By Avenell Dave
We’ll probably know later in the day how badly Abou Diaby is injured and the wait is not exactly reassuring.
I’ve always had my doubts about Diaby’s importance to the team – he seems to fall asleep for great periods of games, doesn’t have the football intelligence of players such as Cesc Fabregas or even Jack Wilshere to know what he is going to do before he receives the ball and his work rate (as shown against Blackburn and his failure to track back contributing to the Rovers goal) is often lamentable.
But as he showed for France last week, he has talent and if he could just marry application with his ability, we would have one hell of a player on our hands.
His introduction to English football was hardly a pleasant one, with his ankle snap at Sunderland putting him out of the game for a year.
In the past few seasons we have seen Eduardo scythed in half at Birmingham – a tackle which effectively ended his career as a striker in England – and Welsh starlet Aaron Ramsey suffering a similar assault at Stoke.
I’m all for football being physical. Arsenal perhaps pushed the rules too far in Arsene Wenger’s early days when Patrick Vieira and Martin Keown regularly got themselves in trouble and we endured a reputation as the most undisciplined team in the Premier League.
Thankfully, we’ve learnt to control that issue but perhaps it went too far the other way, so much of a pushover did we become against bruising teams.
There can be no greater compliment of Arsenal than the fact that M*nure, who can play a fair bit themselves, resorted to roughhouse tactics when we’ve played them, knowing that trying to outplay us would have been futile.
The emergence of Alex Song as a midfield enforcer has helped us somewhat and the attitude of players such as Laurent Koscielny suggests a new steeliness to the side.
We’ve started pressing further up the pitch now as well – dare I say it, the Barca way – which also augurs well if we can sustain that level of commitment.
Richard ‘monkey hands’ Keys will wax lyrical about attractive football one minute and then complain about managers like Arsene Wenger when they criticise ‘rugby’ football that bears no reflection on how the game was supposed to be played.
He and Sky want style one minute so that they can claim the Premier League is the greatest in the world and then celebrate the brawn the next which is far more suited to park football than the highest club level.
I couldn’t care less about England, but it’s no coincidence that the national team’s paucity of performers and performances in tournament finals is linked to the focus on athleticism rather than skill.
While the game should be competitive and should be physical, it’s time for the Football Association to start taking a stand against those teams or players whose consistent dangerous play is threatening to end careers.
The likes of Martin Taylor, Ryan Shawcross and Paul Robinson (Bolton) have no business playing in the top flight if their consistent dangerous fouling is going to do so much damage.
Likewise, I have always had a lot of time for Mick McCarthy but recently, his enthusiasm for violent play both as a pundit at the World Cup and then as Wolves manager leaves much to be desired.
Wolves have been fined a whopping £75,000 this week for consistent bad behaviour at the start of the season – about a week’s salary for a decent player thesedays. Hardly a deterrent.
Until players are given extended suspensions that better match the gravity of the injuries they cause and clubs are threatened with a loss of points for consistent bad behaviour, how can we expect to attract the best players from overseas or nurture skilful talent capable of taking on the best?