Arsenal will be up against one of the Premier League’s most prolific divers in Dele Alli on Saturday.
The myth that English players don’t dive has been well and truly busted by Tottenham.
It was only last weekend that Spurs’ Dele Alli and Harry Kane both dived to try and win penalties.
Kane got one for his, but Alli ended up with a booking.
It was his third for simulation since his first appearance in the Premier League during the 2015/16 season. No player has received more.
3 – Dele Alli has been handed three yellow cards for simulation since his debut Premier League season in 2015-16; no player has received more. Hoodwinked.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 4, 2018
Such a reputation should play on the minds of the referee on Saturday but we know from experience that players continue to get away with simulation, especially if they are English.
In fact, in his pre-match press conference, Arsene Wenger said he thinks the English are now the new masters of diving.
The question, then, is how Arsenal can do deal with it?
It’s easier said than done, but Arsenal have to restrict the number of times Alli enters the penalty area.
If he does enter the box, they have to be careful with their tackles. Desperate lunges will play into any diver’s hands.
Of course, it’s not just in the penalty area that we have to be careful.
Players can dive to win free-kicks in good positions as well. So the Arsenal midfield, especially Granit Xhaka, need to take care not to give away silly fouls.
That also means being in a good position and reading the game well, rather than chasing the player back into our own half.
Even if we do all that, there’s no guarantee the ref won’t fall for simulation. As Wenger also said at his press conference, “At normal speed, it’s very difficult to determine. On that front, as much as I can be harsh with the referees, I’m quite tolerant.
“It’s difficult at 100% pace to distinguish if it was a dive or not.”
Tottenham have the second best disciplinary record in the Premier League, which suggests that they either cheat less than we thought, or are good at getting away with it.
Hopefully, Arsenal will play well enough and be in a position where should something dubious happen, it won’t matter.