Xabi Alonso - ''Tackling is not really a quality'' Do you agree?

After Jonjo Shelvey and Jonny Evans almost broke each others shinbones this weekend, is there far too high an emphasis on tackling as a quality in the British game?

This weekend saw the subject of tackling in our modern game brought into the spotlight once again after Jonjo Shelvey and Jonny Evans went in hell for leather with Jonjo Shelvey receiving a red-card and on secondary evidence the Northern Irishmen lucky not to follow him off the pitch.

First of all it is important not to question Mark Halsey’s decision; the immediate reaction of a match official is always difficult and while Jonny Evans did leave the ground, when he entered the actual tackle his foot was planted and sideways, studs not showing, while Shelvey seemed to merely extend his boot into a karate-kick action. In hindsight they both probably should have walked; but referees do not have this magnificent quality.

The reasoning behind the tackle given by the expert panel of Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville was interesting however, something along the lines of ‘two young British boys’ and how neither could ‘let that go, they had to go for it’ well something along that train of thought. I agree, but I was brought up with that mentality; that tackling was a quality. It shows bravery, strength and a passed test of character to go full blooded into a challenge like that as long as it isn’t dangerous.

But former Liverpool central-midfielder and Spanish international Xabi Alonso disagrees, as he stated in an interview with the Daily Mail last year

'Tackling is not really a quality, it's more something you are forced to resort to when you don't have the ball,'

'You would come across an interview with a lad from the youth team and they've asked him his age, his heroes as a kid, and his strong points. And he would say things like shooting and tackling. I can't get into my head that footballing development would educate tackling as a quality.’’

But surely we haven’t been doing it all wrong, I mean Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard fly into tackles sometimes, it is part of what makes them ‘English’ players. Yet Alonso elaborated, saying players such as Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes have been under-rated in England because they don’t know how to tackle. Instead of a breed of tacklers young British footballers should aspire for something else…

'What players should aspire to is that understanding of the game. We have players like Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Santi Cazorla, Silva and Mata. They can play in tight spaces and they know how to interpret the pattern of a game. They know when to dribble and when to play a short pass. And for me that intelligence is fundamental and needs to be developed from the kids' level.'

So does Alonso have a point, is the cultural obsession with ‘getting stuck in’ in the UK a significant problem? I mean what does he know? He has only won two European Championships and a World Cup Winners medal.

image: © kong niffe

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