Jul 122010

An underwhelming final completed a largely disappointing World Cup last night, with Spain edging out Holland to lift the trophy for the first time. And just as in the European Championship final two years ago, it was Cesc providing the assist for the only goal, this time setting up Iniesta to crash in the winner just minutes from a penalty shoot out.

A clash between Spain and Holland was a mouth watering prospect – not only are they usually two of the most aesthetically pleasing teams (along with the current crop of Germans), but there was an added mystique lent by the extraordinary statistic that they had never met in the World Cup or European Championships before. But the Dutch decided to ruin the game by employing strongarm Stoke-esque tactics, and were lucky not to be men down much earlier than extra time – Van Bommel and de Jong getting away with two of the worst challenges of the tournament.

At half time, Alan Hansen laid into the Dutch tactics, calling them ‘a step too far’, eerily reminiscent of the same words used by both Cesc and Wenger after Ryan Shawcross had destroyed Aaron Ramsey’s leg. But on that day, Hansen lambasted Wenger, essentially telling Arsenal to grow up and legitimising the tactic due to it being the ‘only way to cope with Arsenal’s superior technique’.

Well, if that statement doesn’t sum up everything that is wrong the British attitude to football, I don’t know what does. Last night was no different to what we’ve seen for years – teams that know they cannot outpass their opposition so resort to thuggery. It is not a valid tactic in any way, it should not be praised and lauded as such, yet Hansen, Lawrenson and co do exactly that week in, week out. To then do a complete 180 and lay into the Dutch was hypocrisy at its rawest. Those following me on Twitter will have seen me spitting fire on the subject at the time.

Don’t get me wrong – the criticism Holland received was entirely justified. Sure, Spain were no angels, but they were the victims of some frankly shocking challenges, the type of which should grace no game. That Van Bommel was guilty of one came as a surprise to no-one.

But once the first day of the Premiership arrives, the viewpoint will revert. As soon as a Wigan, Stoke, Bolton or Blackburn player scythes into a technically superior opponent, he will be praised for ‘letting his opponent know he is there’ and ‘getting stuck in’. And if those are the traits we value above all, is it any surprise England crashed out so early, struggling even to control the football at times?

Imagine being Wenger today – he will be well aware of Hansen’s contrasting views of Holland and Stoke, and if I were in his shoes, I’d be raising that very point early in the season. But Wenger has more class than that, and understands that such a reaction will give the pundits the satisfaction of getting under his skin. He will instead listen patiently as they slate the lack of an end product to all the Arsenal passes, compare the number of goals Arsenal and Spain score, and shrug with an ironic smile.

Spain did not win the World Cup because of their stellar attacking, no matter what the press are telling you. They scored eight goals in seven games, looking toothless much of the time. No, they won it because they did not concede in the knockout rounds. The difference between Spain and Arsenal is not end product, it is that Spain do not give the opposition an idiotic headstart.

But don’t expect to hear those kind of sensibilities on the BBC anytime soon.

I had high hopes for the coverage of the final – having ditched some of the less useful pundits (as soon as African interest ended, so did Adebayor’s television time), the BBC could have given the tournament a great send off. But each of the panel quickly made their desire for Spain to win abundantly clear, which made for a painful listen, especially given their remit of neutrality.

By the end, I couldn’t stomach any more of Hansen celebrating the ‘victory for football’, or using Wenger’s own ‘anti-football’ phrase to describe the Dutch, so I switched off, although not before witnessing the farcical trophy presentation, where the entire Spanish squad was crammed into a tiny holding area. Ridiculous.

All in all, it has been a disappointing summer. I love the World Cup, I really do, but this one hasn’t sparked me in any way. There were few thrillers, no minnows going the distance, no stunning comebacks. Even the best goals were largely down to goalkeeping errors.

But on a positive note, the end of the tournament signals the beginning of the build up to another season. Due to players being away from their clubs, the transfer window has essentially been compressed, and the next few weeks should be very interesting. Hold on to your hats.

  39 Responses to “Punditry at an all time low as Cesc proves pivotal again”

  1. Nice read mate, I Agree with everything you say :)

    Interesting to read Cesc comments in the news this morning too

    • Cheers, yeah he certainly is a class act. His words could be interpreted many ways but I guess that’s the point – he doesn’t want to offend anyone right now.

  2. Atleast Torres is out of the Prem opener!

    • Looks like it – I feel for the guy a little. He’s a top player but Liverpool have been so reliant on him that they’ve played him too early after injury time and time again, and have completely broken him.

  3. I shit in my panties every Monday morning

  4. Top post. Have not read before but you make some extremely valid points, particularly the cowardice displayed by BBC pundits. Don’t we just know that already top coaches like Fat Sam and Pulis are rallying the troops before we arrive! Three broken legs over 4 seasons tells the story. True, there is not a lot of difference between us and Spain but they are not called Arsenal, ergo they are not pilorried in the gutter press or humiliated for playing the beautiful game.

  5. thank god it wasn’t only me thinking how on earth hansen , shearer and co can celebrate spain playing the beautiful football yet when teams like stoke or blackburn do their thuggery to arsenal they tell arsenal players to man up. how hypocritcal.
    thank you anyway Groan for the post, its a good one.

  6. It really has been the Karma World Cup, in many ways. Lumphards “over the line” goal repaid the Germans for 1966 and all that. Best of all was Cesc coming off the bench to show Spain how good he is and proving that ONE pass, not hundreds, can win a game. Karma too for RVP, because as the netherlands analyse what went wrong, the glaringly obvious answer is YOU DIDNT PASS TO RVP! The amount of times he was in good positions, waving his arms furiously, is only matched by the number of tippy tappy passes from Spain, or by the number of blatant “tap ups” by the procession of Barca players begging Cesc to come home yaddy yaddy ya. Cesc then states how much he loves Arsenal, Arsenal fans and his future is asssured, in London. Karma is a good thing.

  7. Completely agree with your sentiments; I couldn’t listen to Hansen and co and muted the TV during the breaks. The smugness and the hypocrisy was appalling. The present MOTD tea is well past its sell by date. It really is time for the BBC to clear out that mess.

    • I’d love to see some major changes on the sofa. Dixon can be good but caved in to the views of the others last night. Southgate has impressed me this tournament.

  8. one of the best posts ive read. Its so perceptive that it really puts the aforementioned pundits in their absurdly biased and hypocritical place.

  9. I shared the same sentiments as this author this morning with my work colleagues.
    I am shocked pundits on BBC and ITV crossed the line of neutrality and exposed their bias in every way possible.

    I kept thinking: aren’t these ones the same pundits who tell us week in week out that the type of brutal tackles that shattered the legs of Diaby, Eduardo and now the young Ramsey were an acceptable part of the English game.

    Yesterday, I was almost swearing at the silly pundits who earn millions from tax payers money.

    One of the TV girls reporting from Johanesburg even took a dig at Mugabe. I kept thinkng again; what has Zimbawean politics got to do with football.

    One parting shot: where is Phil Brown, the empty headed ex -manager of Hull, who could not distinguish between Angola and South Africa? I hope he will now hide his face in shame.


    • Phil Brown’s back leading his local call centre.

      That the BBC strayed from neutrality irritated me. The whole point of the Beeb is to avoid coming down from the fence – there are enough biased channels out there already (yes, I’m talking to you, Murdoch).

  10. One difference, sorry to say, but del Bosque wasn’t whingeing after the match. AW has a reputation for doing so, even if it’s been much less lately. (Mind, del Bosque would be up in arms if he managed in the premierleague.) But he doesn’t. so Hanson isn’t against him. It’s still hypocritical, though, but who knows, maybe de Jong just did Arsenal the biggest of favours by exposing on the biggest stage some of the thuggery that lies on the surface of the premier league. Can Hanson take back what he said over the course of the season?

    • Del Bosque wasn’t whingeing because none of his players broke their legs and they won. Now if Xavi has broken his leg and Holland won the game, I guarantee Del Bosque would have been whingeing about Holland’s tackles.

    • Wenger is not moaning, he merely points out that teams stop good football with physicality and that the officiating allows this. Of course anything is good enough for the despicable Hansen and co to have a go at a decent manager and accuse Wenger of being one-eyed.

    • Dear fru-fru.
      You are being influenced by the media. Every time wenger says something media calls it whingeing, even before he has time to finish his comments. However, 99% of the time wenger always talks with logic and follow it up with the stats. Problem with media pundits is that they are not as intelligent enough to sustain a logical discussion with wenger, therefore it is easy to call it whingeing and save face.

  11. It will be interesting to see what Hansen has to say when we play Blackburn away on 28th August. In fact, I am going to the game so will probably miss his comments yipeee. Depressingly, The next season will see the new “cheat”, face clutching, more “half way line” fouls, an improved “dive”, the perfection of “card waving” and more of the same leg breaking tactics we have suffered, more than most, over the last few years. The likes of Bolton Stoke and Blackburn are coached to SPIT on the Respect poster as they leave the dressing room and that aint changing anytime soon. Add to that the moronic one eyed performances of egotistical referees like Howard “more than a game” Webb and I can only see one winner of the Premier League next season. The cheat. Am I being cynical?

  12. So what? Hansen is a hypocrite. So is Lawrenson, Green, and the whole bally lot of them. Oh, you thought these were intelligent men capable of holding a considered view over a significant period of time? Well, no. Got that one wrong in a big way.

    You see, Spain was a bandwaggon waiting to happen and Hansen’s conscience just had to be aboard.

    The good news is that according the the Mail Morrisons have dumped him from their tv ad campaign.

    The bad news is that anything in the Mail is about as reliable as Hansen’s punditry.

  13. I just cannot understand how these MOTD pundits operate. they are so ignorant and should be ashamed of themselves because of their double standards. Whilist I dont condone some of the dangerous tacles made by holland but arsenal players suffer the same way and these MOTD idiots enjoy that. they are just full of hate of fair play displayed by arsenal and I salute Mr Asene Wenger for teaching the gunners to play the game beautifully without all the aggression.These pundits should have learnt something from the exposure they got from south africa where they were received with all the hospitality and they should grow

  14. Your all spot on, im going to post some used bum paper to Hansen.

    What a cock

  15. Great article. I’m so sick of those pundits and the double standards

  16. Sorry but I don’t remember fabregas giving d assist in the final match of euro 2008,i seem to remember it was xabi alonso
    Agree with u abt the hypocrisy of the british but I guess we can’t change it so we’d chin up &man it, unfortunately I doesn’t look like we intend to do so since we just bought koscielny who loose rather fragile, &don’t give me the vremaelen shit, that guy’s good bought he’d have been better with his skills &some more size &strength. He was bullied by drogba &rooney last season

  17. who is Hansen ?

  18. Pete, completely agree with your sentiments. At one point I thought I was watching Arsenal V’s Stoke / Birmingham or Blackburn, but was brought back to reality when Hanson started his half time rant against Holland, rather than berating the Spaniards for being wimps. Complete hypocrite!!

    Howard Webbs contribution to the game goes some way to explain why we don’t develop many technical players in England or keep many technically gifted foreign players in the EPL for very long.

    • Good point – technical players are brutalised in the Premiership. What annoys me about Webb is that he was extremely officious in the final, yet is annoyingly lenient in our games. If he carded Stoke players early, a game of football might even break out.

  19. So true, every gooner everywhere was thinking the same dont you worry. Maybe we should have a campaign – all gooners to boycott the licence fee hehe

  20. Excellent article. But in my view Sheerer is the pundit with the fewest discernible merits. He states only the bleeding obvious, frequently echoing points his colleagues have already made, and cannot speak English properly. I’m still waiting to hear something insightful or interesting issue from his smug mug.

    • True. Even though Hansen’s opinions are usually the polar opposite of mine, at least he has some. Shearer is a complete waste of space.

  21. Surely Uruguay qualify as minnows going the distance? Also, we have a new World Cup winning nation.

    • Uruguay aren’t really minnows though, in the spirit of South Korea (2002), and they didn’t really play anyone good on the way to the final (France were supposed to be good, but weren’t).

      It was nice to see a new final, but it was a shame to see a potential feast of football turn into Arsenal v Blackburn.

  22. Excellent article, Pete, and exactly what I was thinking myself.

  23. I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

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