I tire of the endless post match analysis of referees' decisions in the Premiership.
That said, I can make an exception for Vincent Kompany's red card yesterday - it presents the opportunity for players to learn about decision making and technique from a high profile example.
My view is that Mike Dean made a correct decision. Refereeing the game, to a degree, is about interpretation, and Dean took the view that Kompany's tackle was reckless and potentially dangerous - I happen to agree. I accept that other people may disagree but I'd rather not focus on the referee. The player is the one who ultimately controls what happens in that phase of play and the one who gives the referee a decision to make as a result of his actions.
If I look at the footage again, there is absolutely no need for Kompany to make that challenge. There are defending players covering the area behind him so Jack Wilshere poses no immediate goal scoring threat. If he did, you could argue that if he didn't make that challenge, Wilshere's momentum would take him past Kompany and into the penalty area with only the goalkeeper to beat, so perhaps Kompany would have had to make the challenge to prevent a goalscoring opportunity. Even then, the risk of a red card is high as he would therefore have been the last man.
Kompany limits his options by getting too square on. His feet get planted side by side and the only way to get the leverage required to make a challenge that meets and potentially stops Wilshere's momentum is to jump forward, probably leading with his right leg which is naturally the stronger. This probably means both feet leaving the ground and certainly studs being raised. If you watch carefully, Wilshere loses control because his trailing leg slips. If that hadn't happened and he had made a challenge with his right leg, Kompany's studs would have probably clashed with Wilshere's inner ankle or another part of his foot or leg, resulting in some sort of injury to Wilshere (take a look at the following clip from YouTube to see a similar incident - defender's body shape is all wrong and really shouldn't make the challenge as a result - also featuring Arsenal and Mike Dean http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=Qwev_SUdQVQ&NR=1).
The speed at which Wilshere is running with the ball is considerable, so I accept that Kompany did not have a lot of time to decide on how best to defend the situation. However, the fundamental technical failing Kompany demonstrates is that he is simply too square on. Defenders when face with an attacker with the ball should always adjust their body so that one foot is further ahead than the other, resulting in a 'side on' body position. This allows the defender to adjust his position quicker. That in turn means that he can 'jockey' or hold up his opponent, ie face up to the attacker and travel backwards, using nimble feet and side steps, holding up or delaying the attacker's progress by doing so. This puts doubt in the attacker's mind and if he's not confident he can use speed or skill to beat the defender, will often turn back or play the ball sideways, allowing the defender's team more time to organise the defensive unit. A right footed defender, as Kompany is, should ideally try to place his left foot ahead of his right and open up the right side of his body but you can also lead with the right and still 'channel' the attacker into an area where more of your defensive team colleagues are, even if it is on your weaker side.
If a challenge has to be made, defenders have more chance of winning the ball legally if the challenge is made from the side of the attacker, perhaps if it looks like momentum is going to carry the ball and the man past the defender.
Even better, by getting side on and 'jockeying' the attacking player, the chances of that attacker taking a bad touch which allows the defender to step across and win possession whilst staying on his feet increase considerably.
I rate Kompany as probably the most consistent and perhaps the best centre back in the Premiership. He's an incredible leader, great in the air, reads the game fantastically and is as brave a man as you'll find on the football pitch. That bravery combined with his will to win means that Kompany never shirks a challenge.
I can relate to that. I was not great on the ball but tried to lead by example and never shirked a challenge myself. The sight of me winning a crunching 'fifty fifty' in the middle of the park probably inspired my team and if I saw the chance to go in, I did so singlemindedly. I played at a time when the game, though changing, was still played in such a manner that big challenges where two opponents flew in were just seen as part of the game. If I ended up getting there late, I invariably hurt my opponent though it was never my intention to do so, and on more than one occasion, such challenges basically led to mass confrontations. I never backed down, ever, and I thought that was the right way to play. Then again, the last game I played in English non-league football ended with me breaking my leg in such a challenge where I got the ball and my opponent got me.
Now, I realise that such challenges actually gain you very little - the ball and where it ends up being immaterial to the outcome of the physical challenge. As a coach now, I'd rather players stood up and ensured their opponents had to earn the right to go passed them rather than being gifted an attacking opportunity because my player is on his backside and therefore out of the game.
There is still a need for a tackle in the right area, made as a result of the defender's body shape being correct and therefore ensuring execution of that tackle is made from a solid base so that the chances of winning the ball cleanly are greater. I still want players to dominate their opponents if a physical challenge is required.
However, the game has changed and players need to weigh up the pros and cons of every decision they make on the pitch. Kompany has been sent off before in very similar circumstances. Both he and Roberto Mancini need to look at the reasons why this has happened again.
It's important to state also that I don't believe Kompany ever goes in to a challenge aiming to hurt his opponent - his desire to simply win the ball is clearly all consuming.
I have to commend Kompany on his comments about the referee, who he refused to criticise acknowledging just how difficult Mike Dean's job is. Kompany's a great leader and example to others, and I'm sure is professional enough to look at the footage again and realise he can do better next time.
Follow Kevin Graham on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@webblyhead