Same Old Arsenal, Always Cheating

An interesting discussion between Rasp and Aaron about Man City’s use of  persistent foul tackles to disrupt counter attacks and their use as part of the high press tactic, highlights how this original piece from Rocky is still relevant. The high press fails, someone get a boot in quick before the counter exposes the inevitable lack of numbers behind. Does Unai already know this?

After a fine win and an excellent performance on Saturday you would have to be of a churlish disposition to find any negatives.

So here I am, Churl-in-chief, primed and ready for a bit of top churling.

It amounts to this: I have one complaint about our lads.

It’s not the wayward finishing (although if some of our forwards were tasked with clubbing baby seals, my money would be on the cuddly little blubber-buckets to emerge injury-free).

Nor is it the tendency to always look like we might give the opposition a chance to get back in the game no matter how much we’re battering them.

No, my beef is with our players’ behaviour when they foul and are fouled.

We’re all familiar with the moronic baying of ‘same old Arsenal, always cheating’ whenever one of our team goes down under an attempted leg-breaker or, conversely, whenever an opponent is left on the floor after an Arsenal tackle.

Make no mistake, the label has stuck.

From the Mensa-dodging nouveaux-riches of West London to the barcoded disappointment-junkies of the far North East; from the Unconvincibles of Old Toilet to the Inconsequentials of N17 there is a veritable chavscape of received opinion that Arsenal players really do cheat.

But it’s clear from recent games that the problem with our team is that THEY DO NOT CHEAT ENOUGH.

That is the great irony: the team reviled the length and breadth of the land as cheats is actually more honest than just about any of its opponents.

There was a classic example in the Wolves game. The Mighty Zubar (I’m sure he used to be a character in Dan Dare when I was a kid) executed a studs-up challenge into Robin van Persie’s knee. I happen to think it wasn’t particularly malicious but was, rather, a cack-handed attempt to get the ball. However, it was rash and dangerous and certainly deserving of a yellow.

On impact, Robin was spun in the air and crumpled to the ground. And here’s where Zubar was clever. Knowing that he had just made a cert yellow card tackle (and possibly even a red card one) he crumpled to the ground too, mysteriously clutching his shoulder. It was enough to confuse the referee, Chris Foy, who did not penalise Zubar.

We saw the same thing the week before at Newcastle. Joey Barton, one of the modern game’s most noted thugs, turned out to have a brilliant line in rolling around on the floor whenever he went in for tackle with one of our players. From macho man to milkshake man in a heartbeat.

In that game the truly awful Phil Dowd bought it every time. Probably the worst example was the free kick given against Rosicky that led (indirectly) to Newcastle’s fourth goal. He and Barton jumped together half-heartedly, neither really touching the other. Rosicky stayed on his feet but Barton went to ground. Cue the man from Dowd Cuckoo Land: free kick, goal, two points lost.

Similar examples were littered throughout that entire game, particularly in the second half.

And during Saturday’s Wolves game there were several occasions where we were penalised for fairly winning tackles, just because the opponent went to ground and feigned injury.

Foy’s criterion for giving a free kick seemed to be no more sophisticated than “he fell over, must have been a foul.”

At the same time there were other moments where our players took whacks to the head or boots to the calf but did not collapse in agony. Our lot seldom do that – if anything they simply tend to stay on their feet and look a bit affronted.

Many people observed that against Newcastle, if Diaby had rolled around in agony after the Barton challenge he would probably have got the little toe-rag a yellow. But Abou didn’t do that because, although he knew the tackle had been a potential leg breaker, he wasn’t actually that badly hurt. He was too honest to pretend he was in severe pain. Instead he got up, tickled Barton’s neck and the rest is history.

Earlier in the same game, Arshavin also hopped straight up after another appalling Barton challenge from behind. (Mind you, Arshavin never shows he’s hurt: that tiny frame carries all the suffering of Mother Russia in its soul, so the odd smack in the mouth or boot up the arse is neither here nor there).

On one level I applaud our players for their honesty. One demented Ivorian aside, I can’t think of any Arsenal player who regularly feigns injury, whereas our opponents are doing it in every game and are winning free kicks for it, as well as getting our players carded.

Maybe it’s time we dished out a bit of their own medicine to them. I don’t mean we should pretend to be fouled when there’s been no contact, but when there is a bad challenge we should stay down and make it clear to the ref that it was dangerous. It won’t always work (Robin was clearly hurt by Zubar but Foy missed it) but if it works half the time that’s more free kicks for us and fewer for whomever we’re playing.

And when our players mistime their challenges and catch the opponent instead, let’s take a leaf out of Zubar’s book and go down as well.

The sad truth is that, with the standard of officiating in the EPL today, playing fair just gets you shafted.

That’s it. Churling over.

Now let’s go and win the League (and if, to do so, we have to sometimes be less than angels, that’s OK with me).

Written by RockyLives


12 Responses to Same Old Arsenal, Always Cheating

  1. chas says:

    Love reading Rocky’s stuff. 🙂

    Ok, so maybe Rocky’s post was more about fouling and reactions to being fouled, but the point that we tend not to exploit certain ‘within the rules’ methods to get the best result from a game still stands.

    Maybe Arsene’s teams were just too honest and regarded as a pushover as a consequence.
    Maybe the new manager will try to use all methods to gain an advantage in the highly charged and competitive environment of the Premier League.

    Pochettino has openly admitted that he encourages his team to cheat to gain an advantage and he doesn’t understand why they shouldn’t in modern day football.

  2. chas says:

  3. Big Raddy says:

    Just fantastic. So many great lines in this post from The Master.

  4. Eddie says:

    yesterday felt like christmas – comments from rocky, fatso, GiE, arnie and rasp. What next? Kelsey perhaps

  5. LBG says:

    A marvellous post, accurate then and relevant to yesterday’s discussion for three reasons IMO.
    Firstly, all to often the current Arsenal squad are “brushed off” the ball too easily by pressing teams, some need to toughen up. And secondly need to be coached in the art of “protecting” the ball effectively, so that it is near impossible to toe poke the ball away from their possession.
    Thirdly, since the change in rule regarding the tackle from behind, referees need to recognise that foul and award it. Oliver was negligent on Sunday, whether by the feeling I have that more and more referees are allowing a tackle from behind or that the delicate, ball- playing geniuses that are Manshitty, coached by the all conquering master craftsman and God-like coach, Pep Guardiola, should be allowed to cheat……. because they are so good for our game!
    Sorry for the rant!

  6. LBG says:

    And just to finish for the day……….
    Jens Lehemann has it right. You Peter Cech have much more experience than Dick regarding goalkeeping. Sometimes, no matter what your coach is trying to do to change the style of the team, it is NOT the right decision to role the ball out from the back. Let alone to CBs who forget you are left footed and need the ball on that side!!! Fin.

  7. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Chas (and Rocky). Emery has declared that he wants his team to play with a high press and with pace and aggression. In many ways his blueprint looks very similar to Guardiolas but also Klopps and Poccettino’s, but they have had more time to ingrain it into their sides. It is also more like AW’s original blueprint as well.

    Parallels can be drawn with Guardiola and Klopp that the team didn’t make that instant transition to their style of play and it had to be developed. Guardiola’s first season wasn’t dreadful but wasn’t terrific, and it was almost a sacrificial season (in terms of winning the EPL) so that the team could become a slick well oiled machine in his style after that season.

    With Guardiola it took 1 whole season while Klopp needed a tad longer, having arrived 1/4 of the way into the 2015-2016 season. I do feel that Emery has quite a few bad habits to undo and to create that different mind-set will not happen fully overnight.

    I think that these subtle factors like perfecting the pressing high and making little questionable “professional” interceptions to thwart a quick counter-attack will become more slick with us as the season progresses and as we move into the next one. I am not suggesting this season should be a full sacrificial write off though because outside of City and Pool I feel we could end up looking quite evenly matched with Utd, Spud’s, and Chav’s, and I feel that the top 4 remains a real possibility.

    It’s more that we probably need a whole season + 2 more TW’s to be slick enough in Emery’s style to challenge for the EPL. Although I always felt City were 10% ahead of us in most areas, and deserved the win, I very much felt we were in that game on Sunday and take way more positives from it than negatives. I always felt that until the late 2nd goal sucker punch that we had a foothold in the game.

    There were still a couple of players exhibiting some bad habits that they have carried over from last season and I think I would shake up the starting line up and formation for Chelsea.

  8. fred1266 says:

  9. Eddie says:

    oooohh, a poll, we love a poll
    can we have it tomorrow please, im too tired to think tonight

  10. Eddie says:

    brendan rogers took celtic out of CL already
    and some thought he was to manage the Arsenal ffs

  11. chas says:


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