The Death of Tackling?

16 09 2010

It is an undeniable fact that tough tackling players are usually remembered fondly in English football.  Norman ‘Bite Yer Legs’ Hunter. Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris. Nicknames that echo down the generations and men who still earn a crust working the after-dinner circuit where they regale audiences with tales of cynical fouls that are received warmly by the sound of gruff bellowing laughter.

In recent years, the template for a top class defender has changed. As the last outfield line of defence, the hatchet-man has been stifled by the introduction of the straight red card for the professional foul. As such, old parlances such as ‘stand him up’ and ‘stay on your feet’ have become truer than ever and defenders are now as likely to be judged for their passing as their tackling. Rio Ferdinand, the England captain and widely regarded as a world-class defender, got through the whole of last season for Manchester United and England without receiving a yellow card.. a remarkable statistic given the minor infringements that are now considered foul play.

As the responsibilities of the defender have changed in the modern game, the role of the tough-tackling hardman has probably become embodied more and more in the figure of the holding midfielder. Here, there is a player who is often actively encouraging to harry and close down the most creative players on the pitch. Players who are entrusted with stopping the opposition playing, with little responsibility to do anything other than lay the ball off to a more gifted team-mate. Tackling is surely part of this player’s remit. And yet, in a week in which two robust English midfielders find themselves lambasted for their reckless efforts in the role, is it now time to ask the question – have we seen The Death of Tackling?

Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole received two bookings in the first 22 minutes against his old club Wigan last weekend. The player has been widely criticised for his lack of control and downright stupidity – F365’s Mediawatch amusingly highlighting the contrast between his pre-match comments and his actions on the field.

Wolves’ Karl Henry meanwhile, has felt the full force of the media’s glare in breaking Bobby Zamora’s leg with a strong challenge at Craven Cottage. One may speculate that a challenge resulting in a broken leg would have seen recriminations in any era. However, the widespread condemnation of Henry for a challenge the referee deemed fair and that replays showed to have clearly won the ball is quite revealing:

“Maybe Zamora’s injury will make Karl Henry less of a prick when he is going into tackles. Massively over-zealous every time”.
[The Equaliser on Twitter]

When such a sober and impartial judge as The Equaliser is hurling abuse the player’s way then it is time to consider whether the appetite for strong challenges is no longer there among the viewing public as it once was. Following FIFA’s interventions in the early 90s and the subsequent proliferation of red and yellow cards, it took many fans, pundits and players considerable time to adapt to the modern game. Cliches such as ‘the referee has spoiled the game’ became commonplace after sendings-off. However, there appears to be a sea change and the tide is turning. The 2010 World Cup final was notable for the global outrage at the actions of the Dutch players and their overly physical approach. The thrust of the criticism directed at referee Howard Webb was asking the question: why had he not sent more players off. Even last weekend in the Premiership, in addition to the incidents involving Henry and Cattermole, the question is being asked as to why Bolton’s Paul Robinson was allowed to stay on the pitch for a challenge on Arsenal’s Abou Diaby that referee Stuart Attwell did not even deem a foul. And so, as the public appetite to (no pun intended) stamp out overly-aggressive play continues, there is surely every reason to expect to see the decline of the tackle.

So where does all this leave us? What is the role of the defensive-midfielder nowadays? The answer, perhaps, is right in front of us – it is in the role being performed by Jon Obi Mikel, Sergio Busquets, Esteban Cambiasso and others – the Interceptor: a no-nonsense midfielder for the 21st century…

Alex Song - 'Interceptions vs Tackles' comparison - Liverpool vs Arsenal 13/12/2009 (Guardian Chalkboards powered by Opta data)

The above diagram is indicative of the role played by Alex Song for Arsenal last season. It is a defensive one in terms of position but is not characterised by tackling. Indeed, the player managed only one successful tackle in the match and completed more interceptions than he attempted tackles. That is not to say the player did not do his job – in many ways the interception is the next generation of the tackle: prevention rather than cure. If a tackle is required then the implication may be that an opposition player has already been allowed to receive the ball in a dangerous area. An interception suggests the threat has been averted before it was allowed to occur and has the added benefit of an increased likelihood of ball retention – another key quality required in the modern defensive midfielder.

Conclusions

Tackling is a divisive issue. Some see it as a vital part of the game, others suspect the game would be better without a single player going to ground all day. For most, there is ambivalence: easy to enjoy a good crunching tackle.. right up until someone gets hurt. At that point, we reflect and ask questions. This week has been one of those weeks and yet it feels different – no longer is the argument that ‘he got plenty of the ball’ considered acceptable. The inherently physical nature of tackling is being questioned. As the tough-tacklers continue to be replaced by the interceptors we become increasingly aware of the overly-physical. In a strange irony, as society at large becomes desensitised to violence on our streets and on our screens, the sight of a full-blooded challenge is proving less palatable than ever.

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34 responses

16 09 2010
Reznuk

“clearly won the ball” is not the same as “cleanly won the ball” – Karl Henry won the ball, yes, but in doing so, took the man out. A tough but fair tackle is one which takes the ball without taking the man out or injuring him. Henry’s tackle didn’t look reckless, it looked calculated. He did what he /appeared to/ want to accomplish – won the ball *and* took the man out. That is not okay.

Too often tackles which do this are deemed okay (in the traditional footballing fraternity) because they win the ball, but the reality is that they wouldn’t have won the ball if the tackling player had not taken the man out as well. I’m not fond of a ‘full blooded’ tackle – the game doesn’t need to be rugby to be entertaining and exciting. Skillful players can win the ball without taking the man out. To be fair I don’t even like the ‘barging’ off the ball that takes place – to my mind, if you play the man and not the ball, then it should be a foul.

This Karl Henry incident (and I don’t agree the media has turned it’s full force glare on him) has shown more clearly than ever the Football authorities attitude is one of not merely ambivalence, but acceptance. Witness the media response to Arsene Wenger’s complaint about Paul Robinsons tackle on Abu Diaby in the Bolton game. The tackle was awful, and Wenger rightly complained, yet it is he rather than Robinson who has borne the brunt of the media.

It’s hard to tell from your conclusion whether you’re actually for or against, or merely observing. I come out cleanly against violent, uncontrolled and cynical tackles, whoever they’re perpetrated by.

16 09 2010
GhostGoal

As the piece suggests, I think your viewpoint is one that is increasingly prevalent these days – the trend is clearly going in the direction of these sorts of tackles being considered unacceptable.

I’m surprised you feel Wenger has been more criticised than Henry this week though – I guess it just depends what sort of material you are reading.

And yes, my conclusion is unclear because I don’t feel strongly about the issue either way – which certainly doesn’t mean I’m not interested by the debate. For what it is worth, I happen to think Henry’s challenge was fairly innocuous for the simple reason that if Zamora gets up then the incident would be forgotten instantly. Robinson’s challenge on Diaby was more overtly over the top and would have been notable regardless of the impact on the player.

Thanks for reading anyway.

16 09 2010
Gollo

Reznuk – in short, you’re wrong. Karl Henry slid in from slightly behind but from the side and from the side and got the ball first. Zamora’s and Henry’s forward motion causing the injury. Like most serious injuries this was down to an unfortunate combination of timing and momentum, but until FIFA outlaw sliding tackles, then it’s a legal tackle (and also an excellent one) Crucially for me, he was in full control of the tackle at all times which means the charge of negligence cannot be levelled at him either. Compare this with Shawcross’ tackle on Ramsey last year, again he made contact with the ball prior to the man, but he wasn’t in control of his body, the minute he hurled himself into the challenge at such speed he lost control of the situation with horrible consequences. As for football as a whole, we are of a generation where the likes of Barca and Arsenal expect lesser teams to roll over and let them play their specific brand of football unencumbered, as if we all prefer their style of play to more physical styles. I have two responses to this, firstly show me a fan who would rather watch the opposition win beautifully, than his own team attempt to stifle the game and nick one on the break. Secondly, I enjoyed the midfield encounters between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira as much as I’ve enjoyed anything the recent crop of Arsenal team have provided, great players competing physically as well as technically. Finally the great joy of football is the variety of skills on display, I have enjoyed over the years the defensive displays of Hierro, Nesta and Cannavaro as much as the breathtaking skills of Zidane, Ronaldo and Messi – I love watching Ronaldo and Messi running at hatchet men time and again, the bravery is as bigger attribute as the technique and pace – ask George Best (tough I know, but some sort of medium may help)

In short, grow a pair, it’s a man’s game and if we’re not careful we’ll end up watching a glorified form of basketball

16 09 2010
Reznuk

Needless to say, it is in fact you who’s wrong.

“grow a pair”? I don’t want to get into a slagging match so I won’t respond the way I want to, to such a pathetic childish statement. I don’t want to see basketball, but I don’t want to go back to the days of Norman Hunter either. “it’s a man’s game” – from which I take it your definition of “a man” is someone who shows aggression and overt physicality? I prefer a man’s game where the men -think- and where they seek to demonstrate -skill- first and foremost, particularly before resorting to aggressive tactics.

You claim to love watching Messi & Ronaldo running at the hatchet men – do you enjoy seeing a young skillful player writhing in agony when his leg’s been snapped? Do you enjoy your team losing because you’ve lost half of the starters through injury? It’s not funny when it’s -your- team, and actually I don’t find it funny when it’s any team. The injury to Zamora made me feel sick, as did Karl Henry’s attempts to kick Joey Barton into the stands the previous week (and I’m not a fan of his either).

Of course everybody wants to win – when it’s their own team. And many football fans, like you, want to win in any manner possible. I for one (and I know I’m not the only one) would rather see Arsenal or Barcelona lose in style than win by kicking their opponents off the field. What you seek is not “the beautiful game”, but “win at all costs, blood and guts, ‘old-style’, kick-em-where-it-hurts football”, that “old-school” attitude stinks quite frankly, and I will always shout out against it, whether it comes from my team or the opposition.

16 09 2010
Gollo

No, no, it’s you that’s wrong, yes you Sir! (“Grow a pair” was intended to keep things light hearted)

Henry’s tackle was legal and fair, the injury was unfortunate, your opinions are clearly clouded for some reason as I fail to see how any impartial observer (indeed even Mark Hughes wasn’t particularly critical of the tackle) could fail to see it was an exceptionally well timed challenge. Football is a physical game, as long as people are not intending to hurt other players and are responsible in their actions then it can remain a physical game. At no point have I advocated dirty play, but football would be a lesser game if people were unable to compete physically as well as technically. Your attitudes (Are you an Arsenal fan by any chance??) are just as unreasonable as those who want to win at any costs.

16 09 2010
LadyArse

Completely agree with Reznuk. When someone says before a match the only way to beat a team is to ‘go in hard’ and then that team ends up with serious injuries (but the ball might just about have been won on some occassions) does that make it ‘unlucky’? Put it this way, if I say the only way I can have as much stuff as you is to rob your house and then, lo and behold, your house is robbed, are you just ‘unlucky’?

Intent aside, there is an art to tackling just like there is an art to everything in football. The best defenders of modern football have no need to break players legs because they know how to tackle with appropriate force and timing. For a player of Shawcross’s age to have accumulated three leg breaks in his career already smacks of a fundamental problem in what people think is acceptable.

Karl Henry’s tackle was a scissor from behind. That is not acceptable and Zamora’s broken leg is not a fluke (as Valencia’s was unfortunately). If you want to say ‘he isn’t that type of player’ or anything like that you just have to look at the treatment dished out to Barton the week before to know that he very much is that type of player.

I love a good, hard, crunching tackle, and watching Irish League football growing up I saw plenty of those. Even in those days, at that level, I never saw a player carried off with an injury akin to Diaby’s, Eduardo’s or Ramsey’s and that was back in the days when you could go on even harder than you can today.

When you’ve seen three of your players almost lose a leg in the past few years and quite a few others lucky to get away with only ‘minor’ injuries it tends to make you want to see this type of thing stop (for ALL teams).

The fact is people want to be entertained and I’m sorry, watching somebody resorting to thuggery simply because they don’t quite have the skill level is not entertainment. You can be effective by working hard and working on your fundamentals, you don’t need to chop a player in half (or from behind) to make your point.

Nobody is asking teams to roll over, we are simply asking to be assured that when our 11 players walk on to the pitch there is every likliehood that they will be able to walk off it again. At present, there are a number of matches which Arsenal play when I genuinely fear for the players safety.

How can that be good for the game?

By the way, Karl Henry doesn’t know the meaning of the ‘full force of the media’s glare’ – he should ask Eduardo or Henry what that’s really like – and they didn’t even break someone’s leg. The fact that a handball or an alleged dive gets more media treatment than diabolical tackles speaks volumes to the problem in English football – it’s ok to break a leg, just don’t dare try and deceive the ref, that’s just disgusting!

16 09 2010
Wolfgang Wolf

Well, diving is deliberate cheating, isn’t it, which isn’t really on.

16 09 2010
Wolfgang Wolf

I am sure the likes of Petit and Vieira never made tackles akin to Henry’s on a regular basis, right?

16 09 2010
LadyArse

I didn’t realise that was so long…sorry lol

16 09 2010
Gollo

Oh goody another Arsenal fan.. I wonder if you lot were this self righteous when Keown, Vieira and Bergkamp were kicking their way through the Premier League!

There is no scissor movement at all – he tackled with one foot, agree with you re the art of defending though at least

16 09 2010
LadyArse

@Gollo you show me ONCE when ANY of those players put in a tackle like the ones we are taking about. As many pundits have said, ones who know what they’re talking about rather than just parroting the old ‘Wenger red card’ line most of the cards received by Arsenal players were for retaliation and their tackles were hard but far from being past the line.

16 09 2010
Wolfgang Wolf

Feb 16 Stoke v Man City: Patrick Vieira on Glenn Whelan; Referee: Alan Wiley. Vieira retaliates to a challenge from Stoke City’s Whelan. Referee Wiley took no action but the FA retrospectively banned Vieira for three matches.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1255878/Graham-Poll-Ive-spotted-horror-tackles-recently–referee-gave-right-punishment.html#ixzz0ziA40KBI

16 09 2010
Reznuk

Excellent example – he got banned *RETROSPECTIVELY* for three matches. Show me something similar for Paul Robinson when he kicked Abu Diaby in the shin (Arsenal v Bolton 11th Sept 2010). A ‘horror’ tackle deserves to be punished no matter who does it.

16 09 2010
Wolfgang Wolf

16 09 2010
Reznuk

That wasn’t the type of tackle we’re talking about here, that was a stupid petty reaction that was rightly punished at the time (and I do think he should have been shown a red card for that anyway, even though he obviously didn’t hurt the man). You’re obviously trying to accuse Arsenal fans of double standards, but most fans don’t want to see their own players do that kind of thing.

What we are talking about here is the kind of tackle Ryan Shawcross made on Francis Jeffers (then of Sheffield Wednesday) or Ryan Shawcross on Aaron Ramsey (of Arsenal) – that kind of tackle is not acceptable. I happen to think what Karl Henry did, though less uncontrolled than Shawcross was equally bad, maybe even worse for the cynical way he went through the man as well as taking the ball.

16 09 2010
Gollo

LadyArse – ha ha. You’re off your rocker sweetheart

16 09 2010
Gollo

Wolfgang Wolf – he never did that when he played for Arsenal…. 🙂 I recall him kicking Olivier Dacourt in the face, Bergkamp generally stamped and elbowed his way through anyone that got in his way and Keown, by his own admission ‘crossed the line now and again’

16 09 2010
LadyArse

hmmm patronising…..classy reply @Gollo

16 09 2010
Wolfgang Wolf

I do wish players would stop going to ground and making tackles when they could be busy doing things like abusing disabled linesman a la Ian Wright. I guess we plebs of the footballing world should just sit back while Arsenal teach us all a valuable lesson about the right way to play the game, while at the same time winning bugger-all.

16 09 2010
Reznuk

Stop being so tribal – this isn’t about one team versus another as you’re trying to make it – this is about unacceptably hard tackling which results in injuries. I repeat, it doesn’t matter who does it.

Cheating is another issue too – if someone cheats they too should be punished, and funnily enough the press particularly come down on someone who does, say a handball to gain an advantage (e.g. Robbie Keane during the qualifying for the World Cup, except when it was -against- a “home nation” the press went to town on the cheat). I hate double standards too, and cheats should rightly be punished.

But neither is this argument about cheating. It’s about violent and/or uncontrolled play that leads to injury. We’ve seen it far too often, and it’s becoming increasingly common. I reckon it’s because the speed of the game has increased to the point where in order to keep pace you either have to tackle with ‘precision’ or you risk injuring a player. I don’t think there’s a reasonable way to slow actual play down, but penalising players who (possibly through insufficient skill or speed) are not controlled enough to tackle properly.

What’s it going to take? I reckon it will take a top flight England player getting his career ended by such a tackle for the media at least to start putting pressure on the FA. The FA themselves are such an old-boys-club that they don’t want to see it.

16 09 2010
Wolfgang Wolf

You tell me to stop being so tribal, but then state in your blog “I hope Wolves get thrashed and relegated asap”, call Karl Henry a “dick” and say you are disgusted by Mick McCarthy. Henry’s tackle wasn’t as bad as you’d like to think, sometimes players get injured and that is bad luck and nothing else. Numerous people have stated that it wasn’t even a foul.
To keep things consistent, look at the clip I posted above, of a “tackle” which is much more obviously reckless, and which may well have broken Weir’s leg had it connected. I am sure at the time you stated that Thierry Henry was a dick and that you were disgusted by Wenger? Thought not.

16 09 2010
Reznuk

For no particular reason I checked the ‘about us’ section and noticed that this site is written by 2 Wolves fans – Now I’m not going to start accusing you of bias…… but I think it’s time for me to move on.

By the way, if ANY manager gives his players instructions to go out and kick the other teams players then he IS a dick. And if a team play as violently as Wolves did against Newcastle, then they do not deserve to be in the top flight. In my humble opinion of course, as someone who doesn’t support that team. And you’ll notice my blog unashamedly states it’s about Arsenal, it doesn’t pretend to be a completely unbiased analysis of footballing issues as this site seems to suggest.

I’m not going to pretend that Arsenal have always been whiter than white either – there are times in the past when I have been disgusted by the play of an Arsenal team – and I refuse to ever defend overtly violent play.

Last season I thought Wolves played well and deserved to stay up – by and large they have skill and play with passion. The attacks on Joey Barton in particular though were uncalled for and out of order, and you will never convince me (or many of the Fulham fans I’ve talked to) that Karl Henry’s tackle on Bobby Zamora was perfectly fair.

16 09 2010
Joshua Askew

I think part of the issue may be to do with how we watch football now.

A crunching tackle isn’t television-friendly but at a game, where the sounds and general physicality of football are better represented, it’s more impressive.

16 09 2010
GhostGoal

Reznuk – can I just clarify that this blog is not pretending to be anything that it’s not. I write about my views on football but include a tab for Wolves as I am a supporter of the club (which as you rightly say is clearly pointed out in the ‘about us’ section). As a result, a proportion of our readers are Wolves fans – a couple of which you have encountered above. I actually welcome your initial feedback and personally feel I gave a perfectly reasonable response to that comment above.

16 09 2010
Reznuk

Fair do’s – my misapprehension about the blog, sorry – I’m always up for healthy debate. Sadly these kind of debates often turn into tribalism, such is the lot of football.

I was at the Arsenal match last night and listened in some surprise when a couple of tackles by Song which were stonewall free-kicks against in my book were quite rightly penalised, and some of the fans around me abused the ref. Supporting your team is one thing – but being completely blind to it’s failings, frailties and bad-boys is something else. Take Eboue for example, a player of reasonable skill and great heart – but he goes to ground too easily, we all know it, and he takes stick for it from his own crowd when he does it. Yet I’ve had arguments with a Man City supporting friend who defended Adebayors stamp on Van Persie with “well he was provoked”. Why pretend to be fair and reasonable in your normal life, then be utterly blind-biased when it comes to your team. I love Arsenal, but I’m not going to pretend they’re perfect – why should I? I’ll defend them when I genuinely think an attack on them is unfair, but I’ll take the stick when it is fair. I can see why you think the tackle by Karl Henry was fair, he won the ball of course. But I’ve already debunked that – talking about taking the man out too (either before or after). The bit about “if Zamora gets up” is fatuous though – he didn’t, or we wouldn’t even be having this debate.

Thanks for the article and the interesting debate by the way.

16 09 2010
Gollo

It is impossible to make 90% of tackles without there being contact with the opponent, therefore there are bound to be accidents. You place blame on the player when he is a) reckless or b) intent on hurting the player. Karl Henry was neither, to say you have “debunked” this is totally incorrect. You are simply inaccurately assessing the video evidence. And the reason we became “tribal” is that LadyArse claimed that Arsenal players do not foul.. ask Mark Davies at Bolton about that.
I’d be happy to talk through the you tube clip frame by frame and discuss where you think Henry committed a foul or was reckless or intent or causing damage.

16 09 2010
Reznuk

Arsenal players do sometimes foul, and some have fouled really badly in the past. Are you talking about the Gallas incident re: Mark Davies – well, yes, not arguing that was a foul – but I wonder how many such incidents I could gather from the Wolves game against Newcastle? No, I don’t want to do that, more because I can’t be bothered than anything else, but that’s what pointing the finger does – it starts each side attacking and defending instead of actually debating the issue reasonably.
I don’t particularly want you to talk me through the youtube clip, I’ve almost certainly watched the same clip you have, maybe even the same number of times – I don’t think we’re going to agree on this one though – you’re seeing it from one point of view, and I from another. For me the argument has been exhausted, you’re never going to be convinced of my viewpoint (until maybe if and when it happens to one of your players) and I’m never ever going to be convinced of yours (even if one of my players does it). I’m calling this one for the day, got an early shift tomorrow.

16 09 2010
EastStander

As a West Brom fan I hate to side with Wolves, but Karl Henry’s tackle was legitimate and fair. It is unfortunate that Zamora got injured, but injuries are the inevitable side effect of a physical game. At present there seems to be a movement that says you cannot touch the opposition – how many times are good tackles called fouls when in reality it is due to momentum after getting the ball?

The sanitisation of football is to the detriment of the game, and the death of tackling is one such example. If you don’t like tackling, go and watch something else.

17 09 2010
marcus

I’m late to this discussion so no one will read this but…

This article and the ensuing discussion are ignoring a couple of important points. The article and the posters make the same mistake so many pundits do:

ARGUING THAT “GETTING THE BALL” MAKES A BAD TACKLE LEGITIMATE

The rules make it clear that “getting the ball” is IRRELEVANT. It has absolutely no bearing on whether or not a challenge is a bad one.

PLEASE STOP REPEATING THIS BASIC ERROR.

Second, your discussion of Song’s interceptions is spot-on, and very relevant to the modern game. The most relevant example of defending in the modern game is Mourinho’s teams. Look at how Inter defended against Chelsea, Barca and Bayern in the CL last season. His teams are known for being highly defensive, conservative, organized. But they do very little tackling. Mourinho prioritizes POSITIONING and interceptions.

DISCIPLINED AND FOCUSED POSITIONING is the key factor. If you prioritize those skills in your defense, you don’t need to do a lot of tackling. By doing this, Mourinho can put out highly defensive teams without worrying too much about conceding free kicks, penalties and getting bookings.

Unfortunately, English football is still back in the stone age. Teams like Wolves, Blackburn, Stoke still argue that because they don’t have highly skilled players they have to rely on tactics like hard tackling. It’s a lazy, convenient argument and indicative of the pathetic mentality of English football. In training, managers like Pulis and McCarthy could instead join the 21st century and prioritize disciplined positioning — which doesn’t require top class skill on the ball — rather than the cheap, lazy, mindless, neanderthal solutions like “getting stuck in,” “full-blooded challenges,” etc.

The other issue is this idiocy about “intent” when that is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT. The rules say NOTHING about it. It’s rare that you can judge or measure intent. The issue is RECKLESSNESS — “full-blooded” tackles so loved by the neanderthal English are wild, out-of-control, full-speed-ahead-regardless-of-consequences are the problem. The concept of “duty of care” as set out in the rules is completely dismissed and sneered at by English football. That’s what Shawcross and Henry displayed in their tackles.

If I go out drunk driving totally indifferent to the consequences of my actions on the road–or if I go out driving feeling angry and wanting to use my car to take out my anger, speeding up in residential areas totally indifferent to the consequences–I’m not going out intending to hurt anyone. But I am most certainly irresponsible, reckless and should be punished.

AND TO REPEAT: WHETHER OR NOT A PLAYER GETS THE BALL IS COMPLETELY, ENTIRELY, TOTALLY IRRELEVANT — LOOK IT UP IN THE RULES!

17 09 2010
GhostGoal

interesting points. thanks for the feedback.

17 09 2010
Gollo

Marcus – loathe as I am to enter a debate with someone who feels the need to use capital letters to highlight some of the worst arguments I have had the misfortune to read, I’m going to bite. Henry is in complete control of the tackle at all times, please isolate the exact instance where he isn’t in control of the manoevre. Also until sliding tackles are outlawed then there will be player to player contact. I do agree with you in regards to not being control, Shawcross’ tackle on Ramsey had that problem but to say that Henry’s tackle is a foul shows a lack of understanding of the sport.. how do you propose you commit a tackle without making some sort of contact with a player? Unless it’s an interception or a nick off the toes then it is nigh on impossible – if we’re left with those as the only defensive challenges in the game then it will simply be basketball with feet. “WHETHER OR NOT A PLAYER GETS THE BALL IS COMPLETELY, ENTIRELY, TOTALLY IRRELEVANT” is arguably one of the most absurd comments I have ever seen. Any challenge which the player get’s the ball first, is in control of his body, is not off the floor/with studs up and is with one foot instead of two is legal, regardless of what happens afterwards. Until FIFA outlaw sliding tackles and player to player contact then you are completely wrong. Can you mention in your response whether or not you’re an Arsenal fan please, I’m intrigued if there are fans of other clubs who are this blinkered

17 09 2010
EastStander

I’m sorry Marcus but getting the ball is absolutely crucial in something being a foul. Let’s quote the rules: a tackle is a foul if it is “careless, reckless or uses excessive force.” Well a tackle is not careless if it takes the ball away from the player, if on the follow through contact is made that is not a foul. Reckless and excessive force then comes down to a matter of interpretation – the reason I think this article has engendered such debate is the grey area here. In my opinion, and others on this board, should a tackle result in hard physical contact, after not being careless and getting the ball – that should not be interpreted as a foul. This change in interpretation is relatively recent and detrimental to the game. The majority of football fans who have loved the game since the pre-Premiership sanitisation I believe agree.

17 09 2010
Reznuk

Utter codswallop – I’ve followed football for over 40 years (certainly since before what you refer to as the pre-Premiership sanitisation, though I’d like to hear you explain cogently what exactly that is), and taking the man out, before OR after getting the ball has never been ‘okay’ in all circumstances – it is down to interpretation, the interpretation of the referee (and we all know how much fans agree with refs).

But if someone takes the ball (first), *knowing* that he will also be taking the man out, then that is not okay, and can never be. The examples in “real life” are endless – if you do harm whilst also accomplishing your actual aims, even if you accomplished your aims first, you’ve still done harm – how can you not see that?

If you tackle, take the ball and then follow through on the man – you’ve got your tackle wrong. The essence there is “follow through”. Whether you ‘precisely’ took the ball _first_ (before you followed through on the man) is absolutely irrelevant.

You could argue that not being allowed to “follow through” would make sliding tackles illegal – and I would agree that they would make *some* sliding tackles illegal – specifically the ones where the tackler goes straight through the man. And that’s as it should be.

There is a world of difference between robust and violent – I’ve been accused on the blog comments of wanting something more akin to basketball. I don’t, but have you watched basketball? There’s plenty of -fair- physical contact there. I actually hate the sport, but you should watch it sometime and ask whether it’s “not a contact sport”. I watch non-league football quite a bit, and ran my son’s team for a couple of years – it’s the same game, with the same rules – the biggest difference is that the premiership is so much quicker it’s almost unbelievable. They play the game so much faster than non-league that if you play it in exactly the same clogging physical way that some teams do, you’re bound to cause injuries. Football at the highest level cannot be played that way without injuries – but that doesn’t mean everyone should just shrug and say “well, you’re bound to get some injuries, it’s part of the game” – the kind of injuries we’re talking about should *not* be part of the game.

18 09 2010
Kwolf

Nice ‘tackle’ by Samir Nasri the other night.

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