By Bulldog Drummond
Having at least five players missing from the team through covid, and one who, while no longer suffering, is not yet back to full fitness, is enough to rip the heart out of quite a few teams. But for a team that had already suffered a defeat in the opening game, and which has getting on for half a team’s worth of new signings, it is bound to be more than a bit disruptive. How many others are out “not feeling quite right” we don’t know.
Meanwhile, racist abuse was hurled at some of our players from the Chelsea fans’ enclosure. Not from all Chelsea fans of course, not from the vast majority, but from a minority, and clearly players who approached that quadrant could hear it, most certainly, just as the Arsenal fans in the tier above club level reported they could hear it.
The process these days is to film and audio record the away support, identify the abusers (who rather helpfully are standing and thus easier to identify), and then check the purchaser of the ticket. If the film images match the person who answers the front door when the police pop round for a little chat, he (rarely she) is told there is film evidence of racial abuse by that person and that one more incident means an arrest and prosecution for hate crime and it goes straight to the CPS. If the person attending is not the person shown as buying the ticket, the club (Chelsea in this case) is required to remove the individual from membership.
All of which is fine, except that it doesn’t stop racists abuse in the match itself. But that is the price we pay for the “no police on site” arrangements that the Premier League came to with the police.
At the moment that deal is not working, since racist abuse continues as some people heard very clearly at the sunday game. Maybe prosecution for the first offence could be introduced.
As for the game, the only explanation I have is the covid situation. Having set up an approach to football which worked so well in the last two thirds of last season we abandoned it yesterday because…. well, I guess because we were struggling for players.
We had a referee Paul Tierney who last season was at the mid range of the spectrum for handing out fouls against us (an average of 8 per game) and yellow cards (an average of 1 per game) – so not among the extremists.
And in our opening match we had kept our tackles right down to the new low level of nine tackles and as a result eight fouls given against us. Chelsea in their opening match were tackling and getting away with it a bit more, and using the technique to cower the opposition into retreat: 21 tackles and 15 fouls.
Now we know that the reduction in tackling and thus fouls last season was the key to the way we performed in the last part of the season, taking us up the league and stopping those yellow cards mounting up.
So what did we do? Somehow it seems we forgot all that, and went back to the old ways of a couple of seasons ago. Our tackling rate more than doubled, and we were lucky to see the fouls rate only increase slightly to 10. Could it have been the racist abuse? Possibly. Maybe it is time to close the away section of the ground for games against Chelsea.
But – whereas in the first game we picked up no yellow cards, this time we got three – which totally disrupted the players as they pulled back from their tactics.
What it shows is that no matter what the justification, going from being a very low tackling club, to a high tackling club from one game to the next is not a clever idea. Chelsea just cut their tackling right down and let Arsenal get on with it – and the referee dutifully responded against us.
Thus we had 10 fouls given against us to Chelsea’s four. We got three yellow cards to Chelsea’s nil. Why did we throw away all the learning from last season? Was it just because of the loss last weekend? Was it the racist abuse? I don’t know.
As an interesting extra point, Planet Football put up a video of James’ trip on Saka in the penalty area but immediately had it blocked. Ah well; we’re not even allowed to see the ref’s mistakes these days.
But no matter what, to more than double the number of tackles in a game against Chelsea of all teams just seems strange and the three yellow cards that resulted were just fundamentally annoying, since it was the obvious result that was going to emerge.
No matter what the reason, a sudden change of tactics after all that hard work last season getting the new system up and running so successfully seems just weird, even if half our team are out with covid.
- How tackling is changing in the PL and how it is affecting clubs’ positions in the league
- How clubs manipulate referees through their tactics
- Revealed: How clubs have evolved their “referee handling” tactics with such success
- Buying players does not mean success as last season shows…
- All change with PGMO and the refs.. But what change?
- The last five years proves one big thing: nothing is guaranteed.
- Injuries Time to sack Tierney according to one part of the media
- Next season starting lineup and the new Financial Fair Play rules