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Deja Vu? - Reflections on the World Cup Final and the BBC’s pundits

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As I watched the match last night I felt that I was experiencing deja vu, a team small in stature but big in talent were being pushed, pulled, kicked & blocked and in some cases totally assaulted by a team of lesser ability, whilst a Premier League referee allowed the opposition to do whatever they wanted to stop them from playing their free flowing pass & move game. However, the deja vu stopped during BBC's half time summary, where rather than the usual "that's how to play against Arsenal, get in their faces, don't let them play, they don't like it up em". We got this from Alan Hansen, "total football, total thuggery more like", and his sentiments were roundly echoed by Lee Dixon, Alan Shearer & Gary Lineker. I'm sure I am not the only Arsenal devotee to notice this sudden change of tactical strategy offered by the MOTD team (Ed’s note - Indeed not)Had the team in orange been managed by, Allardyce, Pullis or any of the other purveyors of Premier League brutality, no doubt their tactics would have been heralded as being sound & the only way to play against a far superior, technically gifted team. I would like to point out at this juncture, that I am not a fan of the no contact game that some (Arsene included) advocate. I applaud teams who work hard, close space, tackle hard but fair & hurry their opponents out of their passing rhythm (like Barca did to us for an hour at home last season). But I draw the line at the open aggression which leads to three broken legs in five seasons or the type of challenges that I saw from Van Bommel & De Jong last night.Arsenal fans are well aware of Van Bommel, as we've fallen foul of his tactics a few times over the years. His modus operandi has never changed, they call his ilk "combative players" but they are little more than playground bullies who supplement their lack of skill with a large chunks of aggression & violence. This makes them firm favourites with managers who's teams lack the overall skill to compete with the Spains (and yes the Arsenals) of this world. If the De Jong's challenge had been caught on CCTV in a town centre on a Saturday night, I am sure Mr De Jong would have been up before the beak this morning & he would be having an extended holiday at the taxpayers’ expense.There was widespread condemnation of the selection of Howard Webb in Spain. They suspected that as in the Premier League, serious foul play would go unpunished & this indeed turned out to be the case. Webb did his usual, he gesticulated a lot, gave yellow cards for innocuous fouls but allowed Van Bommel & De Jong to stay on the park when they clearly should have seen red. You might argue that he did this to prevent the world’s biggest game from being ruined but it was ruined anyway by the Dutch tactics & a referee whose "England's best" status, I have always questioned.Funnily enough the Dutch were on the receiving end of something very similar in 1974, when the West Germans, aided by English referee Jack Taylor, used strong arm tactics to stifle Rinus Michels’ total football dream team. This combined with the corruption that saw the Argentinians thwart the Dutch again in 1978 meant I actually wanted the Dutch to win as I felt they were due. This however changed within five minutes of kick off when it became obvious that they had come to The Greatest Show On Earth with a win at all costs mentality & a mandate from their manager to give Spain "the treatment" to stop them playing.Cesc must have thought he was in Stoke on a cold Wednesday night in December, as he watched the Dutch systematically set about his countrymen. You know you're in for a rough night when even Robben & Schneider are leaving their foot in. I am now looking forward to the first MOTD featuring us against one of our perennial foes that kick us off the park to see if Hansen & co have completely changed their tune or if it was a one off in support of Spanish flair.Lastly, despite all that has transpired this summer, I was pleased for Cesc. It was a very good cameo appearance which culminated in him laying on the winner, he deserves success. We can only hope that his confinement to the bench behind the massively impressive Xavi & Iniesta convinces him the grass is not greener on the other side & that he now stays to give it another crack at silverware at the club where he's loved most.

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