Diving or simulation is a part of the modern game and whilst this does not justify its existence, a dive is now as common as a corner. Incidentally, it is destroying the art of defending.
Nacho Monreal won a penalty for his Arsenal side last weekend and sent them on their way to a fantastic victory against title contenders Manchester City. However, what we all witnessed was one of the best defenders of our generation, Vincent Kompany, standing his ground and bossing his penalty area, just like a centre back is taught to do and being penalised for doing it.
In the other Sunday game, Sone Aluko stayed on his feet despite contact from West Ham defender James Tomkins, which was rather refreshing to see.
A heated debate ensued on Match of the Day 2, where Robbie Savage stated that Aluko should have gone down because there was contact between him and Tomkins. However, Mark Chapman correctly argued that if the contact was not great enough to knock him over, he would have had to simulate being fouled in order to gain the penalty.
It is exactly this argument that must be drilled into the heads of a certain few footballers, who believe a breath down the back of their neck from a chasing defender is a green light to hurl themselves to the floor.
James Tomkins was lucky that Aluko is a more honest player than Monreal, but there are others who have made it incredibly difficult for defenders to simply do the job they have been taught to do. Football is a very physical sport, so by its nature there will be contact between players and it should stay that way. However, too often we hear the word 'contact' as justification for a player going down in the penalty area, when it simply isn't enough.
You cannot deny how talented the likes of Eden Hazard and Raheem Sterling are, however, their ability to run rings round defenders with the ball stuck to their feet has only been emphasised due to their exploitation of the 'if there is contact go down' penalty system.
The rules of the beautiful game have not changed in the past few decades regarding this issue, but more and more players seem to be milking it for all it's worth. There is no obvious solution to the issue, as one referee's decision will vary from another and the same referee will often make different calls for two incredibly similar incidents.
It took a video replay to see that Sone Aluko had done the right thing and stayed on his feet despite contact, but it is also possible to argue that the referee did not give the spot kick because he failed to go down.
Ultimately, the issue of diving is not one that can be resolved overnight, as it has become a part of the modern game. However, a small change in how referees judge situations may make a huge difference. A defender has every right to boss his penalty area and protect his goal by standing his ground and putting pressure on a forward, but these qualities are hard to come by at the moment. This is not due to a lack of quality defenders, but to the fact that they are unable to use their presence without the fear of conceding a penalty.
Per Mertesacker is heavily criticised for being too slow for a centre back, but he possesses all the qualities of a great defender; he is a leader, tall and strong and is never afraid to make a challenge. The simple reason we don't necessarily see these abilities is because defenders are losing their right to make an honest challenge without making contact, which of course we all know is enough reason to go down.
If we don't want to see the death of the traditional defender then we must ensure the death of the dive and the idea that contact merits hitting the turf.
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