Welcome, Arsenal, to the world of accidental clogging


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the embryo of a body of contrition hovering over the Emirates stadium as it dawns on Arsenal folk that their self-canonised saints of football may also, from time to time, stray from the path of purity …

Cesc Fabregas is a magical footballer, a convincing contender for any choice of the Premier League’s finest. He is also, necessarily, strong, fast and committed.

So realistic supporters, whether they are Gooners or follow Sunderland or Chelsea, Wolves or Stoke or indeed anyone else, can sympathise with Fabregas when he tells his manager he hadn’t the slightest wish to injure Stephen Ward of Wolves. Yet it was challenge that some felt merited a card of a different colour than the yellow shown by Mark Halsey.

A red would have made Arsenal’s disciplinary record look ever so slightly like ours.

But it is a simple fact, difficult as some find it to grasp, that football reporters and fans are not always right when they claim a tackle was so dangerous or disgraceful that dismissal should have followed.

Lee Cattermole, correctly sent off twice this season and correctly criticised by Sunderland fans for his lack of discipline, now has only to look broadly in an opponent’s direction for some oaf like ‘appy ‘arry to say he almost broke the poor man’s leg.

Spurs players staged a mini-riot around Howard Webb, intent on having Cattermole dismissed after his tackle on Modric the other night. As DaveyB put it here after Redknapp had had his say: “Harry’s comments about it being a leg breaker are ridiculous. Any tackle can be a potential leg breaker … there was no malice in this challenge.”

Arsène Wenger has been loudly and consistently praised at Salut! Sunderland. I admire his eloquence, have no interest in his private life and like the way he wants his teams to play. I would sooner see the Gunners win the Premier League than any of the other obvious candidates. But when he suggests that Arsenal are systematic victims of thuggish cloggers, he is wrong.

Every player from Cattermole to Wilshere to Shawcross to Fabregas is capable of making a challenge that starts off as an honest tackle but, through misjudgement, causes or threatens injury.

The innocence of intention does not or should not spare the offender punishment, though it does deserve to be taken fully into account as mitigation.

Occasionally, a player deliberately sets out to wound. Roy Keane was even rash enough to admit publicly that he had done so; those occasions are surely rare.

It would be a welcome consequence of Arsenal’s chequered record, in terms of foul play and cards so far this season (and let us not forget the Gunners’ robust approach to Sunderland away), if the officials, players and supporters of that club were to acknowledge that they hold no monopoly on the Corinthian spirit and no exclusive right to a sense of victimhood.

Arsène, quoted after the match, hadn’t seen the Fabregas tackle. Et bien sûr, ça ne me choque pas.

But he did say:

“I think it was an accidental tackle. That’s what Cesc told me. He touched him, of course, but he wanted to play the ball.
He went to the dressing room and apologised to the player and it is all right … I have just apologised to (Wolves manager) Mick McCarthy if the player is injured … it doesn’t mean if you go to see how the player is, that you feel guilty.”

Words that could apply to most controversial incidents that leave players injured.

And who emerges with most credit from the episode? Our old friend Mick McCarthy, not for the first time a voice of reason and decency:

“Fabregas has gone for the ball. It is one of those when two blokes are running at full tilt and you slide in and he has got a cut on his leg. Fabregas has been in to apologise and Wardy has accepted it like a man. I said to Arsène I’ve no problem with the tackle and I really appreciate the apology from [him]. I wish everyone would stop whingeing about tackling and complaining and being desperate for me to say something like ‘it was a bad tackle’. It wasn’t a bad tackle. I’ve no problem with it at all. It happens. What I can’t do with is everyone bitching at my players and my team when we tackle.”

Maybe next time an Arsenal player falls in a sorry heap after a tussle for the ball, Gooners the world over – or at least Monty and Rupert, fondly remembered from last season’s tannoy message at the Emirates – will shake their heads sadly while saying: “Jolly bad luck though you have to admit it was hard but fair.”

Monsieur Salut

14 thoughts on “Welcome, Arsenal, to the world of accidental clogging”

  1. Thanks for the welcome Gooner comments. I don’t really have much to add and, as EireGooner knows, it is territory I have covered before.
    But EireGooner also says:

    ” … dont go along with the gutter press on this one.
    From what I remember of your blog, it would be much more your style to point out how pathetic the media is, as they completely ignored the Wolves tackles to focus on ours …”

    Without wishing to nitpick, doesn’t this paragraph from my article get my retaliation in first? –

    “But it is a simple fact, difficult as some find it to grasp, that football reporters and fans are not always right when they claim a tackle was so dangerous or disgraceful that dismissal should have followed.”

  2. I watched the Cesc tackle on TV (not a gay reality channel) and if you look at his eyes, he was focussed on the ball at all times. Just clumsy rather than malicious. A yellow was the right response. Catts would probably have got a red, though.

  3. Ive read this blog before, and always enjoyed it.
    Cescs tackle was pretty dangerous, it had to be carded, and the colour of the card was always going to result in complaints from fans. Had it been red, I would have felt it was a little harsh, but wouldnt have been shocked either.
    What I would say to the author is – take a look at Henrys challenge on Arshavin, its far worse. Not that it deserves an article, or a headline, but dont go along with the gutter press on this one.
    From what I remember of your blog, it would be much more your style to point out how pathetic the media is, as they completely ignored the Wolves tackles to focus on ours.
    Fair treatment for everybody, thats what we all want.
    Again, congrats on the blog, definitely one of the opposition blogs worth reading.

  4. While I like your posting and applaud the sensible and intelligent opinions expressed, as opposed to the usual uber partizan rantings of too many blogs, I disagree that Cesc should have got a red.
    Dont get me wrong, it was a bad tackle and totally unnecessary from such a player, but it wasn’t dangerous imho.
    If you are side by side in a tackle the worst that can really happen is probably the gash that Ward got. Unfortunate, but not career threatening.
    If you are going head to head or at right angles to the player, that is where the damage is done, and that is the type of tackle we should all want to stamp out.
    If you look at the Essien incident last night you could say he went for the ball, but with 2 feet off the ground and coming in on the shin it was only luck that prevented an assault. Essien is a better player than that if he wants to be.

  5. Cattermole’s challenge was a bad one. It was over the top and dangerous as was Fabregas’. Joe Cole got sent off for excellent the same thing against the gooners so I cannot understand how they are now claiming it was an accident. How cares. If someone dirves recklessly, knocks over one of your children, yet says it was an accident, would you think OK fella, carry on?

    Red cards need to be dished out on occasion to save the game from bad challenges.

  6. A fair point well made. I can’t remember Arsene visiting the opposition dressing room too often back when Vieira Keown and Bergkamp were scything/elbowing through opponents, but of course we were winning things then. Still, our Gallic general does have a propensity to look for something else to bang on about rather than acknowledge the elephant in the room. You may have noticed this.

    Very nicely written blog btw, first visit. Will return.

  7. I completely agree with this post. Within the rules nobody (us Gooners included) has any issues with a physical approach to the game. In fact, its an area of our game that I miss from days gone by. A well timed firm sliding challenge is just as aesthetically pleasing as a 60 yard cross-field ball or an acrobatic diving save.

    I think the gripe that Arsenal fans have is that alot of the lower level teams in the league deliberately go out to stop Arsenal playing by ‘roughing them up’, which can sometimes go too far.
    The problem arises when players are in the mindset to ‘get about ’em’ so to speak, because a slightly mistimed tackle can result in the types of injuries that we’ve seen to Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey. When you’ve had these types of career-threatening injuries to players year after year, I’m sure you can imagine it becomes tiresome and frustrating to say the least! I genuinely believe that the reason we have suffered more of these types of injuries is because of the belief in the past 5 seasons that to beat Arsenal, you just have to rough them up. I dont believe that it is merely coincidence (just my opinion).

    Respectively, the point that I also make to Gooners complaining about our team getting rough treatment, is that Arsene Wenger built this team. In my eyes, you cant build a team that’s easy to bully and then complain that they get bullied.

  8. There were two red card challenges from Wolves men last night clearly seen and replayed on TV as I watched the full game in the pub. Henry was one and Ward I think on Wilshire the other. So I’m not surprised McCarthy is not making a noise about Cesc’s tackle.

    Were Wolves really the better team? If Arsenal had taken their early chances it would have been over in 15 minutes…..

  9. Even the most one eyed Tottenham fan would have had trouble defending Dan Smith’s tackle,which broke and disclocated Abou Diaby’s ankle.He was the first of three Arsenal players to suffer career threatening injuries and have their legs broken in 4 years.If you consider this fact then it is more understandable that Arsenal react the way they do.Given the fact that Cesc’s challenge was a red card offence I thought that Mick Mcarthy did very well to difuse a potentially ugly war of words.

  10. I’m a gooner and whilst I don’t condone Fabregas’ tackle I didn’t think it was that bad.

    I watched football first of the game and Karl Henry’s tackle on Arshavin was similar to that of Cattermole (apart from Cattermole actually got the ball)…yet nothing shown on MOTD or reported…. I was wondering why?

    It seems to me the tabloids are taking Danny Murphy’s statements and attributing them to Arsene Wenger and are only showing Arsenal’s fouls….again why ?

    In a world wear 3 Arsenal players have broken their legs in 4 seasons and not a single injury to boot from a tackle made by Arsenal I sense a bit of a witchhunt awaiting the first dangerous tackle from Arsenal.

    The Cattermole thing I can’t get my head around. It wasn’t even a foul but VDV got him booked and Modric’s reaction to the tabloids are a joke….

  11. to take up the ‘arry Redknapp comments about Cattermole’s challenge, I think Modric should take a good hard look at himself and his “if I hadn’t jumped I would have got hurt” claims. I’ve seen it again on the TV and it was no worse than a yellow. On another day (or more likely with a player others than Catts) it wouldn’t even have been that. As for the “penalty”, Bentley should be ashamed of himslef. He was practically on his knees when Zenden arrived – and he’d been on his way down for so long that Zenden has time to pull out of the challenge he was about to make

  12. i didn’t like the cesc tackle last night, certainly i wouldn’t have liked to see it against one of our players. but there’s a big difference between that and the shawcross tackle, the robinson tackle, the taylor tackle. all the latter tackles are player diving straight into their opponent’s standing leg.

    trying to draw a comparison betw.een that and cesc’s yellow card last night is pure politics. cesc went in hard but direction of his dive was parallel to his opponent, not straigh at him. the impact came from the defender swinging his leg into cesc’s foot, which fair enough should not have been there. so yellow card.

    the defender’s leg was not broken in two places. have a look at what your own dan smith (?) did to abou diaby a few years ago if you need a reminder of the difference between a bad foul and a dangerous one.

    and since MOTD did not show it most likely you won’t be aware that by far the worst tackle last night, according to the sky commentator, was by karl henry on arshavin who was lucky to escape a hospital trip.

Comments are closed.

Next Post