Having said that it has been shown time and again by what many people would call the ‘lesser’ teams in the Premier League that the best way to play against Arsenal is to try to make it a physical battle. You need to chase every ball, hassle every player and give them no time on the ball art all. You also need to put in some tackles. Hard but fair.
When teams play like that against Arsenal they sometimes can’t cope with it and invariably, Wenger moans about them after the game and talks about needing more protection from referees and his unhappiness about how some people play the game.
On Saturday I heard Arsene Wenger’s after match interview following their 3-0 win at Birmingham before I saw the game. I heard Wenger express disappointment at the physical way Birmingham had played. ‘Here we go again,’ I thought to myself. I wish he’d just shut up and get on with it.
That was until I saw the game. Arsenal were sublime at times with their football. Nasri and Fabregas looked as though they could have won the game on their own! Arsenal played some lovely football and created chance after chance. They had eighteen attempts at goal and could have scored many more. They passed and moved and dribbled and played one-twos and three-fours and just about every type of intricate play you could imagine.
So what of Birmingham? Well they set up to stop Arsenal playing. That was that. They had no other objective. Two attempts on goal in ninety minutes says it all. They also clearly had a plan to be physical and I accept that as long as it is within the laws of the game. Whether by design or simply through application, Birmingham went well outside the laws of the game. It is remarkable that they ended the game with eleven men on the pitch.
The main culprit was the player who is no stranger to nastiness, Lee Bowyer. We all know about the nasty little incidents in Bowyer’s past and we all have our own opinions about what he might be like as a person. On the pitch he has sometimes behaved appallingly but, although it pains me to say it, he is a decent player.
Bowyer has shown some good form this season and looked a little like the player that did so well at Leeds a few seasons ago. I actually thought that he may have grown up a little as well and eradicated the nastiness from his game. Watching yesterday’s game, I was clearly very wrong.
Bowyer was niggling and aggravating all through the sixty-nine minutes he was on the pitch. There were any number of incidents whereby he stepped outside the rules in an attempt to intimidate or injure Arsenal players but the two that stood out were an outrageous stamp on the upper leg of an Arsenal player who was lying on the ground and a really nasty rake down the achilles tendon of another Arsenal player with his studs. Both of these acts were deliberate and both of these acts had no other purpose than to cause injury.
Somehow the referee missed both of these pieces of thuggery, as well as many others, and Bowyer escaped without even a caution. Hopefully, now that his efforts have been highlighted on television he will be given the appropriate ban by the FA. Clearly Birmingham boss Alex McLeish knew what was going on because he took Bowyer off shortly after the second incident I mentioned.
There were any number of incidents in the game where Birmingham stepped outside the rules to try to stop Arsenal playing and I really didn’t like that. Hassle, pressurise, tackle, chase and challenge. I love all that and I fully believe that is the way for less good footballing sides to play against Arsenal. What Birmingham did went beyond that and is not good for the game.
For once, I agree with Arsene Wenger’s summary of the game. I hope the FA take the appropriate action and that other teams don’t follow Birmingham’s lead.
There was a lot of talk earlier in the season about the bad tackling in the league and then Fulham’s Danny Murphy talked about the likes of Stoke, Wolves and Blackburn who were often over the top in the way they try to stop opponents playing. There was a lot of angry reaction to what Murphy said but if he had added Birmingham to his list and then people had watched Saturday’s game then it would have been very difficult to argue with him.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!
Both the stamp and the leg rake were against Sagna.
What about that horrible challenge on fabregas that could have broken his leg…that was the worst of the bunch although I don’t think it was boyers work. He has extremely poor mentality.