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How Arsenal’s football is being ruined

I was sent an email by Jonathan Neale, a great friend to this site, with a copy of a letter which appeared on Football 365’s letter page. Basically it was in many ways reiterating the point about rotational fouling.

It is very positive, I believe, that nearly four years after it was first mentioned, the notion that rotational fouling exists and is killing the game, is getting a wider audience.

I first wrote about it (and coined the phrase, my goodness aren’t I the clever one) in April 2005 after watching the Arsenal Blackburn cup semi final at the Millennium. I was in the lower tier and the sheer horror of what Blackburn were doing was there right in front of my eyes. One player stepped up and fouled, then the next and the next – over 20 fouls before the ref could even reprimand a player and tell him “one more time and you are booked”. There is in fact nothing the refs can do under current laws. It was the start of anti-football.

So while feeling rather chuffed that I had invented a term that just might come into general use in the future (“Rotational Fouling” copyright Tony Attwood 2005) I thought, maybe I should draw up a list of the things that I see over and over again at the Ems – things which are changing the way the football of Arsenal is played.

Here we go – ten ways Perfect Football is being ruined.

1. Rotational fouling -see above

2. Rotational time wasting – invented by Bolton, taken up everywhere. The keeper gets the ball for a goal kick, wanders across the area, puts ball on opposite side, runs up, stops, goes back, ref wags finger. Next another player takes lots of time over corner, free kick or whatever and another and another. Then keeper holds the ball for far longer than the five seconds or whatever it is he is allowed.  This season I have counted 12 seconds or more.   Each one adds up.

3. Holding the head. Saw it by Villa for the first time this season. Player goes down with an ankle injury or no injury, and holds head. Game is stopped, Arsenal attack broken up.

4. 0-0 gameplan. Football works if both teams try to win. If one doesn’t it isn’t football. Masters are Fulham who play for 0-0 from the kick off, but others now do it too.

5. Rotational targeting. Take one player and foul him. The opposition do it in rotation. Player keeps going down and in the end retaliates and gets sent off, or is booked by the ref for diving. Pires suffered this, and (I have to agree with Sir Alex F Word for the first time ever) C-Ronaldodo gets it – although he is also likely to dive for his own purposes.

6. Bankruptcy. Running the club into impossible debt in order to buy more and more and more players and win league this year at any cost. Manchester Bankrupt, Liverpool Insolvency and the Russians. Interestingly all three have hit the rails now, but Manchester Arab are just about to start.

7. The push from behind. Interesting that both Jonathan Neale and I had come up with this at the same time. It is getting worse and worse. Player has ball, is about to pass, and suddenly is thumped in the back.  No foul. Why?

8. Bench created injury. Manager and others on bench signal to player to go down and stay down, to break up play. Saw it big time by Birmingham City last season – one of the first blog entries here focussed on that.

9. Manipulation of the fans. Real Mad, Barca, WC Milan and others all do it – talking up a story about how they are about to sign player X, when in fact nothing is happening. Player X’s agent writes script for Player X, which suggests it is an honour to be associated with a big club. Fans of his current club are outraged. Doesn’t he want to stay with us? So fans start booing. Player gets fed up and thinks, actually I wasn’t going to go, but if they boo me I will. It is just my opinion of course but anyone who boos an Arsenal player is (I believe) simply doing the bidding of Real Mad, Barca etc etc. If you support Arsenal you never ever boo an Arsenal player unless he walks away from the club.

10. Blame the ref to protect your players. Scholari did this on sunday to make sure no one talked about the awful awful two footed attack by Terry for which he only got a yellow and should have got a red. Sir Alex F Word does it every week Manchester B don’t win. Journalists fall for it all the time – so they all talked about VP’s first goal as offside (Scolari’s aim 1), but hardly mentioned Terry’s attack (Scolari’s aim 2).

That’s it.

(c) Grumpy old man moaning about the cold and how things aren’t like they used to be in the old days. I can remember when it was 2/6 to get into the Arsenal and 6d for a programme. We used to queue up through the night and sing patriotic songs while the V2 rockets landed, and that Napoleon tried to invade, but we fought the Vikings, and those Romans never got a look in etc etc etc (nurse arrives and takes writer for a hot bath….) 2008.

5 comments to How Arsenal’s football is being ruined

  • deafmetal

    Aww, poor old geriatric Tony!

    Rotational fouling is the worst, an absolute blight on the game we love. There is a solution however, bring a bit of mathematics into the refereeing.

    If Referees were taught that the law after seeing (or having a linesman tell you about) 6 fouls in sequence from a team, with no fouls from the opposition in between, was for that team’s captain to be given a straight yellow “for his team” (nothing personal), well, rotational fouling would stop immediately!

    It’s bloody nearly 3 am where I am so I can’t expound as much as I’d like to as bed beckons, but seriously, a bit of mathematical logic could go a long way towards driving out the cynical underhand tactics of the anti-football machine…

    What do you think?

  • don't believe the hype

    If clubs were made to play within their means it would even up the level and prevent rotational fouling and anti-football played with the aim of getting a 0-0. Teams without the resources to buy top quality players, try every trick in the book to get ahead, but it’s up to the administrators of the game to spot these trends and instruct the referees how to counter them. Why is it that an Arsenal player gets a yellow for his first mis-timed tackle, but other teams are given a free pass on their first deliberate foul – hence rotational fouling. If the first foul of the game was given a booking every time, it would stamp the referees authority on proceedings and make others think twice about the tactic.

  • realis

    jay simpson the other night made me realise. Arsenals biggest problem over the last few seasons has been our wingers.

    pires and ljunberg where amazing players and both match winners. they both where very fast and could score out of nothing especially pires. nasri is a player i love and will be world class, but he slows play down and doesnt track back ( being a little harsh i know).

    nasri is two times as good on the right flank , the position he was bought to occupy then the left . rosicky is a player we miss. he is practically are best and most experienced midfielder. we seriously miss the goals our wingers created. we need a winger like jay simpson someone fast and powerful with a big build. he looked terrifying running down the wing.

    In january do we need any strikers ? no way? i expect simpson and vela to go out on loan with eduardos recovery. do we need any wingers? debatable its a 50/50 but on the whole if rosicky is back and fit before january then no. do we need a defender? no. do we need a central midfielder to defend ? yes. imagine our team with someone like mashcerno or de rossi!

  • jbh

    Posting a short article I wrote which touches on the debate on why we DON’T need a Defensive Midfielder (also mentions rotational fouling but on a player which is less expected than you’d think – as Cesc passes the ball before they can get to him!)

    Many are too harsh on Denilson. In central mid field of a 442 or 451 he has been superb this season, and the stats fully back that up.
    Premiership: All Midfielders: Denilson 3rd in Total Passes, 2nd in Pass accuracy (86%), Successful Tackles 45 (7th) with a tackle success rate of 75%, Attempts Created 21 (21st), Shots on Target 10 (13th), Assists 4 (4th), Goals 2 (12th), Fouls won 25 (9th) (Note that Ronaldo has won 29 fouls (7th).
    Tackling is particularly noteworthy, no other midfielder in the top 4 comes close (none in the top 20). All the others in the top 10 tacklers are from the low end of the table. In all these categories he is performing better than Obi Mikel, Alonso, Mascherano and Gareth Barry.
    In the Champions League his form is even more impressive: Midfielders: Total Passes (4th), Pass accuracy (3rd), Successful tackles 17 (3rd) with success rate of 85%, Fouls won 13 (10th). Remember these are the top 32 teams in Europe.

    So how does he compare to Flamini? Well in the passing he is similar in pass accuracy (both 86%) but puts in more effort around the pitch. Average passes per game in the Premiership over last year for Flamini was 57, Denilson is averaging 71 even though he is sometimes played on the left or right of midfield. And the key figure as far as I am concerned? Flamini was not even in the top 10 of tacklers last year.

    In AW’s words Denilson is a “very efficient player”, he once described him as a cross between Gilberto and Rosicky. He is a classical box to box player with a fantastic engine. He is very comfortable on the ball, controls things well in an often congested mid field and almost always lays on the right pass. His tackling and covering is under-rated but when you look at the stats notice that no one is near to his work rate. Even playing mostly on the right wing last night he put in 4 successful tackles, only Clichy of all on the pitch did more (6). It is also noticeable that he knows how to “take” a foul. He is the most fouled Arsenal player, often in important places of the pitch (fouled 25 times compared to Ronaldo of 29 times this year). He was right to go down in the box last night under Cole’s foul – but made the mistake of delaying his fall!

    Wenger took a good long look at Denilson in the last few games of last season, and in the pre-season, and I think concluded that there was no one of interest that would outshine him in this team and with its tactics. I agree with him. And the guy (who has been Brazil captain for every age team from 14 to 19) is 20 years old. There are many reasons for the inconsistency in the team this year, but Denilson is not one of them.

  • jbh

    To your list you can add, the deliberate winding up of fans on Arsenal Blogs by non Arsenal fans targeting the undermining of key players and the manager. Possibly even the setting up of “supposedly” Arsenal blogs for this purpose. What mindless idiot would call for the sacking of AW mid season when qualified for Europe final stages and in 4th place. The most successful manager in the clubs history and arguably the best in the UK (bearing in mind resources he works with and style of football produced). Yet a few Arsenal supporters fall for the bait.