The Pragmatism of Bacary Sagna

09Apr10

This is one of those “intertwined” posts. The Arsenal fullback on his team’s mentality:

Following their Champions League exit this week, Arsenal are now focused solely on the Premier League but, with a three-point gap to make up on leaders Chelsea and only five games remaining, Sagna wants to see his team-mates adopt more of a winning mentality.

“Sometimes I think we play too much,” he said. “We just want to do that and do not think about what is good for us.

“Sometimes we just need to cut out the football, stop playing for a bit and just consider what will help us achieve what we want.”

The value of pragmatism is something Chelsea fans know well, as it was at the center of Guus Hiddink’s philosophy towards the end of last year. For the purposes of this blog, however, Sagna’s words have broader meaning.

I think of Dennis Kucinich who tried for so long to oppose the HCR bill on the basis that it “wasn’t real reform.” It sounds all too similar to Arsene Wenger’s on-the-pitch philosophy of playing “true football.” (It should be noted, however, that Wenger is admirably pragmatic in the transfer market and often in his team selection)

There’s an adjective used in the European game that is unfortunately absent from the vocabulary of American sports: Cynical. It’s heard most commonly in reference to a foul that prevents the opposing team from counter attacking. Cynical could be used in American sports too; in basketball, it could be a hard foul to prevent an easy open shot or an intentional walk in baseball.

To be clear, the “true football” philosophy does have a place in American politics. It provides a light at the end of the tunnel, and energizes the base. However, the hard foul of excluding the public option, or including Blue Dogs in the Democratic constituency may also be necessary, and is now.

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