THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

7 January ~ Arsenal v Manchester City. Third v second, Barça-lite v the nouveau riche – surely a match to set the pulses a-racing? Well, no. Another turgid 90 minutes at the Emirates saw City carve out another soul-sapping 0-0 draw. We’ve seen this Roberto Mancini model before – on the first day of the season at White Hart Lane, and again in the yawn-fest that was the Manchester derby. Sit back, soak up pressure, leave sole attacking responsibility on the industrious shoulders of Carlos Tevez and for goodness’ sake don’t concede.

Arsenal, on the other, hand showcased their impressive talents in playing their opposition off the park without scoring but can count themselves extremely unlucky to not notch up a deserved three points. But they didn’t and the league table still shows City two points ahead of their London rivals.

You could join the growing bandwagon and condemn Mancini for his pragmatism, for letting down the world of football by trying to stop Arsenal from scoring, but when he sends out his charges he doesn’t have to answer to the likes of Barry Glendenning, the Guardian columnist who claimed in his minute-by-minute for Wednesday’s match: “Surely a team assembled at such huge expense has some sort of duty to entertain.”

Why do they? While I don’t particularly enjoy watching City grind out results in this fashion, the argument that they owe value for money with their performances to the press and to the rest of the footballing world is a little, well, rich, especially in a season where no team has set the Premier League on fire. What else was there to expect? City to travel to Arsenal (a place they haven’t won in 26 attempts) and play three up front? Perhaps Mancini should have taken charge of the half-time entertainment at the Emirates, too.

Ultimately, I think everyone can agree that we’d like more teams to adopt, say, Chile’s tactics from the World Cup, rather than Switzerland’s – I’m not disputing that it’s at least a shame that City came to Arsenal with such a negative approach and of course I would prefer a scintillating 3-3 draw, but it was never on the cards.

Mancini deserves a small crumb of praise, however. If City’s quest is to become part of the Premier League elite, his side contributed to a fine impression of an overhyped damp squib of a “Grand Slam Sunday” encounter. Next he’ll be playing mind games with Fergie and everything. Stifling tactics are no new phenomenon – Inter won the Champions League with them, Greece won a European Championship. Until points are awarded for goals, they’re here to stay and you can’t blame Mancini – blame the results-based business modernisation of the game. Mark Booth

Comments (15)
Comment by DeadinBalham 2011-01-07 11:41:28

Andy Gray noted towards the end of the game that "Manchester City fans won't mind [the mindless dreadfulness of the game and the ball-aching half-asleep drive back to the north]".

What's wrong with them? Is that a good night out? Surely all footballer teams have a duty to entertain because - well - football is nothing but entertainment; bread and circuses.

Comment by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 2011-01-07 11:58:54

I was at the game. It was the worst game I've seen at the Emirates. You'd expect a team from the lower end of the league to scrap for a point but the team second in the league with the quality City have - no way. It's not like the Emirates is a fortress. West Brom came at us and walked away with three points. Newcastle tried and got lucky.

Comment by HighburyJD 2011-01-07 12:05:39

Dear F365,

I was at the game, judging from this article Mark Booth wasn't. The anti-Citeh bandwagon started with the final whistle boos at the Grove. I booed Citeh because they timewasted from minute one. In my life watching football, at many different levels, I've only twice seen teams so blatantly time waste from KO (a Wigan side, Jewell's I think and Orangebrown's Hull). I was sat with a Luton fan, he'd never seen it in the BlueSquare either.

I was just talking to my mum about this, she knows football and watched the game on telly, and she rightly said its v hard to see timewasting on TV (she didnt really notice it last night). I'm sure Sky's producers love it - every time there's a Citeh goal kick or throw in they know they can cut to a highlight clip/montage/face in the crowd shot, without any danger of missing any gameplay.

Everyman behind the ball is a tactic, an embarrassing one for a team that cost quarter of a billion but a legitimate tactic nonetheless. Timewasting on the other hand is cheating plain and simple. The ref was spectacularly weak - he told Hart to hurry up half a dozen times in the first half alone yet there was not even a threat of a yellow. Their physio was on 4 or 5 times in the 2nd half - every time the 'injured' player was waved on instantly without missing any of the game. We received quite a few FKs on the edge - each and everytime the ref was just as complicit in preventing the quick one as Shitty - he wanted to be centre of attention and ostentatiously pace out his ten yards. At one point Hart was doing kickups rather than taking a goalkick, it was actually unbelievable - he was virtually daring the ref to book him.

I booed the timewasting and the poor ref during and after the game. I paid to watch a football match and saw two thirds of one, why on earth shouldn't I boo?

We were excellent - better than ManUre have played all season (FatSam played a team to lose and was rightly sacked for it).

Love
HighburyJD

Comment by HighburyJD 2011-01-07 12:06:46

oops reposted an appropriate and vaguely edited missive I sent another website but didnt change the addressee, sorry WSC

Comment by donedmundo 2011-01-07 12:19:25

If football is not about entertainment then what is it about? As Danny Blanchflower said, 'The game is about glory. About doing things in style.'

Comment by Goatman 2011-01-07 12:45:21

Surely people are missing the point. If you wish to claim any credit whatsoever for using negative tactics then clearly it must be the tactics that worked. Mancini's did not work, Arsenal hit the woodwork three times or so, Hart produced minor miracles and Arsenal were somewhat wasteful in front of goal. If his tactics had worked then Arsenal would not have been allowed a single opportunity. People like Allardyce and Pulis will eventually see the end of football, we don't need Mancini with all his resources contributing to its demise.

Comment by markbooth19 2011-01-07 12:56:17

In the article I've acknowledged that my preference would be to see City play expansive, attractive football but this takes time. 6 of Arsenal's starting 11 have been at the club for at least 5 years and are well-versed in Wenger's ideology on the game. City on the other hand have a cobbled together side, with only Richards outfield, having spent any amount of time at the club. My question is: why should City have turned up to be rolled over? They simply can not compete with Arsenal in an open, attacking game - especially without David Silva who has become the heartbeat of the side, so it's either accept defeat against an Arsenal who were clearly in the mood, or do what City did and walk away with a point and remain firmly still in the title hunt.
If City do go on to win the title, could they not point to the 4-0 demolition of Aston Villa, the 3-0 over Liverpool or the topsy-turvy 3-2 thriller with Blackpool for the "doing things in style" thing?
Mourinho's Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan sides were founded on defensive principles and they won a great deal. If it's an issue of legacy, then that's a seperate argument.

Comment by pebblethefish 2011-01-07 13:41:54

I actually quite enjoyed the game. So did most of the others (all neutrals) in the pub around me. There were a fair few goalmouth incidents, some nice passes, a couple of sendings off, what's not to like?

If Arsenal want City to come out and attack, then score a goal against them and make them.

Comment by placidcasual 2011-01-07 14:00:21

You know if Arsenal win their game in hand they'll be above City right?

Comment by Lincoln 2011-01-07 15:17:14

"They simply can not compete with Arsenal in an open, attacking game". That's strange, I could have sworn I saw West Brom play decent football and win, or was I confusing their stripes with the black and white ones of Newcastle?

As has been said, football is there to entertain. As a Lincoln fan I have had to sit through hours of long ball. Boring to watch and I suppose at the end of it there is a nice feeling that we won and got up the table. But the process is mundane. My favourite years were with Schofield when we played lovely slick football which took us up the table and as rapidly down.

With articles such on this about football being almost more than entertainment I worry for the game. Sport is their for a bit of a laugh. Suddenly it has become far too serious.

Comment by gintsr 2011-01-07 16:02:48

If Stoke (or Blackburn or Bolton or AnySmallTownSuddenlyEPLClub) play very defensive at Emirates it's understandable but City problem is gazillion pounds spent for current crop of players.
Although result-wise it was ok for City but for me as neutral (although Arsenal of nowadays hating man) catenaccio with time wasting is too much italian thing - long ball can be entertainting but there is need of tempo, there is need for action.

Comment by JimDavis 2011-01-07 18:01:13

As a fan of any sport and as a West Brom fan, I've always had the view that if you are going for the title then you do what is required (the joy of winning, especially after a title/silverware drought we cancel out anything else), if you are making up the numbers then the only thing you have to hang your hat on is to entertain.

Comment by madmickyf 2011-01-08 04:10:47

Surely this article is a wind up? I can't believe a team with all of Man City's resources would play for a draw from the start of the game. Mind you they did that against Luton back in 1983 and ended up being relegated so it has cost them in the past. If only David Pleat had jigged across the pitch after the final whistle!

Comment by adpage85 2011-01-08 12:01:46

Life is too short for Man City and Mancini. Surely you don't remember trophies you remember teams. Even if they do win the league no-one will remember this City team with a smile.

Comment by donedmundo 2011-01-10 11:00:48

Mark, putting four past Villa was hardly 'doing things in style'. I'm a Villa fan and our performance that day was abysmal. Had you been Chelsea or Man United you would have been aiming for double figures.

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