Gilberto, Maldini & Xabi Alonso didn’t need to tackle

From Wayne : the non tackler

Hi Myles,

Your piece compared  the Arsenal and Spurs approaches to the game :

” I’ll remember that Hector Bellerin produced two assists. At 22, Bellerin can play with finesse at high speed. While Spurs right back Kyle Walker is a 25-year-old power player, an athlete who can run and battle and keep running fast for a long time.

Walker, like left back Danny Rose, is a very aggressive competitor. Those guys set the tone for the others by winning the ball, by racing down the flanks looking for a pass, trying to cross it or play somebody in.”

That made me reflect on the English game in general, the speed, instinctive responses required, and the huge energies expended on chasing around, (and the injuries that accompany), and set me thinking back to the words of probably my all time favourite defender, Paolo Maldini: “If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake.” and for the stats lovers he averaged only 0.56 challenges per game during his career!!!

Now here is a guy who made 902 appearances for AC Milan, won 126 international caps for Italy, five Champions League trophies, seven Serie A titles, five Super Cups, five Supercoppa Italiana making 10 times fewer tackles than the top tacklers in this seasons Premier League by February, where Kante had 4.9 per game and Lucas Leiva at 5.6. I read this in a red top rag which usually I’d only clean my windows with.

Ironically, a previous incumbent of the defensive midfield at Anfield also spoke as Maldini, “I don’t think tackling is a quality. It is something you have to resort to, not a characteristic of your game.

“I can’t get into my head that football development would educate tackling as a quality, something to learn, to teach, a characteristic of your play. How can that be a way of seeing the game? I just don’t understand football in those terms.
Tackling is a [last] resort, and you will need it, but it isn’t a quality to aspire to, a definition.
It’s hard to change because it’s so rooted in the English football culture, but I don’t understand it.”

Oh, to see a well positioned defence! They don’t have to be a passionless bunch playing robot football, one of my all time favourite matches was AC Milan’s pasting of Barcelona in the 1994 European Cup Final, full of collective and individual creativity and as tight as a gnat’s chuffy in defence.

Can we not have some of that at Arsenal please?

Because if we are thinking things will just roll on like they are this season we are in for a shock once Guardiola takes control. He will drill every player in positioning, concentration, discipline, etc.

Leicester are disciplined at the back and dynamic on the break. Its a simple and effective formula.

Can you imagine how Citeh will play in another two seasons time? Will anyone else get a look in?

It’s easy to think of Maldini as having played in a different age, but Alonso? Will he be coming with Guardiola? He is 34, but knows the English game only too well.

The true defenders, Bobby Moore, Beckenbauer etc, were readers of the game, knew their jobs and excelled, making their team mates excel in the process.

That’s why watching Arsenal defenders, tearing back trying to recover half of the pitch while Suarez, Neymar and Messi storm forward is enough to make me despair.
All the best,

If Wenger had really been bold enough to put the money on the table for Alonso in 2008, instead of fretting over whether Denilson’s career would be harmed, we would have had one of the game’s finest readers lining up alongside compatriot Fabregas.

He wasn’t rated highly enough in England but his record speaks for itself, with Real Madrid; Champions League: 2013–14, Super Cup: 2014. La Liga: 2011–12.Copa del Rey: 2010–11, 2013–14. Supercopa de España: 2012. With Bayern Munich; Bundesliga: 2014–15 and with Spain; World Cup: 2010. European Championship: 2008, 2012.

It could be argued that he just happened to be playing in a good team that would have won those competitions anyway, but can a player get lucky so consistently for such a sustained period. If he was average, why did Guardiola take him from Madrid to Germany, aged 32 ? Not to keep him company.

The thing is Arsenal lost out massively on a player who could have had the same influence as Gilberto Silva, the last true reader of the game at Arsenal.

Myles says:

I thought Xabi Alonso was the greatest half-back of his generation.

Wrote that here wrote several times.