EPL 2007-2008: Birmingham 2 – Arsenal 2

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
February 24th, 2008 • 10:50 am

It was, in many respects, a truly sickening week-end for the Gunners and their fans.

It was sickening to see Eduardo sustain what could very well be a career-ending injury. We all wish him the best possible and speediest recovery, but I cannot help but fear that, even if he plays again one day, he’ll never be the same player again and will never become the player that he could have become at Arsenal without this horrific injury.

It was sickening to see the broadcaster refuse to replay images of the actual injury, with the excuse that it might shock some viewers. Maybe a shock is precisely what those viewers deserve and need. A shock that shows everyone, including fans, other players, and their managers, what this “physical” approach to the game that English people are so proud of can actually lead to—and has led to in this particular case. Once again, the entire nation will be in denial about the whole thing. “Physicality is part of the game,” etc. etc. Yeah right. Give us more Keanes and Taylors to drag the game back into the dark ages. But please protect our eyes from the ugly side of what they do, so that we don’t have to confront the reality that we are incapable of producing world-class players ourselves and that the only way we’ll ever win anything is by hiring neo-Nazis such as Capello to turn us into an army of brainless hacking machines and spread our terror around the world.

It was sickening to hear people jump to the defence of the Birmingham player. “He’s not a bad guy,” “He didn’t mean to do it,” etc. So what? That’s not the point. The point is that there is a culture of physicality, that all the Carraghers and Savages and Terrys of the world are taught and told that what they don’t have in skill and actual aptitude, they can make up for by constantly defying the referees to apply the law and send them off like they deserve to be. Does anyone have any doubt that what Alex McLeish told his players to do before the game was to “go at them”? Does anyone doubt that what a player of limited ability such as Martin Taylor was doing here was precisely that? Will anyone get punished for it? Of course not. The player himself will get a ban for a few games, and that will be it. Meanwhile, a player’s entire career has been destroyed, and a whole team has suffered a major psychological blow, with huge consequences for the rest of the season and beyond. But no one will be held into account for this.

It was, of course, sickening to see Gaël Clichy’s lapse of concentration lead to a late equalizer after the Gunners had, in spite of their distress, managed to repair the damage of the first half and were cruising to an ultimately comfortable victory. But in these circumstances, it’s hard to hold it against Clichy. He, like the other players, had gone through a whole range of emotions, and was understandably relieved that the game was nearly over, and he just snapped for a split second, possibly with images of that broken leg flashing before his eyes one more time. Who knows? It was a bad mistake, one that cost the team two vital points, but he can make up for it in the coming weeks, and the race is far from over.

Yes, the pendulum has swung again, with Manchester United destroying a sickeningly weak Newcastle defense once again, but the pendulum has swung several times already this season, and we’re still there, we’re still at the top, with everything still to play for. If we can get results at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge and the San Siro, everything is still possible. The week-end was a tragedy, but the team has to be strong and recover from it, if only to honour the player who suffered the most crushing blow to his footballing career—much in the way that they did honour Robert Pires by winning the EPL in 2002 after he suffered a nasty knee ligament injury and missed both the end of the season and the World Cup in Asia.

That being said, if Arsenal fail to win anything this season, there will be the usual accusations (not strong enough, not physical enough)—which of course will once again prove my point above—but there should also be question marks about why Arsène Wenger refrained for buying any players in the January transfer window, all the while complaining about his squad being thin. With Eduardo now out for months and van Persie still not back to match fitness, the squad will be ever thinner. How can Wenger justify having put the team in such a position by failing to purchase some extra insurance? I know it’s all about maintaining the cohesiveness of the current team as opposed to building a team of mercenaries à la Chelsea, but surely Wenger is taking this philosophy to the extreme, and he might yet be made to pay for it.

Anyway, I guess all that we can do at this point is hope that the team are indeed as strong mentally and physically as they say they are, and get the required results in the coming weeks.

7 Responses to “EPL 2007-2008: Birmingham 2 – Arsenal 2”

  1. daproject says:

    Oh please. Spare us your anti England tirade. It’s embarrassing.

    Might I point out your players “roughing up” Nani last week? Or Fabregas and his petulant stamps he does from time to time? Or the physical nature of Vieira? Arsenal fans are hypocrites.

    The Taylor challenge was a bad bad tackle. The injury was horrific. My thoughts are with Eduardo but lets not act like bad challenges are exclusive to English players.

    And as for Sky refusing to show the replay – it was 1pm with children most likely watching. I fully understand their point of view. The BBC did however later show it on Match of the Day.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    You cannot deny that there is a constant tension between these two aspects of the game in England. In other countries, the problems is more with play-acting and theatrics. But in England the recurring theme is the struggle between physicality and artistry. And you cannot deny that there is a pattern of Arsenal being at the receiving end of the former. And we’ve now had two broken legs (Diaby and now Eduardo) in the past two years. B-r-o-k-e-n. Think about it.

    There are people who maintain statistics about all kinds of things. I am not interesting in counting the number of petulant kicks by this and that player. I am sure that you keep track of all the idiotic behaviours of Rooney & Co. just as carefully. I am just saying that there is a double standard, and if Mr. Taylor had broken Rooney’s leg instead, the tone and the volume level in the media and elsewhere would be on a different level altogether.

  3. daproject says:

    Pierre do you live in this country? The overwhelming opinion is one of complete sympathy with Eduardo. That the challenge was a horrible one but nobody means to sever a fellow professionals foot. There is no witch-hunt against Arsenal. Eduardo is on the back of every single paper in the country. I don’t know how the volume level could possibly be higher.

    And again I won’t mention the petulance of Fabregas or Gallas. Or the embarrassing diving of Eboue. Or the ridiculous challenges against Nani. Or Wenger’s inability to be gracious in defeat.

    I love Arsenals football. I think Wenger is the best manager in the Premiership. I do not support one of the big four so definitely not looking at this with biased eyes. I do however find that Arsenal have an “us against the world” mentality that does more harm than good for them.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    The fact that I don’t live in the country doesn’t mean I am not allowed to have an opinion. I am still certain that a similar injury to a “high-profile” English player such as Rooney would be on the front page of every paper and would be described as a national disaster—although of course with England out of Euro 2008 the actual impact on the national team would have been minimal.

    As for the “us against the world” mentality, it is obviously derived from actual experience. How many times do we have to read about the “shameful” lack of English players in the Arsenal team, about the fact that they are not a true “English” team, blah blah blah. As if Ronaldo or Drogba were true English heroes.

    I am just sick of the hypocrisy of the English sports media and of British managers such as McLeish, Bruce, Ferguson, et al. They seize every opportunity to criticize Arsenal as a team of “foreign” players, and systematically condone the use of violence against them. Yet as soon as Gallas make a stupid gesture with absolutely no intention to hurt, it’s a national scandal and “Sir” Alex Ferguson gets on his high horse.

    Anyway, there’s not much more to say about this. Like I said, if you are going to keep a tally of who dives, makes petulant gestures, commits ridiculous challenges, etc. at least do it scientifically with all the players in all the teams over the years before singling out anyone. I am the first one to criticize a player like Éboué here. But on the whole I find it hard to believe that Arsenal is any worse or any better than the others.

    I’d just like to add that, if Sky Sports had not unilaterally censored the horrific challenge, maybe the pictures of that broken leg would have left a lasting impact in the minds of the children who were watching and who will become the talentless Taylors of tomorrow, and would have helped prevent the perpetuation of this culture of thuggishness and bullying. Instead, it’s all forgotten already and people are fawning over the accidental header by Woodgate that won the Carling Cup as if it were the second coming of yet another great national hero. (As for being gracious in defeat, check out the behaviour of the entire Chelsea team.)

  5. MaCinJay says:

    I saw the still pictures of the incident – truly horrific.

    Any tackle that is made with the player’s studs showing should be punished with a straight red card without exception. Consistent application of this rule is the only way to stamp these sort of incidents out.

  6. daproject says:

    1. Oh, Chelsea. The great bastion of Englishness with its foreign owner, manager and coaching setup and predominantly foreign playing staff..

    2. If you don’t live in this country how on earth do you have an idea of the “mood” or opinion of it?

    3. Of course Rooney would have been front page news. He is probably the most talented player we have. That however does not prove your point.

    4. Yes, the British media are fickle, xenophobic and a joke. What’s new? In no way do they represent the people.

    5. If I had kids, I wouldn’t want them to see that tackle at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. just as I wouldn’t want them to see people dying in war. Or Daniel Pearl being decapitated. Yes there is a need to communicate the harsh realities of the wrongs of the world but there is a time and a place. The tackle was on Match of the Day in the evening and graphic pictures made all the newspapers if you so wish to show any children you may have.

  7. Pierre Igot says:

    daproject: I’d just like to refer you to this article. It’s by an English commentator, in an English paper. It sums up my views quite nicely, even though I am not English, and I don’t live in England. I don’t see how having those views makes one a “hypocrite.”

    I don’t have anything against England or English people. I have something against an English tendency to defend physical thuggishness as some kind of legitimate footballing strategy.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.