The art of tackling in football is something that’s sadly been on the slide for many years now. Thanks mainly to tougher laws on what constitutes a fair tackle and what is a hard and unjust one. It seems these days you can’t tackle someone without fear of retribution by the referee and his trusty assistants or the dreaded trial by TV thanks to technology which rightly or wrongly, is taking over our beloved game.
Defenders in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s made their name because their strongest asset was the good old tackle. I’m not talking about Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris or Graeme Souness who were more butchers than Picassos, but the Beckenbauer’s, Cannavaro’s and Bobby Moore’s who would go on to win world cup’s because they could read a tackle as clear as a sniper’s sight-finder.
Because the media choose to highlight the negative rather than a fantastic tackle or interception, we will start to see a new generation of soft defenders scared to make a tackle. In saying that in recent weeks we’ve seen Nani with a tasty 5 inch gash from a Jamie Carragher ‘tackle’ and Stuart Holden with a hole in his leg ruling him out for 6 months. Whilst there’s no denying the injuries sustained were shocking, the sight of a bone crunching 50/50 is almost a thing of the past and these incidents are rare.
The truth is that players wearing snoods (thankfully now banned) and gloves, the pimped out cars, the WAGS and a life of excess have taken away the heart and soul of football. Sure, watching Barcelona v Arsenal was a footballing masterclass and the way we want to see all of our teams play the ‘beautiful game’ however, without the resource of Messi et al, the reality for most of us is that we have a core squad of battlers, scrappers and only a smattering of skill. So, when you eradicate what makes up the majority of our teams, we aren’t left with much excitement anymore. Perhaps the way forward then, will be to forget about defenders at all and just do an Ian Holloway at Blackpool with his ‘attack, attack, attack’ policy, seemingly forgetting to defend at all. It’s a fantastically brave and admirable approach and absolutely one that has got us all excited with the abundance of goals and chances illuminating Blackpool beach this season. But if they get relegated, will it have been the right approach?
Xavi, the diminutive Spanish midfield genius recently commented on the British game where he said a shift in emphasis is needed in the game but it shouldn’t come completely at the expense of the traditional uncompromising English centre half. But whilst he feels players like Terry and Carragher are very necessary, they have to adapt to the team as opposed to the team adapting to them. As he put it, skill comes over strength. Insightful and intelligent words from one of the best passers in the world, but what it only highlights is that he doesn’t see defending as a skill. A sad reflection of the bureaucracy creeping into our game or a change for the good? Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather see a game free from players getting injured or sent off, but please don’t take away the need for players to make a tackle or else we’ll end up with a generation of wimps…or am I too late in saying that?
Whilst this will make me look like a total hypocrite, here’s a selection of some of the best and worst tackles ever seen including the infamous King Eric Cantona’s kung fu-kick. Ouch.