Ray Stubbs', Alan Hansen's and Mark Lawrenson's lamentable consensus
I find the football analysis on Match of the Day to be a mixed bag at the best of times and truly woeful at others. And for me their analysis of the Arsenal match last Saturday falls into the latter category.
It was clear from the highlights, the match statistics and subsequent newspaper reports that the Toffeemen adopted a thoroughly negative strategy for their match. This is their right and in fact not much of a surprise given that more or less it is the stock response by many teams who have visited Arsenal in recent years.
Post-match Arsene Wenger expressed his frustration with what he saw as gamesmanship by Everton players in halting the Arsenal players taking free-kicks quickly and the goal-keeper taking an age over goal kicks in addition to their general limited approach. He said:
"I have nothing against negative football if it is played in the right spirit. Every goal kick they were moving it from one side to the other. Every foul they stood in front of the ball. It is like watching a film you've seen 10 times before. It is very frustrating to draw with a team that has had zero shots on target apart from the goal. It is difficult to take when you have 70 per cent of possession."
This match report from the Daily Telegraph by a presumably neutral journalist showed that Wenger was not alone in his frustration with Everton's approach:
"There were two brands of football on view at the Emirates Stadium: flowing, adventurous, shot-bristling yet goal-shy on the one hand, and functional, largely negative, unashamedly back-peddling on the other. Everton were disproportionately proud of the latter, and their one point here.
The calculated approach of David Moyes, Everton's manager — admittedly amid a bout of illness in the squad — earned as many admirers beyond Merseyside as they themselves had shots on target in open play. Zero. Their time-wasting was endemic, culminating in Moyes's dismissal from the touchline for histrionic provocation of the referee."
The other Telegraph match report said this:
"It also demonstrated everything that is wrong with the direction the English game is heading. This was a triumph for dull, limited football."
Yet this type of opinion was not reflected by the panel of ex-Liverpool defenders Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson and the presenter Ray Stubbs. In fact, Stubbs seemed amazed that Wenger should have expressed frustration with the Everton spoiling tactics. This was then followed - quite predictably given their general views on football - by Lawrenson and Hansen concurring with Stubbs and giving their blessing to Everton's tactics.
It was dire analysis - the worst I have seen in a long time; so bad that it was funny.
Sure Everton had the right to adopt their tactics and it paid off. But it does not follow that their negativity mentality should be immune from criticism as apparently was the consensus between Stubbs, Hansen and Lawrenson. On the contrary, they are the type of tactics that explain why the general state of English football is sub-standard and reflects why there is a lack of a widespread culture in England of cultivating progressive, technical, attacking football.
The BBC need analysts who can actually be analytical and see the bigger picture. This discussion between Stubbs, Hansen and Lawrenson summed up my opinion that it regularly does not deliver this basic aim.