The aftermath of the pulsating Chelsea v Manchester United game produced a couple of predictable outcomes. For those that didn’t manage to view the match, Chelsea conspired to take a three goal lead over their Premiership rivals, only to somehow end up drawing the match. A great match for the neutrals, for the United fan base but not such a great result for Chelsea and their manager André Villas-Boas.
Naturally, a lot of (not so neutral) observers and Chelsea fans made match referee Howard Webb the scapegoat for the fact that he awarded Manchester United two penalties in the second half, which were duly converted by Wayne Rooney. However, the problem was not with Howard Webb.
Some commentators decided the fault lay with Villas-Boas and his inability to convey the necessary mental strength and fortitude to his players to ensure they protected a three goal cushion. Once again, the blame should not be placed at AVB’s door. There were some who blamed David Luiz and Gary Cahill for some comical defending that allowed one of the most vertically challenged individuals on the park to head in the equaliser. Wrong again.
All of these theories are all incorrect.
No, the root of the problem emerged when Daniel Sturridge ended up in the Chelsea penalty area making a “striker’s challenge” on Patrice Evra, which subsequently earned Manchester United their first penalty.
The FA Cup game between Arsenal and Aston Villa produced a challenge by Darren Bent on Laurent Koscielny that led to a penalty. It would appear that Bent had been listening to all those interfering pundits who have a problem with his “lack of contribution in other areas of the pitch besides goal scoring”. Bent should show those people the middle finger and focus on what he’s good at doing – scoring goals.
You see, football used to be a simple game and everybody knew their assigned roles. If you were a goalkeeper, you stopped the ball from going in your net. If you were a defender, you stopped the opposition from scoring. If you were a midfielder, you performed a dual role of linking defence with attack and doing some defending.
If you were a striker, your job was to score goals. When not scoring goals, strikers did not drop back into their own half and interfere in the dirty business of slide tackling and getting involved with trying to win the ball back. Strikers conserved their energy for the important business of putting the ball in the back of the net.
It’s amazing how a few short years ago, fans and pundits alike used to complain about Cristiano Ronaldo and how he “didn’t track back” during his time at Manchester United. This was simply because Ronaldo was too busy with scoring a record number of goals en route to helping his team win the Premier League and Champions League titles. Tracking back would have interfered with his primary responsibility of being a goal machine.
That’s all changed now and it is now important for everyone in the team to contribute. Pep Guardiola has continued the Total Football pioneered by Ajax in the 70’s by defending from the front. The whole team presses the ball very high up the pitch to ensure that Barcelona maintains their incredibly high possession statistics.
Other teams in the Premier League have cottoned onto this nonsense and it’s no longer unusual to see the likes of Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero, Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey in their own penalty area contributing with defensive duties. Another popular addition to the roster is the non-scoring striker/winger – e.g. Dirk Kuyt or Ji-Sung Park.
What needs to happen now is a return to the old school. Forget about this communist football where everyone is expected to contribute all over the pitch.
Let the strikers strike. End of story.