Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Arsenal and the great World Cup pundit conundrum

Spain's national soccer team players celebrate their World Cup victory on a stage in Madrid July 12, 2010. Spain stunned the Netherlands to win their first World Cup on Sunday in sensational fashion with a goal in the last minutes of extra time. REUTERS/Andrea Comas (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)

It was interesting to hear the thoughts of the so called ‘experts’ following Spain’s World Cup final win over Holland on Sunday.

The Spanish were roundly praised for their dominant brand of possession football and were seen as deserved winners of the tournament. Holland meanwhile were heavily criticised for their aggressive style as they sought to unsettle the Spanish midfielders.

But one thing struck me as rather odd.

While Hansen and co on the BBC couldn’t find enough superlatives to throw at Spain and conversely had plenty of bad words to say about the Dutch, I wonder what they will be saying about Arsenal in a month’s time?

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has a similar footballing philosophy than the Spanish. He has assembled a group of technically gifted players who seek to play an attractive brand of attacking, possession football.

However, their main weakness in the Premier League has been their apparent ‘soft centre’. It is commonly assumed that the Arsenal players ‘don’t like it up ‘em’ and so are subject to rough treatment from opponents (just ask Aaron Ramsey).

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This weakness is often cited as the reason why they have failed to win a trophy over the past five years and many believe Wenger should adopt a different style of play.

But why is it ok for teams to rough Arsenal up but it is ‘thuggery’ to try and do the same to Spain?

The ‘experts’ were calling for more protection for the Spanish players yet they are not so forthcoming about Arsenal. I know Spain have proven more successful than Arsenal in recent years but it hasn’t been through adapting their style of play, they will keep passing regardless of the opposition - just like Arsene Wenger's men.

There seems to be a common thought among TV pundits that everything the Spanish do is perfect – proven by how little was said regarding the frequent instances of play acting, diving and card waving that went on during Sunday’s fractious encounter.

I feel it is important to point out that I am not an Arsenal fan so do not have agenda. However, I do feel we should have as much consistency from our hypercritical pundits as we expect from our players and referees.


  1. good point, I thought may be me as a gooner was paranoid, but then I guess if non-Arsenal fans can see it than may be I was right. Well I never pay much attention to so called pundits, who after the Germany game said that James was the best English player, when he really should have saved 3 of the 4 goals..I find RTE comments to be much better and constructive so after games tend to look for that on line rather than listen to BBC or ITV

  2. Absolutely bang on.

  3. i cant believe that an non arsenal fan has pointed this out full credit to you what the so called experts say has effect on how team treat us if they arsenal are soft other teams go in harder and ref are more lenient to these team and the result is wat happened to ramsey.arsenal have much less protection then ,man u and chelsea the prem needs tto sort this out

  4. And Geordie Alan talking so positively about spain 'passing the opposition to death' but previously admonishing arsenal for 'passing the opposition to death'......

  5. couldn't agree more, the hypocrisy displayed by Hansen and Shearer was astonishing. there was no talk of Spain needing "a plan B"

  6. The resident British pundits on the BBC & ITV - not to mention those of other broadcasters - are deeply hypocritical.

    Long story short, they are stale and well past their use by date. I wish that both channels would start using pundits from abroad on a regular basis - as well as people like Jonathon Wilson from the Guardian.

    I wonder sometimes...if Arsenal players don't "like it up em", does this mean that there are plenty of players in the English premier league that do "like it up em"?!

  7. spain have played far fewer games with much greater protection from international refs. they won two trophies, from about 24 games. big deal - i'd back arsenal to beat spain any day, provided we get cesc anyway!

  8. Great post, mate. Keep up the good work.

    Feels great to know that a non-Arsenal fan is raising his voice against the agenda these two-faced pundits have against Arsenal.

    I'm an Arsenal fan and I know what you're talking about but it's not only about Arsenal, it's about football. Teams like Arsenal and any other teams who try to play proper football should be protected by the FA and the refs, not the thugs who only try to break legs (Shawcross, Taylor) and get praised by these so-called pundits.

  9. it had to be an english ref that allowed van bommel and de jong to stay on the field in the first half. no other ref in the tournament would have been so lenient.

    i also remember Webb sent off adebayor V liverpool after a couple of fairly innocuous challenges, the second yellow in particular seemed totally unwarranted. the man is an arsenal hater.

  10. Many Arsenal fan I know have pointed out the hypocrisy of the BBC pundits. Goodness, fellow gooners out there have noticed too. What next? knighthood for Sam Allarydce!

  11. I am not an Arsenal supporter but I am a huge fan and admirer. The abuse Wenger and the Arsenal players have had this last 4 years for trying to win ONLY by playing the beautiful game when teams around them are only interested in anti-football- is incredible. That abuse has come from the Muppets at the Sky team (Souness ecxcepted),from Satanta and ESPN,the Press and most tellingly of all- no ref or ex-ref has stood up and criticised thuggery against Arsenal citing the damage it is doing to our game, the development of skilfull players (like Wilshire) and the future prospects for the National Team. We have even had Andy Gray trying to tell us that if we had an English manager, playing the usual up-and-at-em, so called, english style we could have beaten the likes of Spain and Germany. Well so we might! But what everybody wants to see is one of our teams out there playing proper pass and move football. We want to see skill. And we won't be doing that until Stoke, Blackburn, Birmingham and several other Prem teams justify the honour of playing in the big league by respecting the beautiful game- Spain not Holland, Barca not Inter. Any crap team can clog and win by clogging. Cloggers however do not make World Cup stars and heroes- well except one Nobby Stiles type possibly cos only the very, very best can beat ALL teams on absolute skill alone.

  12. Totally agree.

  13. Thanks for making the point.

    Barca/Espagna have countered the 'up-em' tactics by falling over at every opportunity, which makes it almost impossible to referee their games as there are as many imagined fouls as genuine ones. They cheat in their own way as much as the thugs cheat in theirs.

    So what are we going to do -- toughen up and play the thugs at their own game? learn to cheat with style and conviction the way Barca do?

    Or is there a middle path?

    I really don't know...maybe have two squads -- one for clog-dancing and one for football.

    As a team we clearly need to toughen up some and we also would greatly benefit from getting an enforcer in the Vieira mold. We were bullied off the ball by Chelsea so it's not just talent-light sides that bully us.

    Basically I hope we stick to our free-flowing football...but we need to add more steel.

    The pundits...don't think they are trainable, unless we could get them to break ranks and get someone like Lineker to point out the irony of the pundits' rage against the dutch 'thugs' while encouraging Stoke/Hull/Blackburn/etc. to emulate them!

  14. The most receptive in the media seem to be reporters like Martin Samuel and Paddy Barclay. I am sure the irony is not lost on them. But I suspect the real problem with this issue lies at the doors of the Premier League and Sky Sports. British Soccer is a gravy train, not just for Murdoch and the Premier Board and clubs but for the dozens of hangers on- those who appear on TV and directley or indirectly cover the game. If anyone rocks the boat (and that would include suggesting, for example, that ball playing teams should be cherished and cloggers discouraged for whatever reason, Keys Lineker etc would get the production staff cough and it would be stamped on. Sky have got the most influential newspaper reporters under their thumb too. You only have to listen to the drivel they push out. It is just a faint hope that Martin and Paddy can persuade some young fellow me lad reporter to break ranks and do the decent thing. Badger them because the state of our football from grass roots to the national level is a lot more important than Sir Dave Richards and Rupert Murdoch or anyone else. Ideally we could do with a split. Let the Premier teams who want to play proper football and try to produce quality future internationals have one division and the let the rest have another. Then we would see what sort of football the world public want to watch. Arsenal, West Ham, Liverpool, The Mancs, Wigan, West Brom, Newcastle, Spurs, Blackpool, Chelsea, Villa and Everton in one perhaps and the rest in the other. What a spectacle the other would be. Too dire for words.