It’s all about Pelè’s Beautiful Game and we should all be worshipping at the altar of the Camp Nou right? Not everybody thinks so. Like a Vandal striking at the gates of Rome, Arsenal fan Natasha Henry is here to celebrate the non-aesthetes. Yes, she’s an Arsenal fan.
I don’t drive, which is probably a good thing as I struggle to walk some days. But even if I did, would I drive the same car as everyone else? No, of course I wouldn’t. Because I have the choice to drive the car that suits me, just in the same way clubs should be able to play the way that suits them best.
All too often I hear people, both fans and certain pundits, moaning about the way certain clubs play, as if these teams should bow down and play the same as them because clearly that would make the competition completely fair and more interesting.
Now, I’m an Arsenal fan so of course I love the world of beautiful, tippy-tappy football – when we win that is. But I also appreciate the fact that not every team has the mantra, or more importantly the players to play like that. And the differences between the clubs are part of the reason I love the Premier League so much.
Arsene Wenger has been one of those people who has moaned about the physicality of competitors. And in light of certain injuries that have occurred, I understand that. But on a 38 game basis, these players are no more responsible for injuries than the stylish players of Manchester City, United or Newcastle. They simply play the way that suits them best, in the same way I would pick a Mini over a Range Rover for my first car. But that’s probably because I’m 5ft 1 and I can’t be doing with climbing into a car, but you know what I mean.
Tony Pulis regularly has to defend his team in press conferences, which is ridiculous when you consider how well they have done over the past couple of seasons. I never thought I’d see the red and white of Stoke playing in Europe and yes, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea but they get the job done. The result at the end of the match and the number of points on the table is the most important thing. When you look at the record books, it won’t tell you how they did it, just that they did.
And no disrespect intended but Matthew Etherington is no Gareth Bale, and Peter Crouch is no Wayne Rooney. So, it stands to reason that Stoke can’t and don’t play like Barcelona and the rest of the style merchants. Plus, I can’t see Pulis swapping his baseball cap and tracksuit for one of Pep Guardiola’s made-to-measure Italian suits.
It’s completely illogical to expect the likes of Stoke, Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers to play in a way that their components do not allow. They don’t have the parts to play the passing game, so they play based on the way they have been built. Their squads are structured on strength and reliability, not some slim-fit and sexy style. They don’t have the finances or the clout to build a sleek team of flighty players who float over the pitch like angels. So they do what they can with what they have.
I have no problem with players using their brain or brawn if they don’t have the speed or flair to compete with the rest. Football is for everyone, not just for the special ones. Contrary to some opinions, I might add. Unlike other sports, football is not just for the elite. That’s why it’s the ‘working man’s’ sport, that’s why it attracts the kind of support it does. That’s why we all love it and hate it in equal measures.
Let’s be honest, either way you can’t win. If it’s too tippy-tappy, they complain that it’s not manly enough and they can’t take the tackles or the stamp in the groin like the ‘good old days’. And if players show a bit of muscle, they’re cheating and ruining the game. Or better still, they’re bullying the opponent. I’m not condoning any kind of violent contact but a little bit of obstruction never killed anyone. I’ve had harder nudges in the bus queue.
Some people need to stop moaning about the teams that play ‘that way’ and get on with enjoying the competition and surprising results it creates. The fact that there are teams like the ones I named above means not only do we have the best league in the world, we also have the most interesting league in the world. We never know what’s going to happen and I quite like it that way. Who doesn’t want a bit of excitement in their life?
In what other country would a relegation-threatened team be able to beat the Champions? Where else would a team that can’t score, manage to put four past Champions League challengers?
Nowhere, that’s where. So while you’re all moaning about teams doing their job and getting by as best they can, think about the last time they beat your rivals and did you a favour, and remember they have as much place in the league as the rest.