Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk made a very bold decision on Monday, when he dropped Nigel de Jong from the Dutch squad for the upcoming qualifiers. It was bold, and in my view it was applaudable. De Jong was guilty of a reckless, wild and needlessly aggressive tackle which left a talented young player with a double leg break. Speaking on the matter, Van Marwijk stated,
“I’ve seen the pictures. It was a wild and unnecessary offence. He went in much too hard. It is unfortunate, especially since he does not need to do it. The funny thing is that the referee did not even show a yellow card for it. Apparently, there are other standards. But I have a problem with the way Nigel needlessly looks to push the limit.”
They are strong words from the Dutch coach and they leave Nigel de Jong under no illusion about what Van Marwijk thinks about his challenge. Some will point to the fact that Van Marwijk seemingly had no problem with his sides rough play in the World Cup, and this is a valid criticism, but regardless of the past, what Van Marwijk has done is a positive thing in my book, and I hope it will lay down a marker for other managers to follow.
It seems that thus far in the Premier League, every weekend has seen a nasty tackle or a horrible injury. Wolves’ midfielder Karl Henry was another suspect this weekend, perhaps not surprisingly he put in an absolutely terrible ‘challenge’ that was more suited to the WWE than a football field on Jordi Gomez, and the Wigan player was lucky to escape without a serious injury.
Arsene Wenger has long been a campaigner against bad tackles, seeing Abou Diaby, Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey all suffer horrendous injuries at the hands of extremely reckless challenges. Now it seems other managers are beginning to share the Frenchman’s view. Mark Hughes was damning in his criticism of Stoke’s Andy Wilkinson’s ridiculous tackle on Moussa Dembele, and rightfully so. Allow me to be candid for a moment, I think its a real shame when an oaf like Wilkinson dishes out a serious injury on a player who makes the game more enjoyable to watch.
There is nothing wrong with tackling, or committed tackling at that, but there is a problem with reckless tackling and I am glad to see Van Marwijk shares that view. Lets have a look at Paolo Maldini for instance, he was always determined in the tackle but he was also a fair player, and you never saw him breaking peoples legs. Some people seem to take the view that anyone who criticises bad tackles, and in particular Arsene Wenger, wants tackling banned altogether, which is simplistic and ignores what those who lambast wild challenges are really trying to say.
Bert van Marwijk has taken a stand, and for that I applaud him. His decision underlines the fact that reckless tackles such as Nigel de Jong’s are unacceptable, and hopefully the player himself will now learn this. It would be great if other managers followed Van Marwijk’s lead in doing this, and I think it would make the game more enjoyable, promote skill and technique and most importantly, see less career threatening injuries in the game, which is a good thing in anyone’s book.