Sporting Deal | Sports News | Raging against too many goals is simply swimming against the tide | Barney Ronay

skip to content

All NewsLatest News: Barrett in for Cane in NZ back-row

All Betting TipsLatest Betting Tips: Horse Racing - Tip of the Day

All NewsLatest News: ZOZO Championship: Latest scores

All ReviewsTop Bookmakers: William Hill are rated 9/10 and offer a £0 sign up bonus

All Welcome BonusesWelcome Bonuses: Bet Victor - Bet £5 Get £30

Latest NewsArchive

Raging against too many goals is simply swimming against the tide | Barney Ronay

2nd November 2012

Can there be such a thing as too many goals? Isn’t it time we just enjoyed the frenzied age we’re living in?

No, please, no more. Really, no more goals. This week the sense of altered pressure, a minor shifting of the barometer in English football has been almost tangible. It isn’t exactly raining goals out there, it is more a persistent humidity of goals, a rising fungal mulch.

The increase in goals scored per game in the Premier League has been clear for some time: each of the last three seasons has brought an increase on the old record, while this season we may for the first time top three goals per game. But it is also there in the way the game feels now.

On Saturday lunchtime Manchester United will play Arsenal, a fixture that might once have conjured a sense of high level constriction, of a miserly wringing out of decisive details, but which instead we must contemplate pre-exhausted with goal leap and net bulge, braced for repeated TV cutaways to that frighteningly unguarded moment when even the most contained and ruminative of managers will come rearing up like a startled silverback, neck swivelling, fists bunched, face the colour of startled spam.

For all the cajoling of television, a glut of goals is not something that anybody really contemplates with any pleasure. Watching Arsène Wenger and Brian McDermott on the touchline during the 7-5 at the Madejski there was a shared sense of some collective bungle in train, the two managers standing helpless and baffled like empty-handed men at the top of a scaffold surveying, for a frozen moment, the wreckage of the ruined chandelier down below.

Nobody who really likes football likes goals that much. Not in the abstract, deprived of context or scarcity value. What is the pleasure, really, in witnessing a goal? Or in witnessing a goal surrounded by so many other goals that it becomes little more than its basic parts: a leather sphere propelled across a chalk line into a segmented nylon gauze. Does that sound fun? The only way in which a goal has any real content is against the wider background of an absence of goals. There must be struggle and despair, we must genuinely believe to the last that a goal might not happen at all.

This is why television commentators, in times of goal scarcity, would howl and yelp and say things like “Rammed it in!” and “Glorious from the Ipswich schemer!” still completely astonished that anything like this could ever happen, success so huge and wholly farcical. By contrast football that is flush with goals, its emotional barometer set constantly to delirium, is like watching an endless series of cinematic climaxes with no narrative ballast: two hours of car crashes, or closing musical montages, or Robin Williams looking wise and hugging someone as the credits start to roll. This isn’t enough. We need to know that Robin Williams has previously suffered, felt angry, clowned inspiringly in front of photogenic children, perhaps even that Robin Williams will soon die of some decorative disease. Why is this happening? It has become fashionable to suggest that teams have “forgotten how to defend”, albeit it seems more likely that defending has become more difficult. Most obviously this is because of the rule changes that have dampened the concussive side of football, forcing a defending player to compete in registers such as balance, speed and agility, rather than just the catch-all smear of physical force. Plus there is the ongoing nightmare of offside, confusion wrought by progressive fiddling around at the edges that echoes dimly the more major change to the offside rules of the early 1920s that led to the Football League’s greatest upsurge in goalscoring, the Dixie Dean era of Brylcreemed cannonball centre-forwards

And perhaps some credit is due here after all. Even in a traditionally conservative league attacking innovations have become a cautious kind of vogue. The defining image of last season’s title race was the sight of Yaya Touré in his “advanced” runaway dustcart mode, the ball not so much glued to his foot as caught beneath his rearing hooves. A highly effective attacking tool, albeit one that, as a footballing spectacle, brings to mind a particularly chaotic West Country cheese rolling competition glimpsed briefly on the Saturday afternoon regional news.

This season it has been the turn of Chelsea to provide innovation via the attacking trio known to some (apparently) as “Mazacar”, and led by Juan Mata and supported most memorably by the luminous Oscar, who doesn’t so much run as glide and moonwalk and slither with a bell-bottomed sense of chic and who could be teleported into any team in any era, past or future, and people would still sigh and swoon and blush and say, oh yes, oh … yes, mmm, such lissome grace oh I say he’s a doll, daddy, an absolute doll.

Beyond this the current goal glut is perhaps not so much a function of tactics or tinkering, but of money, which has already skewed and flustered pretty much everything else in football. Recently, I asked a multiple title-winning defender about the current standard of defending and his response was that players don’t have the time now to perfect the art; that defending is boring, serious and horribly repetitive work, that the rehearsals and drills involved demand a sense of subservience, humility, even desperation, that is just not there. Players are too preoccupied elsewhere, too itinerant, with team-building too hurried and too much a process of ad hoc diplomacy

Perhaps, just as no one will ever draw like Michelangelo again because there simply isn’t the time or the inclination, nobody will ever defend like Jürgen Kohler or Steve Bould or Franco Baresi. And perhaps this isn’t even something to regret or revolt against, it is simply part of of these wider currents.

It is what is happening now: a phenomenon to be observed with a sense not of rising panic or a wringing of the hands, but glazed and burpingly sated, replete with our own sense of everyday delirium. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Read more at The Guardian
© Guardian News & Media Limited

Please Log In / Register to Leave a Comment

Please log in or register to leave a comment about this article.

Found new entry: Barrett in for Cane in NZ back-row

ERROR in url_title: This URL title is being used by another entry. URL titles must be unique.

Osemele to have surgery amid Jets row already exists.

Found new entry: WATCH: SSN in 60 Seconds

ERROR in url_title: This URL title is being used by another entry. URL titles must be unique.

Found new entry: CL: Messi milestone in unconvincing Barca win

ERROR in url_title: This URL title is being used by another entry. URL titles must be unique.

Mitro hat-trick fires Fulham past Luton already exists.

Okolie: This will be for Shane already exists.

Ox double on CL return helps beat Genk already exists.

EFL highlights: Fulham win, Posh top of L1 already exists.

Coventry back to winning ways already exists.

Last-gasp Brownhill sinks Charlton already exists.

ZOZO Championship: Latest scores already exists.

Emery: I wanted Fabinho at Arsenal already exists.

Ricciardo, Hulkenberg suffer disqualification already exists.

Huddersfield hold Boro to extend unbeaten run already exists.

Peterborough thump Accrington to go top already exists.

Ole: Kane is one of the best already exists.

Crooks double downs Ipswich already exists.

Liverpool condemn 'offensive' Origi banner already exists.

Shinnie wins it late for Derby already exists.

Magennis scores, sent off as Hull beat Forest already exists.

Entries with errors: 3

Time taken: 0.57745695114136 seconds.

Memory used: 8,760,896 bytes.

Import has finished.