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The Watercooler: the weekend talking points

Paul Ring presses rewind after another eventful few days in the world of football.

Image: SIMON DAWSON/AP/Press Association Images

Studs up

Settle this for me, what constitutes a dangerous tackle? I’m not talking about the black-and-white, Keane-on-Haaland type. But the more grey ones like say Jonny Evans challenge on Stuart Holden on Saturday.

The ball squirmed loose and was gently passing between both players. The classic 50-50 ball. Evans dove in. There can be no disputing that. He got the ball first, but followed through and left a nasty gash on Holden’s leg. The referee having taken his time and looked at the injury decided that it was a straight red card.

It was technically the correct call. For all the talk of football becoming a non-contact sport, dangerous tackles have to be eradicated. There should be no dispute. Dive in, studs up and you’re off.

But as long as referees continue to pick and choose what defines the tackle than they will continue. Jamie Carragher launched himself into Nani’s shin two weeks ago. It was reckless and very dangerous. It was a red. It wasn’t given.

In rugby a spear tackle is defined and dealt with. A face-mask hold or now a straight helmet-on-helmet hit in the NFL is defined and dealt with. Studs up and you’re off. If it is kept that simple then it will end.

Broken Record for Arsenal

Arsenal kept the script and merely changed the actors at the Hawthorns on Saturday. It is best not to devote too much thought in trying to work out just what Manuel Almunia was thinking as he sprinted out towards Sebastian Squillachi and left his goal open.  It is the type of goalkeeping only seen in local parks with a “fly” keeper in situ.

The cameras immediately panned to Jens Lehman on the Arsenal bench. He sat there with his best poker face on. Wenger has said he brought him for emergency cover only. Time to break the glass Arsene.

Serie A starts to get serious

Inter Milan have not had an easy season. Consider that they lost arguably the greatest coach in the world in Jose Mourinho while the memory of a recently-won Champions league was still fresh. A crippling injury list added to problems between replacement coach Rafael Benitez and senior players such as Javier Zanetti ensured a sluggish start to the season. The World Club Cup was won in December but Benitez departed soon after and Leonardo was summoned to rescue the champions.

All the while their city rivals AC were racking up the points. The Rossineri were top, reborn and ready to take their first scudetto in seven years.

But now the wheels are beginning to fall off, just while Inter are starting to purr. A 1-0 win for them over Lecce coupled with Milan’s 1-0 loss at Palermo has shrunk a lead once a strong as twelve points, to two. The international break has been timely for a number of sides across Europe but none more so than the league leaders. The next fixture for the two? The Milan derby, Sunday, 3 April. Make a note.

The Old Firm- this time with silverware

Just in case you haven’t had enough Old Firm action, they gave you a little extra time yesterday. There was a trophy as well of course, Rangers winning the Scottish League Cup and with it Walter Smith’s 20th trophy as ‘Gers manager.

There have been so many ties between the two that it is hard to see what if any affect this has on the championship race.

Fabio plays pass the armband

It is extraordinary just how much the English media cares about their national captaincy. As allied forces began their military campaign in Libya on Saturday night, you had to rub eyes to believe that along with this news on the Sky News ticker, there was confirmation that John Terry had regained the armband from Rio Ferdinand.

Fabio Capello has been utterly flummoxed by the captaincy issue since taking on the job. The Italian way is to give the armband to whoever has the most caps. Everyone should be a leader.

By reappointing Terry, he has passed over his vice captain Steven Gerrard and has put the issue front and centre again.

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Paul Ring

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