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Not That Type of Player

 Not That Type of Player

The referee’s done his job, it’s a sending off, but Taylor’s not a malicious player.

“Ryan isn’t that type. It’s so ironic he’s involved because he’s such a genuine kid. It’ll be devastating for him.”

“There was no malice in Nigel’s challenge and Nigel is not that type of lad.”

5 words that could be abbreviated to two: “Cop Out”. Much has been said over the weekend and on podcasts all over the web about the two horrific challenges this weekend. The debate has raged about the players, the tackles and the intent; and a divide is evident. Some (somehow) are defending the players involved and if one tweet is to be believed one was blaming Ben Arfa for not getting out of the way. The divide in my opinion is drawn down a particular line those who have played the game and those who have not. Graham Poll, Raphael Honigstein and bloggers have all decried the tackles yet Ray Parlour, Brian Kidd and Lee Dixon have tried to lessen the outrage. However on all sides the first joke made about these tackles is when the old adage above will be rolled out, as we can see from the quotes it usually is but what does it even mean?

When it is said it is to try to mitigate the personal damage to the player who has committed the offence, it is to try to indicate that the player would never normally break someone’s leg and that this instance was a fluke. However it is very rare that a player actually tries to break another’s leg, the problem is not intending to break a leg but intending to hurt the other player. The old adage’s ‘they don’t like ‘em up ‘em’ & ‘let him know you’re there’ are mentioned on the stands and in the post match reports (see any time Arsenal lose in the north). Whilst it is an accepted tactic it is how it is applied rather than when which is the problem. Roy Keane was excellent in doing this, he would often hit a player hard in the early part of a game and leave a seed of doubt in that players mind each time they receive a pass. However Keane would keep in control of his body, he would be strong but not reckless the same cannot be said of Henry’s lunge. You must keep in mind that though Keane was a fine player he was also guilty of the same issues laid out here, particularly when he targeted Alf Inge Haaland in a sickening attack.

The art of tackling has been lost of late United, Chelsea and Arsenal do not have the presence of a Keane. However the role has changed to that of a dedicated enforcer, no longer the rangy box-to-box roles that he and Vieira exemplified. De Jong, Henry, N’Zonzi, Muamba and Poulsen are the players involved in stopping the other team play. I have not changed my opinions but the players involved in this role need to appreciate the difference between a tackle and assault. As I indicated in the article I’ve linked to, the pace of the game has removed the role of the box-to-box midfielders and necessitates the dedicated defensive midfielder, the side effect is that the players are now so quick and nimble that these players can be extremely late in their tackles. With enough force this can create the problems seen this season. The first two quotes above relate to central defenders who entered tackles with too much force, the final was because of a tackle not a foul.

The thing that confuses me is the mentality that these players take in the modern game. Their role will often get the crowd on their feet as they win the ball or execute a well timed foul to prevent a breakaway. However, players will take this to mean that the role comes with a level of aggression which left unchecked can lead to the problems witnessed over the last year. It is up to the managers to stop these players from becoming frustrated in games or from getting too aggressive and throwing themselves into tackles. A tackle should be made on your feet with the sliding tackle reduced to a ‘last resort’. Players who leave their feet need to appreciate the risks and the backlash from the media. The term ‘not that sort of player’ is particularly galling as usually he is precisely that type of player, that’s the reason he is deployed in that role. The manager’s should also take some responsibility and say they are apalled by the tackles and wish to see them out of the game but this won’t happen as their role is to protect their club and their team but the game is the overall loser in these circumstances.

These words will ring hollow for Ben Arfa, Gomez and Aaron Ramsey who for all intents and purposes play the game well and to the best of their ability and it is hopefully how they will continue to play. As many have pointed out we have not seen these injuries in Holland, Spain and Italy where games are played at a slower pace and as Ollie Irish of www.whoateallthepies.tv was first to point out the problem stems from the overt physicality of the league and teams training. The problem, however, is not a new one, it has been a part of the game since inception but the move to the modern game has led to injuries being the result of these tackles. The issue  is systemic and young players will continue to have their career’s placed in danger as long as players and managers hide behind the biggest lie in modern football He’s not that type of player“.

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22 Responses to Not That Type of Player

  1. Phenoum says:

    Best post on EPL talk I’ve read in a long long time. Finally utilizing your role as a communication medium amongst fans to promote the good of the game. Nothing said to stir the pot in any specific teams, just an honest and true summary of the events of the last few months and changes that need to be made at a psychological level for many defensive players.

    Well done.

  2. Nick says:

    Have there ever been goons/enforcers in top-flight football? In the NHL, a Newcastle would have sent out a goon to bust up Tevez and make it clear to Mancini and De Jong that any violence perpetrated on their scorers would meet with retaliation. I’m actually a little surprised that you don’t see this kind of retaliation on the pitch, because it wouldn’t be that hard to set up and I’m sure the players are furious about this kind of thing. Is it just “not done”? Has it ever been done in the past? Is there a clear sanction against it, beyond just a standard 3-game ban for the red card that would result?

    • Chris McQuade says:

      It’s a bit of a grey area. Roy Keane’s crush on Alf Inge Haaland was retaliatory and he was hit with ‘bringing the game into disrepute’. The general answer is no though, for fear of going down to ten men. There are the ‘hard’ men in football who would make it their remit to target a player perhaps in retaliation but there is no beaning unwritten law in football.

      • Nick says:

        On the fear of going down to 10 men…

        Well, if Martinez took the last dude on his squad list that day, put him in the match in injury time (leading 2-0, and with a 1-man advantage already), and told him, “Go put your elbow in Stephen Fletcher’s nose”, Wigan still would have gotten the 3 points. Not that I’m suggesting he should have done that, but the resulting red card wouldn’t have had any effect at all on the outcome of the match, so there must be some other reason that this doesn’t happen.

        Is it possible that the FA won’t get serious about this until that does happen?

    • John R. says:

      I’d argue that Vinnie Jones would be considered an enforcer. I wasnt following the league during his time. From what i can tell, he wasnt all that great of a player, but didnt mind getting his elbows dirty.

  3. jose says:

    i remember in a friendly he broke stuart holden’s leg, that bastard. i wish keano was around to kick his ass.

    • hank says:

      At the least, that certainly highlights the lie: “Nigel is note that type of player.” I mean he broke someone else’s leg earlier this year! Drop kicked Xabi Alonso in the world cup finals?

      Nigel de Jong may be a nice guy personally, but he is *exactly* the sort of player who willfully endangers others on the field with his play.

      • Wacman says:

        Ditto with Shawcross, who not only broke Ramsey’s leg, but another guy’s leg while on loan earlier in his career. He also knocked Adebayor out for a few months after tackling him from behind off the pitch. I don’t get how people says those 5 words without thinking about if this person truly is or not

  4. Andrés says:

    Undoubtedly. That some players damage the football with his acts out of place, they think that using the force are going to gain the party and do not realize that there give an ugly spectacle and the people who went to look at them end disappointed.

  5. IanCransonsKnees says:

    Roy Keane admitted his assault on AIH was premeditated. I believe that’s the difference. Keane played for a top 4 side though so that’s why something anyone else would get arrested for was let off with a slap on the wrist.

    Funnily enough the make up of the pitches are now being questioned as the artificial mixes and grass are showing a marked difference in the severity of the injuries that can occur. SAF insists on grass only at OT.

    I’m still waiting for the day one of the BPDs causes someone serious injury.

    • Up the Chels! says:

      Pardon my ignorance on this one, but what’s a BPD?

    • Darren says:

      Arsenal actually had an incident 3 years ago (i think, could be wrong on the years). Diaby had a horror tackle on a Bolton player and recieved a straight red. It was reckless and stupid, and was widely and wholely comdemned by all Arsenal fans.
      Thankfully the player did not have any lasting injuries, but it easily could’ve been so.

  6. Solskjaer24 says:

    Excellent article. My blood boils with these challenges. I played for 35 years until a thug chopped me down two years in a row. I was a defensive mid and never hurt anyone in all those years even with sliding. Yet, I knew how to slide, make it legal by getting ball first, with the option of adding some extra “English” if needed as retribution. If someone played dirty, I tried to find a way to ensure they ended up on their butt, but not get injured. De Jong and these types of players know exactly what they’re doing. They need more punishment or it won’t stop until the fun creative players are in hospital.

    Thanks again for a well-worded argument.

  7. Danny says:

    Well said. These reckless challenges are not good for the game. The worst part about them is that we try to defend the players. “He’s not that type of player” is the most common defense, as stated in the article, when he actually is. They are meant to go in strong when they are the defensive midfielder, but they need to be smart when going in. Like Solskjaer24 said, they know exactly what they are doing.

    Great post.

  8. Andre says:

    The incidents described in the first two quotes I guess you can say were “reckless not malicious” in the sense the offending player was out of control but didn’t intentionally try to injure. But the idea that Nigel de Jong is “not that kind of player” is absurd. Stuart Holden, Xabi Alonso, Hatem Ben Arfa all in an 8 month span. That pattern illustrates the type of player he is, and if it didn’t, the still shown above does. A studs up challenge at knee level is malicious, at throat level is it criminal.

  9. Akshai says:

    More deterrents are needed to protect players. If there is any consolation in Ben Arfa’s injury, it’s that the tackle was fair. Retroactive review of flagged tackles (and why not flops?) and cautions/bans for offenses would go a long way to protect players.

  10. tonyspeed says:

    i think sliding tackles should be somewhat phased out and made a thing of the past. not that they have no place in the game, but the financial, physical, and emotional trauma they can bring when a split second of timing is off is too much burden to bear. fifa needs to create new laws governing sliding tackles that make players think twice before performing them. the punishment for injuring player with a sliding tackle should be cruel and severe. immediate red card for one. but i think equally good would be a stipulation that when grievous bodily injury is done, the offending player will be out for as long as the play he injures is. therefore, if you break someone’s leg, that should be the end of your season. drastic steps need to be taken to preserve the credibility of the game.

    let’s face it. all sliding tackles are a half a split second from being deadly kung fu assaults.

  11. Parky says:

    Just seen this. Good piece Chris, nice one. Agree with you that it is the reckless nature of players’ tackles that is the problem.

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