A little sporting food for thought

A Guest post by The Pied Typer.

After Chelsea’s two-nil defeat of Arsenal on Sunday, Andy Gray on Sky Sports went into great detail to analyse how Chelsea scored their goals – particularly the first one. I cannot fault Mr Gray’s observations (or perhaps those of the broadcast’s production team) and I appreciated and was engaged by the level of detail to which such an incident was analysed. Without the visual aids available to Mr Gray, I will remind you quickly of how the pundit saw the events:

  • Ricardo Carvalho was free in the Arsenal penalty area as Frank Lampard went to take the Chelsea corner,
  • Arsenal’s captain Cesc Fabregas and defender Gael Clichy were two of the Arsenal players concerned by Carvalho’s “freedom”
  • Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin who was closest to Carvalho and without another player to mark appeared slow to recognise that Carvaho was in a concerning amount of space
  • Fabregas left his defensive position to go to Carvalho
  • Clichy left his position of being on the back post to assume Fabregas’ previous position
  • The corner came in, Terry headed it on, and Drogba on his own at the back post deserted by Clichy, had a simple finish.
  • Additionally, we were also shown how John Terry had the space to connect with his header by losing his marker

As I have said, I do not disagree with these observations, and appreciated seeing this level of analysis rather than the contrived cliché of BBC’s Match of the Day, but I was frustrated by the conclusions he subsequently drew, or didn’t in fact.

Gray blamed the Arsenal players for not being alert to Carvallho’s freedom quickly enough – particularly Arshavin, and praised Terry for cleverly moving in such a way to lose his marker.

He appropriated blame and praise to individual players, not the coaches, and not the fact that Arsenal were man-to-man marking.

At no point in this detailed discussion did Gray comment on the method of defending a set piece by man-to-man marking, even though he astutely recognised that Chelsea’s goal came from Arsenal’s defenders reacting to seeing one Chelsea player unmarked.

At no point did Gray comment that this goal might not have been conceded had Arsenal been marking zonally, or was he asked whether this might be true.

Yet whenever a team concedes a goal from a set piece having marked zonally, the system and the coach are at fault, they players are exempt from criticism and the point is raised that man-to-man marking would have prevented the goal occurring.

I am not suggesting that Arsenal should have been marking zonally on Sunday, but if any pundits are going to discuss the defending of set pieces in such detail, I would like them to do so equally and fairly.

A view I am sure Liverpool’s Rafa Benitez would agree with me on, as he himself has often felt an unfair victim of this journalistic bias – just see the link below

I would like all pundits to recognise where players deserve praise and blame, where work on the training pitch has paid off or is further required and I would like them to do this free from bias and prejudice.


3 thoughts on “A little sporting food for thought

  1. I take you are an Arsenal supporter. Doesn’t it make you feel slightly uncomfortable that an English club should rarely field an English player, when little more than a decade ago practically the entire squad was English?

  2. Thanks Daniel for the comment (and advice re. Dan Dare)
    I must admit I’m guilty of my fair share of over-analysis of football, but the more I watch and read sports journalism at the moment, I can’t help but feel its “journalism” simply for the sake of it – looking to create drama and tension to blur the lines between journalism and entertainment.

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