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All Things Footie | Monday, February 27 | Jordan

Boring, boring England

For fear of being accused that I only write things after a good Arsenal performance, I left it quiet from last Tuesday on. That’s the reason. Honest.

It would be easy to come to the conclusion that I’ve not enjoyed the 2005/2006 Premiership season so far because the team I support have not been particularly successful in all but European Competitions; but you’d be (at least partially) wrong. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seasons in the past when my least favourite team won an unprecedented treble, and when I’ve watched my second least favourite team win a quadruple (including beating my team in the Cup Final). I’d never have made it to 1998 a football fan if my teams fortunes and petty jealousy governed whether I enjoyed the game. No. The reason I’ve not enjoyed this season is because I’ve watched the league I love turn into a collection of hapless Bolton impersonators. Just when the Premiership had established itself as the best league in the world—in my and plenty of others’ eyes—highly technical, fast-paced and flowing football have been replaced by big lump strikers, cloggers at the back and defenders moving into midfield.

It used to be that when midfielders ran out of steam they moved into defence—Lothar Mattheüs, Frank Rijkaard and Marcel Desailly spring instantly to mind—now we’re seeing defenders being pushed into midfield roles as managers and teams become so terrified of losing they’d do anything to try and shut up shop. Media and fan pressure for success at all costs has lead to managers selecting more and more conservative lineups and it’s the norm for at least three Premiership matches to finish goal-less. The single thing that’s always attracted me—and I’m sure countless others—to football is daring, flair and goals. There’s a reason people all over the World remember Maradona, Ardiles, Cruyff, Zola, Gascoigne and Best rather than Monti, Jansen, Wise and Crerand; everyone loves attacking football, it draws crowds and keeps people interested, it’s what it’s all about.

Twice this season I’ve seen half empty grounds in cup semi-finals and big games, fans aren’t interested in watching multi-millionaire footballers hoof the ball upfield and chase it in packs like a sunday league team. I’m all for passionate players who cover every blade of grass and work their socks off, but they’ve got to be balanced by genuine talents who entertain and thrill crowds. At present the balance is heavily tipped towards first division style players, water-carriers who four/five years ago wouldn’t have gotten a look in, as teams tried to emulate United and Arsenal, playing fluid, attacking football.

I’m sick to the back teeth of watching players like Reyes and Ronaldo being kicked all over the pitch and hearing commentators say that they need to ‘get used to it’. Why should they get used to being fouled? Shouldn’t referees start acting against the kind of tackles thrown around lately by Essien, Flamini and the whole Bolton squad? The lenience shown by referees over the last few years towards horrible, horribile tackles (only made worse by laughable ‘clamp downs’ on dissent) has helped to create the situation we find ourselves in, where the common response to someone being hacked down at the knees is essentially ‘get up you foreign pansy’.

Don’t get me wrong, England has always hosted a physical league, where you have to hold your own and work on your strength and balance, but it’s getting ridiculous now. The practical upshot has been that less and less flair players are seeing any joy, more and more players are being seriously injured and spending weeks or months on the sidelines every season, and the only players left are those who kick and fight back.

The Premiership has turned into a league full of cloggers; full of big, thick, elbow-happy forwards and defenders who rely on being stronger or dirtier rather than positionally astute. Midfielders who do well because they can toe-poke a ball from thirty yards very, very hard and run about eight miles a game rather than because they’re cunning and skillful footballers. In the very recent past, the Premiership showcased flair and talent, each game was about who could out think and out pass the other—we regularly saw three or more strikers starting games; now it’s about who can stay fit and who’s got the biggest, strongest one-man up front. Football is more fun if it’s about winning and goals, rather than trying not to lose and playing 4-5-1; particularly at the top of the league.

Maybe seeing what’s happened to Leeds, Southampton and West Ham (who have, along with Wigan, been one of the shining lights of attacking football this season) over the last few years has put the frighteners on teams, or maybe people see Chelsea’s success while impersonating Bolton and think that winning things with dull, souless teams is better than not winning things at all.

I disagree.

(45) Comment(s) | Permanent link to this article

All Things Footie | Tuesday, February 21 | Jordan

The Emperor’s new clothes

UPDATE: The commenting was broken—trust me to not notice that after requesting your comments—but it's fixed now. So opine away…

As you may have noticed (assuming you’ve been here before), All Things Footie has finally had just it’s third tune up in more than five years. Five years, bloody hell. Gone is all the frippery of the old site, including the ever popular Google Ads, and here to stay is a leaner, simpler, better looking (I hope you agree with me) version of the ATF.

I hope you’ll excuse my relative silence over the last week or two, it’s been a combination of general business and getting this redesign ready to deploy. I’d love to hear any comments you have about the new design, any tales of it breaking in your browser, etc. Leave them in the comments below for immediate attention.

New footie related content will be coming soon, in the form of a big double barrelled shotgun aimed at the heads of the clueless referees that are staffing the Premiership in 2006.

(83) Comment(s) | Permanent link to this article

  1. Punishment should fit the crime
  2. Ouch
  3. Tevez and Mascherano madness
  4. Predictions
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  9. Ready children? Then let's begin
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