The argument about Aaron Ramsey runs roughly like this…
The media, with a mixture of traditional English dislike of success, plus a deep-rooted disgust at all things French, and a desperate need to create news out of nothing, constantly announce that the only way to beat Arsenal is to rough them up. The story is perpetuated that if you play rough, Arsenal run away.
Managers of the lesser teams take this message because it gives them a hope. It is a bit like England in the past… we’ll choose a six feet three inch centre forward who will knock the keeper around a bit, because all foreign goal keeprs are dodgy and are not used to big centre forwards.
The media’s view about Arsenal is liked by managers of lesser clubs because
a) it is a life line and
b) it is some sort of way to get the ball back from Arsenal when they have possession.
This has led to players being trained in two approaches… On the one hand the “rotational fouling” approach which is underhand and nasty, but generally does not end up with anyone getting maimed. On the other hand there is the “rough them up” approach, which leads to more yellow cards, but is said to frustrate Arsenal more.
Rotational fouling requires players of some intelligence. They need to learn to rotating technique, and believe me, if you have not tried to play it, it is not as simple as you might think. So for the less intellectually versatile players it is the “rough them up” approach. But as we have seen it can go wrong.
Arsenal’s injury list over the past four years is testament to that – and I am not thinking of the injuries which are illegal assaults. The endless kicking and ankle tapping, the elbow in the face and so on – that is what it is like. It is just that some of these “rough them up” players get carried away, and then we have the results we have seen on Ramsey, Eduardo and Diaby.
The press, and those who like to put down Arsenal, argue that of course the attack on Ramsey was not deliberate, and that it was an unfortunate outcome. The club now speak of the player being a jolly decent chap who went crying to his mum.
Such attempts to divert the main argument have no impact on the key issue. The media-manager-player chain is there, and I have seen no argument that can dispute it.
But, what does any of this have to do with the other main topic of recent weeks – the collapse of the financial structure in football?
It is interesting that just before the assault on Ramsey, Stoke City announced that they were “debt free”. They said that for the last financial year they had made a net profit of £503,000 after transfers.
Now the club is owned by the Coates family, who those same accounts show as having invested £17m interest-free with a plan to put in another £24m. So this is not quite the debt free club that we were thinking about. OK it is not like Aston Villa and Bolton (for example) where the owner is taking a decent profit on the investment through interest, but still, it is not debt free.
And some of the spending is on long term projects that we would all approve of – £800,000 has been spent in the stadium and a new training ground is being built for £7m.
But the rest goes on players’ salaries. Although it will not be relevant, this club, like most in the EPL will not get a licence to play in Europe, because they are spending more on salaries etc than they get in income.
So how do the stories relate? How do we equate the likes of Stoke, Sunderland and Birmingham with their assaults on our players, spurred on by the media, to their finances.
I want to be clear here that I am only just trying to work this out myself, but in each case I think we have a company of the same type – owned by a small group of people who pour money into the club, and without which the club would disintegrate under the cost of player salaries.
Running a company generates enough tension when you have the normal company structure and a chance of making a profit. But clubs like Birmingham, Sunderland and Stoke can never make a profit – they are utterly dependent on their benefactors. That must add to the tension.
And so I am starting to ask myself – how does that affect their tactics? How much more likely does it mean that they will say, “Arsenal don’t like it up em. Get in hard. Show them you are going to be able to get the ball back from them. Remind them of the tackles you put in last time. They are all delicate little flowers who like to pass the ball in a pretty style. Show them your British gut. And while you are at it, keep us in the league otherwise the owner might want to have a word…”
I am not sure – it is an idea, and one of the great things about blogs like this is the chance to explore ideas openly and freely.
(c) Tony Attwood 2010
NOTES AND SUGGESTIONS
If you have written for Untold and your article has not appeared, please do be patient. The events of last weekend mean that my schedule is out the window, but I will be publishing everything I have promised to publish here.
El Hadji Diouf was cautioned by the police in the Blackburn Liverpool game for what he said in the tunnel to Stephen Gerrard while John Terry has threatened the have a few stiff words with Craig Bellamy, after Mr Bellamy said on TV, “we all know what Terry is like”.
Cardiff manager Davie Jones and the club’s owner, the Great Dream Liver of Leeds, have had words. It seems that although the Great Dream Liver of Leeds said that Cardiff have no debts to the bank and no overdraft, they still haven’t shaken off the Revenue, and that Cardiff have to sell everyone in the summer to stay alive. Davie, who always strikes me as a decent sort of cove, is not impressed.
Meanwhile during all the issues about Portsmouth being liquified, it is interesting that most people have forgotten that 3 people who were on the board before the Year of the Four Owners, are all due in court soon to speak about financial matters. Obviously just a coincidence. Still, like everyone else, I wonder where all the transfer money went.
On other planets, and at other times…
Walter Broeckx on football violence in England, Spain and Italy.
The media’s encouragement of lesser players to kick more skillful players – a historical review.
The days when football journalists could write, entertain and make us laugh (a true newspaper report about Arsenal in the 1930s)
Predictions for the rest of the season: see how we are doing so far as we approach the start of the new golden era.
The Untold commentary immediately after the end of the Stoke game
EPL owes more money than the rest of Euro football combined.
Is it just me or is football getting a trifle troubled?