I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet this morning and no, it isn’t because we’re away to United (although that is severe Sucksville, but more on that in a bit) in the FA Cup, but it’s about media narrative and rhetoric around diving and English players.
In August 2009 a penalty awarded to Arsenal after Eduardo went down inside the box was greeted with a campaign from the media with almost universal disdain. Calls for Eduardo to be banned for going down too easily after anticipated contact were heard and Eduardo was initially banned from European competition. That was until an appeal was successful and the ban lifted because it could not be conclusively proven that Boruc – the Celtic ‘keeper at the time – had not touched him.
The debate raged as to whether ‘anticipating contact’ was part of this elaborate con that Eduardo had embarked upon, with most of what I read falling completely in favour of chastising the Crozillian as a cheat.
Now let’s fast forward to 16th February 2015. Man United play Preston and Wayne Rooney – not for the first time in his life – goes down ‘anticipating contact’ that was not there. Cue the dismay of commentary at the time? Post-match dismay at an English player going down when he was clearly not touched by the German ‘keeper? Heck no. We even had the ‘experts’ trying to justify the decision, calling it ‘evasive action’.
These two examples I’ve given aren’t design to outline that Arsenal get pilloried whilst United (and more notably Liverpool) get heralded, but more to highlight this perpetual myth that never seems to die that English players are honest.
They are not. They are the same as the foreign players. The only difference is the rough ride they seem to avoid from the press. Steven Gerrard has a history of going down easily, yet nobody ever seems to recall it. Paul Scholes would make reckless challenges that sometimes looked like they could do severe damage, yet his actions were dismissed with a chuckle and a ‘oh look, Paul Scholes has scythed down someone again *chortle chortle*’.
It’s farcical and I should probably just forget about it too, because nothing will ever change. Foreigners will always be divers and English players will always take ‘evasive action’.
Anyway, moving on to more pressing Arsenal matters and as expected, we face off away from home against Man United. You knew that was going to happen, right? I mean, this FA Cup has been rigged to give Liverpool the safest possible passage to the cup final, so the media can build ‘Stevie Me’ as this god-like creature that deserves a fitting send off. You know that, right?
We had a 12.5% chance of getting an away tie to Liverpool or United, so of course we were drawn against United away in the sixth round, it was fate. What it means is that if we are to retain our trophy, we’ll need to do it the hard way, the REALLY hard way. Because let’s face it, we haven’t exactly got the most amazing record at Old Trafford, have we? It’s probably one of the worst in the division actually, where you have to go back to a controversial Emmanuel Adebayor handballed goal to see a game in which we vanquished the Red Devils. So if we are going to see Wembley again, we’re going to need to do it by unpicking the form of the last nine years and setting it on fire, with napalm.
It’s not that we’ve got an inferior team that has wound me up with this draw, it’s actually quite the opposite, because we have a better and more balanced squad than United’s. But they have the benefit of no European football, plus some very fortunate results this season, that is leading me to believe that we’re going to get skan-diddly-anked when we go up there. Like, royally. Like, 25 shots for us, two for United and we lose 2-0 through a Phil Jones ball-smashed-in-his-face goal and an Antony Taylor penalty against us when the ball is being stroked around on the centre spot.
It feels like no matter how much better we play, they seem to be able to scab a result.
But that has to change some time, right? RIGHT? RIGHT???
I mean, we have to go up there and win at some stage, so why can’t it be now, why can’t it be in the FA Cup? So what if we’ve lost the last three cup games against them, they’ve had better teams than this in the past and having looked how they’ve struggled all season against teams, surely this is as good a time as any to win up there?
Are you buying this? I’m not sure I am, and I’m the one writing it!
Perhaps I should just stop for the day and leave you all in peace so I can save everyone from my self-imposed morose bubble that I’ve cocooned myself in after the draw. Maybe you could tell me reasons to be cheerful in the comments or on Twitter?
Catch Ya laters.