Date:Monday August 31 2009
OK, Arsene Wenger, amid all the crying and bitching and moaning, had a point. Two, actually. We won 2-1 and he could not bring himself to admit that it was fair and square, undeserved though it was.
'I have seen today a player who plays on the pitch only to make fouls,' he said.
'For me, this is a point that is more urgent than diving. The players who are never punished. Who get out of the game without a yellow card. I think it is more anti-football than a player who did what Eduardo did.'
Well, yes, in a way I agree with that in all honesty. The fuss about diving is rather exhausting and it's much more important to talk about the players who are charged with harassing and doing niggly fouls all the time and doing little else.
It was suggested that Wenger had meant Darren Fletcher but if he had then that's nonsense. Fletch is by no means a Mascherano, he's got much more attacking duties - actually, Carrick was so intent on either A) hoofing it forward aimlessly or B) making square passes that penetrating forward passes were made exclusively by Mr. Fletcher. Of course it did no good to our performance but that's an aside.
So, Fletch is no simple destroyer, he's a more complete midfielder, especially as Fergie's not a fan of specialists, he loves all-rounders. I'm sure he wasn't simply charged with ruining Arsenal's football.
But Wenger has another point as well even though he did not really articulate that one. So it's my point, actually. Oh well. The gist is that we should stop prioritising negation. Fergie always wants to adapt to the other teams' style these days, we very rarely try and impose ourselves.
We did that against Arsenal at Old Trafford in the Champions League - and with spectacular success I must say. We won only 1-0, true, but only because of a combination of bad luck, profligate finishing and excellent goalkeeping. The performance was first class even though Ronaldo wasn't at his best.
But Fergie reserves this approach to cup games. We started that semi-final at home so we had to get a good result, cue pressure from the start. Or there was the FA Cup game in 2008 where a replay was the last thing we needed so we were going all-out attack and promptly smashed them 4-0. But in the league - or away from home in the Champions League - we are always so careful, always insist on negating the other team, on stifling them first and expressing ourselves second.
We should try to assert ourselves. We should give Rooney the chance to run the show in these games as well - sticking him up front without adequare support is cruelty and what's worse, doesn't make sense. It did not work on Saturday and was never going to work without a 28-year-old Paul Scholes. The closest we have to him is Wayne Rooney - so use our centre-forward up front and go for the throat. Even against fellow members of the big four.
Date:Monday August 31 2009
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