How many chances does a guy get?
If you were Diego Costa Saturday, more than deserved. If you were Gabriel, more will come. And if you happen to be the writer of a little-known Arsenal blog, as many as you see fit.
Which is nice.
Anyway, it’s been interesting to see the fall-out from the Chelsea game. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one worried we might face the backlash of a team enlivened by an odds-on win against Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Alas the Gunner-virus sent to the Chelsea tactical computer didn’t land this week. And, with an even footing restored, it hardly went well did it?
Worse, we were robbed of a genuinely intriguing tussle. As it turns out, this Arsenal team isn’t as good as Chelsea with first a one player, and then a two player, advantage. We can’t learn much from that which isn’t already obvious. Despite the champions’ prat-fall of a start to the season, they’ve enough about them to overcome a stuttering Arsenal recklessly reduced by dismissals.
Mourinho’s soundbites after the game were infuriating, but he wasn’t all wrong. Not in defending Costa, where he’s surely baiting us all, but in his thinking about emotional control. After all, what has been cast into the limelight is Gabriel’s willingness to ‘mix-it’, and the praise that willingness has drawn. Individual emotional control though, let’s talk about that.
Martin Keown has been vocal in his support for Gabriel, with backing also appearing from other quarters. James McNicholas (aka Gunnerblog) has written this piece about how Gabriel has now shown a welcome edge. This is true.
The piece also highlights the example of Dennis Bergkamp as someone who occasionally made use of an edge, the ‘dark arts’. Of course physicality, edge, ‘dark arts’ or whatever are sometimes needed. As is Gabriel’s ability to “stick up for his fellow defender Laurent Koscielny”. But there are two key considerations.
First, the likes of Dennis Bergkamp would generally employ ‘edge’ in a more intelligent and spread out competitiveness than that shown by Gabriel. For example, over the course of a particularly physical match, and not in reacting with direct violence likely to result in punishment.
Referees, of course, react swiftly to any direct violence or unwarranted aggression on the pitch. Yet what they are unlikely to react to, at any level, is ongoing physicality or a hyped-up non-physical anger matching that which has already been accepted in the game.
Sometimes, as with Keown and his infamous and largely harmless falling chop on Van Nistelrooy, edge can even be more frown-and-wince than dangerous violence.
On Saturday, Mike Dean seemingly accepted Costa and Gabriel’s ‘firm’ mock pats to each other as they were given a talking to. If Mike Dean can accept physicality from Costa, he can accept that to be matched by Gabriel. If physicality is fair, or non-damaging and equal then there’s no problem.
The second thing is that any attempt to exceed ‘fair physicality’ should be dealt with and backed up by video referees. End of discussion…to the point I now feel like I’m wasting words. Events thereafter the Costa and Koscielny clash are spoken about merely as a grotesque necessity borne of the absence of something which would likely have prevented them.
Football needs technology which quickly indentifies and removes anyone uninterested in playing a safe, fair game at the top level. It’s nonsensical that it’s not yet implemented. It’s ludicrous.
The take away is this: Gabriel can learn to be like Dennis Bergkamp and intelligent in his physicality. Perhaps he can learn to be like Martin Keown. But I’m sure he and others in the squad (Giroud, to name one) can can develop intelligent physicality.
That’s individual emotional control.
Players need it. At least while a player behaving like Costa can see acts go unpunished before the match points are unfairly decided.