Tag Archives: diving

Early derby team news + that whole diving thing

Arsene Wenger met the press yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s North London derby at Wembley, and the latest team news is that there’s a real doubt over Petr Cech who picked up a calf knock during the 5-1 win over Everton.

Should he not make it, it will David Ospina in goal, and the manager publicly declared his full faith in the Colombian if he’s brought into action. I mean, you’d expect nothing less. Saying any other than that is hardly the right way to prepare a player for a game of this magnitude.

“It’s a real blow to be without Cech, but I suppose Ospina will have to do,” is not going to inspire him to a top performance. Of course there is the question about how much of a blow it is to be without the number 1, although personally I prefer him because he’s got a neck, his arms extend to greater length to make saves and he commands his area better than his counterpart.

On the other hand though, I believe I’ve seen Ospina save a penalty in my lifetime – perhaps only for his country though – and given their propensity for, and instruction to, fall over in the box at all times, that might come in useful. Wenger was asked about the comments made by Mauricio Pochettino after the diving furore after their 2-2 draw over Liverpool.

The Argentine said, “Football is about trying to trick your opponent. Yes or no?”, which is true when it comes to moments of skill, teamwork or tactical invention, but diving is about getting your opponent into trouble and tricking the referee, which is a very different thing altogether.

I was quite happy to read those comments ahead of this game, because referees don’t like to be fooled, and if it casts some doubt in the mind of Anthony Taylor during tomorrow’s game, then maybe that will be a positive thing for us. If he sees Dele Alli go down in the box, it must surely be in his mind that potentially he’s cheating again, like he did last week when he picked up yet another booking for simulation.

Wenger is a wise old goat in many respects, and although I don’t have any truck with the tabloid line about how he ‘blasted’ the Sp*rs players with what he said, saw that there was a chance for him to hammer home the point about how they love a tumble. He said:

I remember there were tremendous cases here when the foreign players did it but I must say the English players have learned very quickly and they may be the masters now.

He said it with a smile on his face, and although he didn’t name anyone, it’s clear he was referencing the Kane/Alli incidents to some extent. It remains to be seen whether it will have any impact, but I thought another exchange was interesting:

Journo: Do you actively tell you players not to dive?

Wenger: I don’t tell my players to dive

Journo: Do you tell them not dive.

Wenger: I don’t encourage them to dive at all.

Which is, of course, is still not quite saying ‘Do not dive’, because as much as we want clean football – as far as that’s possible – managers know that penalties are rarely awarded for heroics and trying to stay on your feet. If there’s sufficient contact, you should go down. Even then you’re not guaranteed to get a penalty, we’ve had a few bad decisions go against us this season for what I thought were fairly blatant spot-kicks, but it would be foolish for any manager to encourage his players to stay upright if they’ve been fouled in the box.

Going down without any contact though, like Alli at the weekend, or doing what Kane did – which is knock the ball beyond a keeper then fall into to him to initiate contact – is different. That last one in particular wrecks my head because we see it so often and it’s so widely accepted as penalty when 99% of the time it’s the striker who tumbles into his opponent rather than the opponent taking him out.

If you want to be generous about it, you’d say Sp*rs – particularly under Pochettino’s management – are a cynical side. They foul a lot, rotational fouling to disrupt the rhythm of the opposition and they go down easily to win free kicks and penalties. That’s under instruction, no question, and they won’t be the first or last side to play that way. However, perhaps there’s a bit more spotlight on the way they play, and if referees wise up to it even a little bit, it will make their lives more difficult.

It should also be said that we’ve had players who have dived and although I hate seeing it the mental gymnastics you can perform as a fan desperate to win a game mean you can come to terms with it pretty easily. I also thoroughly enjoy a cynical foul on halfway to stop a break, but at least that is what it is. There’s no pretence or deception about it, which is what drives people mad about diving.

Kick. Yellow card. Thank you very much. For some it’s an ugly occurrence, but I’d rather watch my player get booked than see an opponent waltz through the open spaces of our midfield and create danger in our final third. Anyway, it’s probably one of the only things that all football fans agree on: diving is bad.

The arguments and debates come from trying to figure out what’s a dive or not, who did the dive, how important the dive was in the overall scheme of the match and if an Arsenal player takes a tumble tomorrow to win us a penalty that wins the match, how many of us are genuinely going to be outraged by it? Exactly.

Right, there’s more on the whole diving thing with Ken Early in this week’s Arsecast, along with Amy Lawrence looking ahead to the derby and lots more. Check it out below.

For some extra reading, here’s Tim Stillman on Mesut Ozil, and I’ll catch you tomorrow for a preview of the game, a live blog and all the rest. Until then.

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Episode 461 – Diving and stuff

Welcome to another episode of the Arsecast – the Arsenal podcast.

In today’s bumper edition of the show I chat with Amy Lawrence about all the January changes and Arsenal’s new look attack. What now for Alexandre Lacazette, how will Arsene Wenger approach the North London derby and more. After that I catch up with Ken Early of Second Captains to discuss the Premier League season so far, the controversy around diving, the comments of Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger’s response, the introduction of VAR and whether it might create more problems than it solves, Mesut Ozil’s new contract, Jack Wilshere and beyond,

Follow Any on Twitter @amylawrence71 while is @kenearlys and you can subscribe to Second Captains via their website.

You’ll find all the download and subscription links below, and you can always subscribe in your favourite podcasting app by searching for ‘arseblog’ or ‘arsecast’. All our archives are found on site or via our Acast page, and if you are a regular listener via iTunes, if you would be so kind as to leave a review/rating that would be greatly appreciated.

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Weekend thoughts: Top four, diving, Wenger on the new signings and more

Morning all. Yesterday’s 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Marshlands Diving Club is probably a good result for us, all things considered. While our chances of bridging the gap to the top four are slim, they’re far from impossible, and the more points those around us drop the better.

It keeps us in touch, and hopefully keeps us focused for the rest of this Premier League campaign. I know players will go out and want to try and win every game regardless of where we are in the table, but if Champions League qualification via that channel is the carrot, we don’t need the stick to be so far away that it’s demoralising.

As for the diving, there will always be those who will say the slightest contact means that the player is entitled go down, but in both cases it was so blatant. Kane did that thing that annoys the life out of me, jumping over a keeper who is coming out looking for the slightest touch, while Lamela’s was similar to Bellerin on Hazard the other week. Van Dijk’s kick was clumsy but Lamela was backing in looking to go to ground.

Let’s remember that Dele Alli was booked in this game too for exactly the same thing, and with a North London derby coming up on Saturday our players need to be aware that these are Sp*rs players acting to instruction. We’re going to have to be so, so careful because any chance they get they’ll go down and as we saw yesterday neither the officials or the systems in place are good enough to deal with it all.

For all the talk of VAR, rules were introduced this season which allowed players to be retrospectively punished for diving. I think it’s been used once (I’ll stand to be corrected on this), and it doesn’t seem like there’s any real willingness to use it to address the constant cheating that goes on, thus players will continue to dive because they know their chances of a) fooling the referee and b) getting away with it are higher than being punished for it.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger says something about new signings that will resonate with fans who have, very often, felt the exact same way. Having seen Henrikh Mkhitaryan grab a hat-trick of assists on his home debut, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang score a lovely goal, the manager said:

Yes, it’s always when you have new players it gives always a little positive swing. It wakes everybody up as well, because there’s suddenly competition so they have to live with that as well.

If only we could go back in time to the summer of 2015 and have him come to that realisation then. I would caveat this slightly though. It’s not as if we haven’t made signings, because that summer I mentioned aside, we’ve signed plenty of senior players in the last three or four years.

Sanchez, Chambers, Ospina, Debuchy, Welbeck, Gabriel, Cech, Elneny, Perez, Mustafi, Xhaka, Holding, Lacazette, Kolasinac – not to mention a host of young players too, but what makes signings have the impact Wenger is talking about is their quality. As Sanchez did when he arrived, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang showed that when you add top players to your team, they will deliver and create that competitive environment to which others can respond to or not.

Yet too many of the deals we’ve done in recent times have been players who have not been able to do that, or players who the manager decides very early on can’t do that so they end up marginalised. Not every signing can be a superstar, of course, that’s just not possible, but sometimes you can tilt too far the other way so it’s good to see that we’ve addressed that with these two.

Wenger continued:

Overall, I think as well we have a game based on team spirit so that kind of acceptance is very important, and when they show on a football field that they accept our game, they are even easier to integrate into the team.

I would like to think we have a game based on more tangible things like organisation, tactics, a working system, implementing things that we practice on the training ground etc, but talking about ‘team spirit’ is quite telling. People will think of Sanchez, obviously, but I do wonder how the delineation of the squad this season had an impact on things. We had our Premier League team and our Europa League/League Cup team, and the distance between them grew as the campaign went on. It didn’t create competition, it created distance.

I’m not saying players like Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were disruptive in any way, in fact from what we know of both of them they just worked hard and never complained publicly about the fact they’d been so frozen out of a team they were a regular part of last season. But did it have an impact on them, and the squad in general, knowing they were now fringe players, not relied upon by a manager who previously had plenty of faith in them.

Their departures, along with Sanchez, mean that the squad is smaller but contains more players the manager wants to work with, so maybe that’s the positive effect he’s seeing of the transfer business. It’s not just the ins, it’s some of the outs as well.

That’s something we can discuss a bit more on the Arsecast Extra this morning. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to discuss, please send to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra. We’ll look back at that very enjoyable 5-1 win over Everton – yesterday’s thoughts on that here if you haven’t already read it – the new boys, the impact they made, Aaron Ramsey and lots more.

We’ll have that for you around lunchtime, until then.