Tom Goulding has five changes he’d like to see, as another new season begins.
- The source of an opinion does not determine its validity. Something people say is “Well, yeah, he would say that, because he’s a [insert team] fan”. While this may be the reason that an Arsenal fan thinks that Cesc Fabregas is the best midfielder in the league, or that a Manchester United fan thinks that refereeing decisions do indeed even themselves out over a season, it doesn’t mean those people are necessarily wrong. People have biased opinions which are right as well as biased opinions which are wrong. So when you say that an opinion isn’t valid merely because they have a vested interest in the issue, you are shirking the responsibility to respond to the point. Just because Zonal Marking says something, it doesn’t make it any more right than if a one-eyed tribalist idiot says it. It’s more likely to be true, sure, but unless you explain why something is true or false, you can’t rely on the source of an opinion to conclude anything. It’s lazy.
- There are lots of improvements fans would like to see on the officiating side of the game – goal-line technology perhaps, or a stop to players and fans expecting referees to be infallible in games involving their team. While these changes would be very welcome, a different and perhaps more realistic change might have a greater effect. In general, officials don’t like to penalise obstructions which don’t send a player to the ground – they seem soft and incur the wrath of opposing fans. The main reason players go to ground easily however, is to obtain the free-kick which otherwise would wrongly have been denied. An acceptance of fouls which don’t send a player tumbling to the floor and you would eliminate diving. Failure to accept this, and diving would justifiably continue to exist.
- The end of ‘football as entertainment’. Fans watch football to be entertained – that doesn’t mean that football’s ‘function’ is entertainment. Football for a player might be a passion, a way to get famous or simply a healthy wage. Football for an owner is a business to make profit. Football for the steward behind the goal is a job to earn a wage to pay the rent. The function of football is different for many people involved, so to speak of one function to which the combined forces of football must aim is misguided. If fans stop going en masse, things might change and they might have more say, but that doesn’t look like happening any time soon.
- These leads me on to the next point – people blaming teams for defensive football. When Manchester City went to the Emirates Stadium in January to play Arsenal, they set their team up defensively to avoid losing valuable ground to a rival. They secured a 0-0 draw without having threatened the Arsenal goal much throughout the game, and this lead some people to criticise them for their ‘anti-football’, negative approach. But who are we to say how a team should play football? Football is just as much about conceding one less than your opponents as it is about scoring one more than them. City would have been far less likely to secure a result at a difficult ground had they played as if they were at home. A strong defensive performance doesn’t entertain the neutral as much as a strong attacking performance does, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t as valuable. Manchester City had no duty to entertain the 60,000 fans at the Emirates stadium that night and the fact that they eventually finished the season three points above Arsenal more than justified their approach that night.
- ‘Deserving to win a game of football’. Some people said that because Arsenal dominated possession of that 0-0 draw and created more chances than Manchester City, they ‘deserved’ to win the game. But why should the fact that they got past the first four lines of City’s team mean they have an automatic bye past City’s last line, their goalkeeper Joe Hart? Arsenal’s large amount of possession that night was on City’s terms – i.e. that they could do anything like with it, apart from get past Hart. Sure, Arsenal might be the more likely team to deserve to be remembered in many years for their ability to produce entertaining football, but this is a completely different issue. Most managers or fans desperately cling on to the notion of desert as a high ground when defeated, but it rarely has any merit.