Sunday 15 December 2019

Art of tackling has sadly been removed from modern game

Jim Beglin

I have a lot of sympathy for Vincent Kompany and really hope his red card against Arsenal is overturned because the referee's reaction to his challenge on Jack Wilshere shows just how FIFA has got the balance wrong when it comes to tackling.

My playing career was badly affected by a broken leg I suffered while playing for Liverpool against Everton in 1987, so I am not complaining about the efforts being made to protect players from serious injury as a result of reckless challenges.

But I really believe that those efforts have gone too far and that defenders are now unable to display the art of tackling or use controlled aggression to win the ball.

That has led to the issue of players on the receiving end of challenges making a meal of them to get their opponents booked or sent off.

I do not want to label anybody as a cheat, but I certainly feel that too many players are now cheating each other into early baths.

In terms of the Kompany incident, it was almost as though the Manchester City captain made the challenge on Wilshere in slow-motion because he was so mindful of the need to get it right.

Kompany's leg was not high, he had his eye on the ball and he made every effort to win the ball cleanly, which he went on to do.

Wilshere slipped at the last moment and tumbled into Kompany's path and that may have made the challenge look worse in the eyes of the referee, Mike Dean.

But issuing a red card for that tackle was very harsh on Kompany. He did everything he could to avoid making a bad tackle.

The game has changed an awful lot since I played in the 1980s, when you had to prove yourself as a man by being aggressive and winning your tackles.

In games against Manchester United, I remember coming up against the likes of Norman Whiteside, Kevin Moran, Bryan Robson, Mark Hughes and Remi Moses, knowing that it was going to be a physical challenge and that the game would be won through aggression. But football has changed and players now have to overcome opponents who are happy to exaggerate contact in challenges simply to get the other player into trouble.

The aggression has gone and it is barely a contact sport now, so it must be so difficult for defenders to play their game.

To that extent, I cannot point to anybody in the game today who I would describe as a great tackler.

That is not because I think the game is littered with bad tacklers or defenders who cannot tackle, but because it has become an art form that has been phased out.

My former Liverpool team-mate Mark Lawrenson was a fantastic tackler – it was a part of the game that was his forte. But defenders are no longer allowed to exhibit that part of their game without risking receiving a yellow or red card for their efforts.

I think what sums the present situation up is that 20 years ago teams could gain an edge on their opponents by showing aggression in a controlled manner.

But now, teams showing that kind of aggression and physicality give their opponents the edge because players will take advantage.

And that is a real shame.

• Jim Beglin made 98 appearances for Liverpool and earned 15 caps for Ireland before suffering a broken leg against Everton in January 1987 which ended his Anfield career and left him sidelined for two and a half years.

Irish Independent

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