Monday, January 12, 2009

Nicklas Bendtner for Arsenal (v Bolton Wanderers), 10 January 2009

If there's one thing in football that is guaranteed to get my hackles up, it is people in the game bemoaning the tactics of opposition teams. It was Arsene Wenger and Robin van Persie's turn this weekend, the latter describing Bolton's tactics at the Emirates as "not realyl football".

Apoplogies to regular readers as I have made this rant before, last time aimed at jug-eared smugster Gary Lineker after he described Spain's victory over Italy at Euro 2008 as "a victory for football".

Football has some general rules and the idea of the game is that you play within them. Nowhere does it say that you have to ping the ball about like it's a practice game and nowhere does it prohibit eight giant lumping centre halves being placed behind the ball at all time.

I'm not saying that I'd pay to watch Bolton's, er, "direct" tactics week in, week out - I'd much rather watch Arsenal (generally speaking). What I object to, though, is this arrogant and patronising argument that "our tactics are better than yours". Arsenal won the game 1-0 so, obviously, their ethos, tactics and personnel won the day.

If teams are overly aggressive, thuggish and brutal then I guess there might be a point. But Bolton (points for Premiership survival a priority over everything else) are entitled to approach a tricky away fixture in whatever way they see fit, and if that involves them putting eleven men behind the ball for ninety minutes then the best of luck to them. It might not be pretty, but it is valid.

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