Tackling has always been an integral part of the beautiful game, but in the modern era it is a dying art. A perfectly timed tackle may have pundits and fans alike purring but get it wrong and you must be well prepared for a plethora of media endorsed criticism.
It has been in the spotlight in recent weeks after Nigel de Jong’s tackle on Ben Arfa and Karl Henry’s thuggish lunge at Jordi Gomez in Wolves’ defeat against Wigan with many re-iterating a desire for drastic action in order to stamp such tackles out of the game.
Danny Murphy called upon managers to take responsibility for reckless challenges saying: “You get managers who are sending their teams out to stop other teams playing, which is happening more and more – the Stokes, Blackburn’s, Wolves. The pace in which some players go into tackles now is ridiculous. There are no brains involved in the players who are doing that.”
He continued “If you are going at someone at a certain pace and you don’t get it right you are going to hurt them. Players should be culpable for that, in terms of punishment I don’t know what – but they need to show a little bit more intelligence, especially the ones who are doing it repeatedly.” Whilst Fifa’s top medical official Dr Michel d’Hooghe claimed that some players come on the field to “break a career” and that “some acts really are criminal”.
And although I like the next man enjoys a full-blooded challenge that results in dispossession, such tackles may soon taint the unblemished beauty of the English Premier League. Questioning the malice of such challenges would prove peripheral but it would hardly be surprising if old school managers like Mick McCarthy, Tony Pulis or even Sam Allardyce had told their players to get stuck in to their opposing number or to let him know your there.
All is well and good if challenges are hard and fair.
The challenge from Wolves skipper Karl Henry inside ten minutes at the DW Stadium however touched upon absurdity – at least a red card and Gomez curling home a beautiful free kick just past the hour offered amnesty. Nigel De Jong’s challenge on the contrary did not receive a card at all.
It with this you have to question the stringency from referees on such issues and whether they should be coming down harder on players for challenges that put opponents out for months in order to alleviate this from the game. Harsher punishments may separate the blatant offenders from those who actually “aren’t that type of guy” as Mancini described the man nicknamed the “Lawnmower” during his time at Hamburg.
For although we like to defend our players, I can only imagine the fury a tackle similar to those seen in recent weeks would elicit if a player from my team, Birmingham City, was on the end of it.