Monday, 30 November 2009

Take your partners for the twist

My blogs have already affected the professional game as seen on television. In two games this weekend plus extracts on Match of the Day I didn't notice any shirt pulling or holding. In fact, the match at Portsmouth against Man Utd was a revelation in the war to ridicule shirt pulling. Why? Well, the referee awarded a penalty to Portsmouth signalling apparently that it was for such an incident. The penalty was taken and Portsmouth scored their only goal of the match - which they lost 4-1. Television revue programmes including BBC's Match of the Day could find no footage of shirts being pulled by the Man Utd players defending a high ball into the box. Vidic and crew were not doing it. Hard to believe, but obviously the opinions of this blog are being respected.

However, when one style of cheating declines then another appears or reappears. Two very clear examples of another cheating trick shown on Sky Sports 1's coverage of the Arsenal v Chelsea match would have each warranted a penalty kick if the referee had seen them. The first was by Arsenal's Sagna on Chelsea's Anelka who seemed to get past the Arsenal player and then fell down. Sagna's arm had gone around Anelka's waist from behind and then pulled backward to rotate Anelka's hips from the front. This overbalances a player moving forward, or striving to do so. Or if it doesn't overbalance him for that reason, the shock of being so intimately interfered with is also likely to do so.

This cheating twist was not the only one of its kind from this team. The second one was performed by Vermaelen the Arsenal defender when John Terry, the Chelsea captain, came into the penalty area for a free-kick taken by Lampard. After the Chelsea attack was successfully cleared by Arsenal, the cameras were able to show one reason why. Vermaelen had done the same as Sagna, the arm from behind encircles the waist then the hand at the front pulls backwards. Terry spun without falling but then Vermaelen hung on to Terry trying to spin him again. You could call it the Arsenal Twist or even Waltz if you like! Again the referee did not see it. And of course, if you asked Mr Wenger, the Arsenal manager, then he would not have seen it either. But he will tonight or tomorrow when he looks at the footage.

I hope that this experienced manager of the Arsenal team will say that this practised cheating must stop? (Well, isn't it practised, two players using it?) Instead, he will probably point out the incident when the ball was kicked a few inches in front of Chelsea's Cech's nose by Eduardo, Arsenal, and the fact that the referee disallowed the goal which followed. The referee saw it as 'dangerous play'. And another incident when Vela went stiff-legged and fell after a tackle in the box by a Chelsea player. This was a possible penalty to Arsenal except that Vela was waiting for it to happen, it seemed, and the referee is likely to see the false fall rather than the tackle.

It was a great match. The flair and movement of the Arsenal players being in the end contained by the strength and skill of the Chelsea team. The result of this gladiatorial contest full of dash and passion was Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3. But what do the players caught on camera feel when they see themselves performing the lower level skills? Shame or pride?

I am a Chelsea fan but I hope that I have been reasonable in my comments. There is no team completely free of cheating and I have pointed out examples of unfair play by Chelsea players.
Example from an October blog:
Why do professionals pull each others shirts? John Terry, captain of England, pulls the shirt of an opponent instead of trying to get to the ball himself. If the captain of the national team does it then it is open to all. All the footballers and all the kids at school.

I hope that my team have not learned any bad habits from their latest game.

Click for a full match report from The Daily Telegraph

Click here for the full match report from The Guardian

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