Are points now more precious than a player’s well-being?

While a rash challenge is not good to see, what seems even more frustrating is the seeming impossibility to discuss these things in a rational manner, particularly when they concern the Arsenal Football Club.

Those who watched the game against Birmingham on the weekend would have seen Jack Wilshere’s badly timed challenge on Birmingham striker, Žigić. He was deservedly sent off and will receive the usual FA ban.

Wenger has acknowledged the players culpability, and Wilshere has said it was wrong, both admirable stances considering some of the boneheaded positions taken by other players who have committed harsh tackles on their fellow professionals. (Shawcross and Pulis, I’m looking at you). Considering Wilshere didn’t commit a major injury on Žigić, like breaking his leg, you wonder what all the fuss is about.

Wilshere receives his marching orders

You see, certain personalities both within the football world and around the blogosphere rubbed their hands together with glee: here was the noose in which to hang Arsene Wenger, and his team, with.

McLeish inferred that the incident was enough to mop the guilt of Matthew Taylor’s challenge on Eduardo from the record. Some other places within the football blogosphere deemed it suitable to classify Wilshere with other more experienced footballers with track records for persistent fouling. It’s obvious that Wilshere has a bit of grit, but such a fatalistic determination at this stage in his professional career is not only grossly inaccurate, but also terminally grating.

While I will readily concede that Wenger has occasionally been a bit too loose with his criticism of certain players, teams and managers on the topic of bad tackling, I can also empathise.

When your team constantly battles a plague of injuries and it seems that every year a member of the squad is left on the operating table prematurely because of ‘badly timed’ challenges from individuals who ‘don’t intentionally go out to hurt other players’, you can understand why sometimes the boss gets a slight bit annoyed when the FA do little to punish the offenders other than hand out a flimsy three match ban.

And what other teams or managers can possibly know about the persistent career-threatening injuries that Arsenal players have received over the past five years? Probably not a whole damn lot.

You might point to bad luck, you might point to the alleged softness of the Arsenal team. Certainly there is evidence to support both positions. But I feel that a more correct argument is the fact that the FA has done little to deter teams, and their players and managers for making such challenges. It seems that points are now worth more than the players.

I want to now suggest a fairly radical point of view to illicit some further comment and perhaps some rational debate.

Whether that’s to make it into Europe, or avoid relegation, precious points now make or break teams in England. Does it seem that some teams will go out of their way, even if that means chancing injury to the opposition, and bans for their players, in order to survive?

When writing this down, I wonder why managers and pundits and other personalities involved in the game seem so reluctant to stamp down (excuse the pun) on bad tackling. Often the doozy that its essential to the spirit of the English game gets rolled out ad nauseum, but I often think its because these people are inherently afraid of change. It often seems to be the same people who are completely against even experimenting with goal-line technology and video refereeing.

How do we know it won’t work without even trying?

Have your say on the Premier League’s tackling issue by leaving a comment.


A music writer and retro video-game lover, Darragh Murray is a master at satirical writing with a particular focus on taking the mickey out of the English media. He also writes about the Brisbane music scene on the excellent Parallel Lines on a Slow Decline blog.



  1. Good stuff….With Chelskum topping and Shitty above us at the moment, I would say points are rather the more precious commodity.

    On another note, Songs bombing raids are legal, if it were not, he wouldn’t be doing so game in game out. Excellent stuff from the boys against Shahktar…we’ll definitely be missing Wilshere(so annoying). Song, Fabs and Wilshere would’ve been a mad combo. Some early shots from outside should be included in the tactics and I would love to see Nasri and Rosicky starting on either side of Chamakh with Walcott coming on for Rosicky at exactly half-time. Nasri replacing whoever replaces Jack (Diaby/Denilson) in midfield and Arsha coming on for Jacks replacement(Diaby/Denilson) on 63mins.

    Bring on the Shitty…..

  2. Not sure why Wilshere is being hung out to dry already?
    Scholes has been making thistype of tackles for 15 years. And Wenger was slaughtered for questioning him the other week.

    The usual anti-Arsenal sh1te in the media

  3. On ur debate Darragh, a lot of teams struggle to create chances…talk-less of scoring them. We, on the other hand create lots of begging chances and convert few. Even when we do not create the chances. the potential to do so is just awesome. We spend more time in the opposition half than any other team….we are more positive in our approach per game.

    When we’re in free flow, u need to tackle us to get the ball cos we have loads of dribblers on tzhe team, pity we don’t have the free kick specialists(Italian football) who could be punishing the opposition whenever such tackles could be around the 18 yard box.

    In other words, we and other teams who tend to play like us are more often on the receiving end of the tackles etc. But, the teams that do the dishing out including Man-U, Shitty are a lot more (80%+ : 20%- at-least) in ratio. Therefore, u have very few managers speaking against it and more loving it. E.g Mancini loved the De Jong horrible tackle his country manager(Van Marwick) frowned at.

  4. I’m happy that arsenal is finally showing opposition teams that we wont be pushed around anymore. Am i the only one thats thinking like this? obviously the tackle could have been a lot worse, and theres no condoning breaking someones leg, but teams have been muscling us for too long, and its refreshing to see the team give some back. When Wenger gave his “our players need protection” speech, i was thinking ‘we don’t need protection, we need to stop being pushed around’. We need to have a team that insights fear in the opposition, like we used to, and that wont come from being a dirty team, but it will come from being a team that wont be pushed around. i think most fans would rather have red cards and trophies!!

  5. “Often the doozy that its essential to the spirit of the English game gets rolled out ad nauseum, but I often think its because these people are inherently afraid of change. It often seems to be the same people who are completely against even experimenting with goal-line technology and video refereeing.”

    In their heart of hearts, these will also be the same people who will never forgive Wenger for taking the drinking culture out of the English game. How can a footballer be manly if he can’t down 12 pints like a proper Ingerlander? I depair….

  6. I was wondering if I might get murdered by the readers for such a post – I ramble a bit occasionally and my conclusion doesn’t match what I initially started writing.

    GunnerBoss you have a point – I too share this feeling. Our lack of penetration is really frustrating. I was watching some footage of the immortals the other day and it used to be so easy for us to tear apart defenses, with the likes of Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Ljungberg. Now we struggle. I think Wilshere is worth his weight in gold – he can pass brilliantly, and he has a bit of grit about him. I think the comparisons to Paul Scoles, at least in terms of how he plays, rather than how he tackles.

  7. Arsne Wenger,a legend in his own lifetime,has earned the respect of all managers and players, through his style of play, and his honest comments, apparently when he speaks all people involved in football listen, the reason other people comment on whats been said is because they have been asked by the media.
    Its been stated that Arsne takes an interest in players both personal and proffesionaly and tries his best to put them at ease, many of these players coming from far and wide, and not speaking the language fluently, as soon as these players are settled and they fit in with the team, the league points start to follow, maybe not enough to win the league, but enough to keep us in the top four, and to help pay all the wages, which with our profits in the plus means it works, After all it is a buisness.
    On the question of tackling and goalline technology, the govening body will not endorse this idea, because its too fair for everybody, and they dont want that, they want to decide on the rules of play and to be in charge of all decisions, certain teams do not draw enough attention in finals, so less money is earned thats why decisions normally go to the top teams.
    After Mr Wengers comments on bad tackles i would have bet my house that it wouldnt be too long befor he was made to eat his words, Remember they are incharge!

  8. The Answer is simple. IF YOU INJURE A PLAYER, THE PURNISHMENT SHOULD BE THAT YOU STAY OUT UNTIL HE GETS BACK TO PLAY, since they claim it is accidental it costs somebody not to play thus the offenders accidental should also force them to sit out for that long

  9. @Francowadz

    If that were to happen then one could send out a second-rate player as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ to invite a tackle (eg. from someone like scholes who is notorious for badly timed challenges) and then fein injury for the whole season, thus rendering the offender locked-down for the whole season. Your idea is nice, but unless there are independent medics to determine the fitness of a player it’s easily open to corruption.

    Perhaps video evidence could be used to determine the severity of the challenge and punishment issued accordingly. Can anyone think of a problem with using video evidence in this way? At the moment a club can appeal against a three match ban using video as evidence…why cannot the governing body also use video evidence to invoke a lengthlier ban on an ill-intended challenge…?

  10. You know what the easiest and proven strategy is? A judiciary. They use it here in Australia for both Aussie Rules and Rugby League and it is a sufficient deterrent. Referees can place dangerous play on report, and a body reviews the video evidence. Players are given the right of appeal. Simple, straightforward, and I cannot see why it cannot be implemented by the FA.

  11. its good to see some aggression in our stle of play, while dangerous career thretening tackles should be outlawed, we also have to toughen up, and instill fear into our opponents, they have to know we can play play champagne football and rugby too if we r pushed to do so..

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