On Saturday, Sean Dyche claimed to be worried that diving was ruining the game of football after he lost to Arsenal yet again.
Since Dyche took over at Burnley in 2012, they’ve had pretty much the worst possible record against Arsenal. 10 games played, 10 games lost.
For a while, Dyche put that down to bad refereeing. In every post-match interview, he’d blame one decision or another as the sole reason his team still haven’t picked up a single point against the Gunners.
With VAR in place, it’s a lot harder to argue that the big decisions went against Burnley. Arsenal had a goal correctly disallowed, but the two they did score were perfectly legitimate. Fear not, however, as Dyche has found his new go-to excuse: Diving!
“I don’t know any sport where they tell you that you can cheat once a game. I’ve never seen that in sport before,” Dyche said after Saturday’s match. “The game is in a really poor state with players literally falling on the floor.
“It’s got to the level where it’s every week now. It’s not about Arsenal. It’s about the greater good of the game.
“Tony Adams, when he was captain here (at Arsenal). Can you imagine? Do you think he would have accepted it? Do you think he would have accepted it if it was his own players, let alone the opposition? I doubt it.”
Diving is undoubtedly a bad thing, but it’s not as if the FA aren’t taking steps to address it. They’ve brought in two-match bans for successful deception on an official, and VAR should pick up any incorrectly-award penalties.
If Dyche is worried about ‘the game of football’, I’d suggest he looks a bit closer to home.
In Dyche’s ideal version of the game, goalkeeper Nick Pope time-wastes from the very first minute of the match. Star forward Ashley Barnes thinks a knee in the back is a good challenge. Right-back Matthew Lowton almost causes serious harm to Lucas Torreira by pushing him into a dangerous clash with Bernd Leno.
If my team held the record for the shortest amount of actual playing time in a Premier League match for the last half a decade, and thought a free-kick from anywhere on the pitch was an opportunity to launch the ball into the mixer, I’d certainly be worried about the direction the game of football is going.
It wouldn’t be diving on my mind though.