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Holland drops de Jong after Ben Arfa challenge

04 October 2010

I didn’t expect this week to be very big at The Goalless Draw, as the second international break in a month brings another halting intermission to the start of the Premiership season. That said, this Guardian report out today explaining that Holland manager Bert van Marwijk has dropped Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong for the country’s two upcoming Euro ’12 qualifiers intrigues me.

Best have the oxygen tanks handy when de Jong is around.

I have had a running meme with Jake that I think de Jong is a leg-breaking thug who needlessly maimed Stuart Holden in a March friendly against the U.S. and then almost impaled Xabi Alonso with a kung fu side kick in the World Cup final in July. It’s somewhat in jest, as I don’t believe de Jong is a dirty or malicious player in his physical defensive midfield role. I do, however, think he is needlessly reckless, and that, in my opinion, defined his challenge on Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa that left the striker with two fractured bones in his leg.

De Jong initially won the ball cleanly with his left leg, but then, either to protect himself from a collision, through instinct, or whatever, brought his trailing knee up and directly through Ben Arfa’s shin as he finished the tackle. Here is the video:

Jake and I had a long, heated exchange over gChat last night after I saw the challenge. I said it looked reasonable live speed, but on replay, was (in my mind) a clear straight red card offense. The tackle defines that type of punishment, needlessly and recklessly endangering an opponent. Jake, vociferously, disagreed, pointing out that the play wasn’t even whistled for a foul (true, and an ongoing problem in the English game) and that de Jong has one red card in his career (also true, and also questionable given his actions on at least three instances this calendar year).

This morning, van Marwijk delivered some very damning quotes after saying he had “no alternative” other than to drop de Jong from the squad for the upcoming matches with Moldova and Sweden.

“I’ve seen the pictures back,” van Marwijk said. “It was a wild and unnecessary offence. He went in much too hard. It is unfortunate, especially since he does not need to do it.

The funny thing is that the referee did not even show a yellow card for it. Apparently, there are other standards. But I have a problem with the way Nigel needlessly looks to push the limit. I am going to speak to him.”

Now, given the way van Marwijk’s side destroyed the World Cup final with cynical fouling, this is pretty rich. That said, the second part of his quote was the crux of my side of the debate with Jake. There seem to be wildly varying definitions on what’s a foul and what’s a cardable offense in soccer, especially in the Premiership. We have seen very tame, accidental challenges receive straight reds and very suspect offenses go completely unpunished.

De Jong is a very talented player, but he has shown a repeated tendency at this point for needlessly physical and reckless challenges. I don’t know if the Premiership will do anything to de Jong, but what it should do is crack down much harder on these types of challenges going forward. Soccer is a physical enough game where players get injured. We don’t need more broken legs because of overzealous challenges that simply, in my mind, are not required. Cleaning up this along with simulation would allow for the power and skill of the best players in the world to be the proper storyline.

What do you guys think?

One Comment leave one →
  1. 04 October 2010 12.30pm

    The Prem can’t do anything in this instance, as Atkinson clearly saw the tackle (and has admitted as much).

    The interesting thing about those three tackles that have raised your hackles is that only the first one on Holden was “conventional.” The kung fu kick to Alonso’s chest in the World Cup final is one of the strangest things I’ve seen on a pitch, and he didn’t seem to intend to kick an opponent in the chest (and has said as much), but he wasn’t really close to the ball. Just strange. And this tackle also had a very strange quality to it, as he took the ball cleanly, then seemed to turn as to avoid something, at which point his right leg whipped up into Ben Arfa.

    I would say that either he’s prone to losing control or just does weird things out on the pitch, but the fact is that his disciplinary record in two different leagues and internationally is pretty stellar for a player of any position, let alone a tackling, ball-winning CDM.

    I think de Jong’s a great player and I’d prefer if he were in the headlines for his displays such as the one a week ago against Chelsea as opposed to maiming opponents. Accidents are going to happen and you don’t want to see him lose the aggression that makes him great, but maybe if he could figure out a way to pull out of a challenge a little better.

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