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Alex Ferguson on Tackling

Jonny Evans’ tackle on Stuart Holden received a straight red card. Holden was scraped off the pitch, carted away on a stretcher, and will be out six months.


Although Ferguson didn’t know that Stuart Holden would be out for the rest of the season, he did witness the player being carried off the pitch. Yet he is still unwilling to fully concede that Evans’ tackle warranted a red card.

The sending-off was a little unfortunate, he explains, because the foot was not high and the tackle was a fair attempt to get the ball. The referee awarded the red card after seeing that “the boy” (Holden) was badly injured. But Ferguson admittedly makes no complaint, since he acknowledges that any tackle with studs up, regardless of intent and outcome, is likely to receive a red card.

Also of note in the post-match interview was his explanation for bringing Dimitar Berbatov on to replace Javier Hernandez once the team was reduced to ten men.

Without Evans, the team was at a height disadvantage against an aerially strong Bolton. Berbatov was not brought on for his scoring potential, but to rebalance the height ratio without having to go to an overly defensive 10-man formation.


Arsenal 4—Bolton 1

"From the two games against Blackburn and Bolton, two years ago we would not have taken six points."-Arséne Wenger


Kevin Davies hands on hips Kevin Davies is irritated by the injustice of receiving a deserved yellow card.

Playing Blackburn and then Bolton in consecutive league matches begins to sketch the evolutionary curve of style in the league. Blackburn will beat their opponents by clubbing, sometimes heightening the form to Stanley Kubrick’s dawning of man. Bolton still play directly, but if there isn’t a little evidence of style in their play, then it’s there in intent and spirit. Owen Coyle’s work-in-progress aims not to replace boulder with polished stone, but carve something out of it.

For Arsenal, facing one bullish club after the other presents them with an immediate chance to determine if matching the strength of Blackburn was uncharacteristic. Okay, so you beat Blackburn, well done. Now here…try some Bolton, just as fibrous, but a little spicier.

There are warm relations between the two clubs over Jack Wilshere’s loan agreement, but a new era at Bolton hasn’t curbed the fiesty tussle of ideological differences going back to Sam Allardyce. The players are quick to find each other irritating. They may even be irritated at each other before the game, finding deficiencies in the visitor’s facilities that are reflective the host’s character.

During matches, a few from each side progress from irritated to angry as the fouls and perceived injustices accumulate. There are always good hard tackles and one or two bad ones when these clubs meet. Some of the bad taste carried away from these matches dissipates, while some of it lingers (Wiliam Gallas’ tackle on Mark Davis) waiting to be re-irritated. This last match was no exception. It unabashedly began where things left off. Recently, this has ended with Arsenal winning.

Kevin Davies got things started after eighteen minutes by receiving a yellow card for a late tackle on Wilshere. The foul ended a sequence that Davies began by taking out Thomas Rosicky—a sure caution overlooked by referee Stuart Atwell.

Play stopped while a medic attended to Wilshere, which offered plenty of time for the two to acknowledge their shared past, be cool with what has just happened, but replays catch no communication between them. A stoic Davies stood there no more than ten yards away, and then grew a little irritated when handed a yellow card. Wilshere, proving to be tough as nails, looked like he needed only a snifter of whole milk to get on with things. The entire episode was so deeply impersonal that it could only be just part of the game.


Wilshere with medic 2 Jack Wilshere telling the medic where it hurts, but not that badly.


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