Let’s face it; Great Britain hates to see a winner. Sometimes it’s our very own we loath to see succeed – Tim Henman, Audley Harrison, Paul Collingwood. If the World Cup rested on the shoulders of Gary Neville, we would probably want him to miss. Sitting there on our couch, we moan adamantly: “yeah, I could do better,” or, “if that was me, I would have done this way.” For us English, the jealousy in seeing somebody else prevail seeps into the veins like a poison gas. This is why I know, Arsenal must be top of the Premier League.
What happened to innocent before proven guilty? Last night, William Gallas was instantly condemned by every commentator, on every live stream flicking frantically before my eyes. It was as if every pundit tuning into the Bolton game was salivating, slobering, just waiting for Arsenal to make one poorly timed tackle, so they could pounce upon Arsene Wenger and cry hypocrite. As for Gallas, he was guilty before any replays could be shown.
Like a ragdoll, Arsenal are pulled every which way, whenever the nation seems like taking out some pent up frustration. Yesterday, it was the manger and players who turned villain over night: earlier in the season it had been the fans, when Emmanuel Adebayor sprinted 100 yards to celebrate in-front of his old employers. Arsenal’s travelling band of so called “librarians” became the most blood-thirsty fans in the land, running the streets of north London like a pack of hungry book-weilding wolves.
Assault cried Owen Coyle when Gallas went in hard on Mark Davies. Being the warrior he is, Arsenal’s shinny headed Frenchman played on and never once looked back to check upon his crumpled opponent. Making the scores even was the only thing on Arsenal’s mind and there was no time to do the referees job for him. After wriggling through, Fabregas slotted the ball between the keepers legs sending the Emirates into raptures.
While Coyle ranted at the fourth official, Sky’s Richard Keys was preparing some notes – his prize question being: What will Wenger make of that one? Listen to Wenger and his real problem is not with hard, competitive challenges, but with the persistent fouling that attempts to hinder the game he loves so dearly. Wenger is an artist and the regulated fouling Arsenal often encounter spoils the work he is striving to create.
Having listened to Wenger, it isn’t the full-blooded tackle he denounces. The man is intelligent enough to know how important is it that this aspect of the game remains healthy; and before he feels the wrath of football’s hardcore, it should be the cautious governing bodies who need exposing for killing ‘the tackle’. By teaching referees to blow-up for episodes of minimal body contact, body checks, shoulder barges, and the rest, the physical facet of football will die. Wenger should not be a scapegoat.
Gallas’ tackle was mistimed, and having watched replays – the fair trial his civil liberties allow for – it was a foul. A red card though? Never. Gallas was simply in a situation where every tackle must be won if Arsenal were going to profit from the match. He is a fierce participant of the game and would have wanted to impose on the situation. To damage a mans career is a completely separate issue and just because you have one way of thinking (battle hard) doesn’t mean you live by the other.
What happened last night was no more than Arsenal outclassing Bolton in strength and superior technical quality. Only four days earlier, the Trotters had been brushed aside by Arsenal’s highly mechanical workmanship. Running out for the second half in the return fixture, they had been given a taste of their own medicine. This is what truly left a bitter taste in Owen Coyle’s mouth.
Without sounding cruel, Davies’ injury took the focus off of who the real victims are. And that is football preservationists Arsenal, who aspire to play the game in its most entertaining form – with quick passing and a tapestry of one touch – while teams like Bolton aim to crush it. Did the leading brand names of football design the latest feather-weight boot with mesh lining just so Rory Delap could land a throw-in on the keepers toes? No, they invented new technology so the world could watch a side such as Arsenal entertain as they did for 50 minutes yesterday. Sorry Mark Davies, but the only justice is that Arsenal currently sit top of the Premier League.

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