Ooh the crotch seams of football statisticians are splitting under the strain. The Premier League has thus far mustered an average of 2.97 goals per game. (The 0.97 of a goal is presumably the one Messrs Bent and Adebayor keep just missing – and there’s nowt more satisfying that your mercenary goalscorer failing to do the one bit of his job he’s really paid for.)
More like Smack 'im Like a Mackem
This surprising stat is supposed to indicate a sad decline in the art of defending. But are defenders really getting worse? Well yes. They’re fucking shite.
I’d like to start by blaming it on Rio. Not Ferdinand, who more and more he resembles an old dodderer from an Ibuleve advert, but Rio the city – in fact Brazil as a whole. Full-backs these days are duty bound to be auxiliary wingers. They get forward so frequently that they even have their own verb ‘bombing on’ to describe the phenomenon.
Not only does every full-back think he’s Cafu, he defends like them n all. A full-back gets notice d these days for pace and crossing ability and pace. Who gives a toss if he’s got the positional sense of a bat in ear-muffs (that’s you that is, Glen Johnson).
Jose Bosingwa, Chelsea’s mono-browed raider, needs a guide-dog to get him back into the right-hand side of defence. Kyle Walker is a tip-top lad going forward but I’m not convinced that he doesn’t need his hand-holding when he’s fending off an attacking left-winger. Leighton Baines is Everton’s biggest goal threat but he’s so impressed with Chicharito’s finishing he pulls up a deckchair and tokes on a ciggie from his front-row seat.
Of course Brazil’s compensation to this policy of outflanking the opponents was the two holding midfielders - two cloggers to shield your centre backs and guard your penalty box with your life. In a perfect world these players would be Claude Makelele and Claude Makalele. (Incidentally, the translation of ‘Makalele’ is ‘Scouse banjo’)
Now, apart from Fulham, and Man City, whose squad is the football equivalent of my wife’s frigging wardrobe (there’s something for every occasion with Adam Johnson being Mancini’s emergency all-purpose accessory and Carlos Tevez the big ugly back-of-the-drawer knickers) most teams seem to eschew this safety mechanism in favour of a headlong rush toward the opposition.
Chelsea v Arsenal featured those sturdy central operators Alex Song and John Obi Mikel. I still can’t quite believe Mikel inspired such a tug-of-war between Man U and Chelsea a while back. At the time I believe he was an attacking midfielder – he certainly defends like one. Song makes more sense in the role but even he was powerless to prevent wave after wave of Blue Meanies stomping through the Thin Red Line. I say thin – when a roof leaks at Arsenal’s training ground they send Sczesny up a ladder with a box of one-ply fragranced tissues.
While you’re never surprised to see Koscielny and Djourou behaving like men who’ve woking up with their heads down the wrong end of their sleeping-bags, it was weird to see the likes of Cashley and Terry looking similarly deranged.
‘Course the seeing John Terry fall over is a joy forever. Moscow memories came flooding back as the grim-faced plodder’s mug smacked into the Stamford Bridge turf and Robin Van Persie galloped off to confirm his status as a member of Wenger’s Irreplaceables. (Team-mates include Fabregas, Nasri, Henry, Vieira – Arsene makes ‘em skipper, they can’t wait to go).
Villas-Boas claimed the League Cup win at Goodison in midweek was for the skipper as he seeks to fight off accusations of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. If it’s true it would show just how dense Terry is – all them weaknesses in Anton Ferdinand’s game and he chooses to pick up on an irrelevance of the colour of his skin? Better surely just to point how what a crap footballer he is.
Terry doing his best Yosemite Sam impression: "Oh, You Robin!!"
As for Ashley Cole, well he got a good roasting by Theo Walcott (unfortunate turn of phrase but you know what I mean) and spent much of the time playing three or four yards behind the rest of the defence. It’s the first time someone has played the sweeper role at left back.
The thing is these blokes aren’t bad players – or at least they haven’t been. Terry lacks pace, but he’s managed to get around that until recently. It doesn’t help when David Luiz – the result of a hideous cloning experiment between Brian May and a headless chicken – is his partner in crime .
There’s some merit in saying that footballers don’t defend well these days cos the rules don’t really permit it. Good tackles get punished way too often. One of the greatest arts of the modern forward is the well-timed tumble. I’ve seen newborn foals make a better effort to stay on their feet. I honestly don’t think a lot of players know how to tackle these days, so they (a) don’t bother – (the Taarabt Option) or (b) tackle anyway and get sent off (the Cattermolean School).
There are exceptions: Scott Parker and errr... well that’s it really.
The upshot of all this suicidal defending is loads of goals and top players strutting their stuff. As well as RVP, there’s RVdV, Silva to Aguero’s Lone Ranger, and Grant Holt. The Premier League should always have space for an English centre-forward who looks like he spent the morning with one hand on the slot machine and the other on a pint of Badger’s Best.
Who Ate All The [Delia's] Pies?
Nevertheless I sometimes wonder whether the Flash Harrys might not be doing their bit at the toher end. Watch Barca. Never mind all the Billy Smart’s Circus stuff around the opposition’s box, the way they chase the ball when they lose it like a pack of Duracell-packed Jack Russells is an object lesson to all footballers.
PS I see El Hadj Diouf has signed for Doncaster for three months. Apparently it’ll get cut to 6 weeks for good behaviour.