Celtic – was barely talked about. Actually, from what I can recall, the only ones making a stink about it were the Aussies, and there was more of a general feeling that it was sour grapes on their part more than anything else. Not to pick on Italian players…OK, to pick on Italian players, what about this dive from Alberto Gilardino? Or what about Croatia diving their way to 3rd place in the 1998 World Cup? Or what about Porto diving their way to the UEFA Cup and then the European Cup in successive seasons (not to mention the time-wasting, the tactical fouling and the rest of the anti-football that established the career of Jose Mourinho)?

The point is, why is it a big deal now, when it’s been a constant part of the game for at least two decades? Personally, I think it’s less xenophobia (remember, Didier Drogba is a nailed-on cheat, but he largely gets a free pass), and more the fact that it’s a reaction against Arsenal. To me, I think it’s a case of there being a backlash, mainly in response to how overbearing the club, the manager and yes, even us supporters can be about the purity and beauty of our style of football. To put myself in the shoes of a rival club’s supporters, I’d probably want to slice open my jugular with my house keys every time I heard about how bloody wonderful Wengerball was to watch. Now, that’s just part of the game – I’m just as tired of the “Theater of Dreams”, “This is Anfield”, the bloody Kop, etc. If people want to call Eduardo a cheat, that’s fine…it certainly wouldn’t be the first stone fired from a glass house.

This isn’t anything new, either. I still seethe at the notion that Patrick Vieira was a violent monster, while Roy Keane could go around ending people’s careers and not get half the column inches (or red cards, for that matter). More recently, how galling is it that Eduardo is the focus of this much attention when West Ham supporters were running around trying to recreate Green Street Hooligans a few weeks back? Seriously, this was a game that involved MILLWALL, and they weren’t the guilty party. Mindblowing. Still, I suppose I’m used to it now…hell, I have vague memories of people hating us for the 1-0 wins we ground out every week.

However, I absolutely draw the line at having one set of rules for Arsenal and another for everyone else. As someone on the Arseblog forums quite rightly pointed out, why is an offense that is only worth a yellow card when the referee catches it worthy of a two-match ban when he doesn’t? Also, does this mean every dive in the future is susceptible to a two-match ban retroactively? If this is going to be the new reality, what about violent tackles that could end someone’s career? Are those going to be subject to retroactive penalty (as they damn well should), and if so, are those penalties going to be weighted in proportion to a dive getting two games?

Hell, let’s go down the rabbit hole some more. Is UEFA (or the relevant FA) going to make these judgments based on intent? How exactly do you get that right? Anyone who plays the game knows that you could trip over your own feet or fall trying to get out of someone’s way. What happens in that case? Do you as a fan feel comfortable with some overfed jackass in a blazer making the decision to overrule a trained match official? I have had my problems with referees in the past (mikedeanmikedeanmikedeanmikedean), but the bottom line is that they are doing their best in a ridiculously difficult job to make those kinds of decisions. Sometimes, even the best will get them wrong…and unfortunately, some of those wrong decisions will come in high-profile games. There is nothing that can be done to eliminate this entirely…the best that can be done is to continue to train referees and give them all of the tools they need to ensure that these incidents are minimized. When you have guys in a room overruling the match officials…well…just look at the hilarity every time an NHL referee has to go upstairs to the yahoos in Toronto to review a call. With 37 camera angles and super-slow-mo shots and everything else, they still take longer to determine whether a puck crossed the line than it takes our country to settle a contested Senate election. These are the types of people we’re going to entrust with these decisions? Really?

Of course, what makes the most sense is some version of what the NFL has now…make it acceptable for the referee to confer with his assistant, and if they aren’t sure, allow them (at the referee’s discretion, not a club’s manager) to view a video replay on the field. Sepp “The Scourge of Football” Blatter and company will never implement it, on account of having nothing above the cerebral cortex. However, I would much rather give the bloke with all the fancy training badges the final say with the assistance of replay rather than some suit with who-knows-what for an agenda.

If this is going to be the brave new world of the game’s leaders protecting us from dives while dangerous tackles continue unabated, then I suppose all I’m asking is that they apply the stupid equally, and at least hand out bans to all the other divers as well. If that’s the case, they’re going to be busy, busy boys over the next few months…hope it doesn’t keep them from their usual duties of sitting in banquets or going on junkets.


September 1, 2009 - Posted by | The Arsenal


  1. What I found more amusing was the abuse that Eduardo received from the “fans” at old twatford. They seem to forget that until this summer they had a certain Ronaldo who was the Greg Luganis of the prem.

    Comment by Andy | September 1, 2009 | Reply

  2. People dive because it works. If the FA said “We’re reviewing every game and every dive we see is a match ban” then diving no longer works, and any intelligent player immediately cuts out the swan dives. The medium-contact both-going-for-the-ball-maybe-it’s-a-dive-maybe not dives, well, those will always have to be judgment calls, like they are now.

    The unfortunate thing, for U.S. viewers is how diving has very quickly moved off the European pitch into American sports. Gamesmanship is what it is, but the NBA has turned into a hilarious comedy where otherwise immovable 7-footers take a poke to the upper chest and fall as though they took a rifle blast to the face. While I’d like to blame the furriners, like I said: Diving works. And athletes are good at figuring out competitive angles that help them.

    Comment by TK | September 2, 2009 | Reply

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