PEP Guardiola is right to want his Manchester City players protected from over-zealous challenges but it is not just his team’s stars that suffer.

While the Blues have lost several players in the past two seasons to injuries caused by late or robust tackles, they are not alone.

Only a few weeks ago Wanderers boss Phil Parkinson was bemoaning what he labelled a ‘leg-breaking’ challenge by Huddersfield’s Abdelhamid Sabiri that left David Wheater’s leg scarred. Thankfully, Wheater avoided serious injury and just added another war wound to his centre-back’s collection.

But, like Guardiola, Parkinson was right to flag up why it wasn’t spotted.

Just last weekend, also in the FA Cup, City lost Leroy Sane to ankle ligament damage caused by a rash challenge by Cardiff’s Joe Bennett.

Guardiola is rightfully concerned but it is hardly a new phenomenon for teams to target good players with a bit of rough-handed treatment.

Arsenal have been on the receiving end several times during Arsene Wenger’s reign – just ask Jose Antonio Reyes who was bundled over repeatedly by Phil Neville and co in a game against Manchester United some years back.

What is worrying, though, is the sheer number of these challenges now taking place and the sometimes carefree approach of some players to them.

For years players have tried to upset sides who supposedly ‘don’t like it up ‘em’ – Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang always liked to get into a battle against the big boys.

More often than not, though, they were strong but fair challenges in keeping with the era of that time in the 1980s.

But the modern game has gone so far now that tackling is almost non-existent in some quarters and every mistimed challenge brings about screams from players and fans alike for a booking.

That is why I think it is so difficult to be a referee in the modern game.

Not only is it fast-paced but the pressure put on officials is heavier than ever.

It is a fair point to ask referees to protect players like Guardiola did this week and to some extent he has a point, much like Sir Alex Ferguson did years ago with what he perceived the rough treatment of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. But shouldn’t players have a role to play and a duty themselves as well?

I can sympathise with those challenges that are simply an error of judgement; a player just outwitted by another with more skill and catching them by accident.

But we have all seen challenges you could say look pre-meditated and deliberate and there is no excuse for those.

You can criticise officials all you like; much like diving, a footballer should take some responsibility.

Anyone who goes out to hurt a fellow professional should have the book thrown at him, just like it rightfully was at West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku for what even his manager described as a despicable spit at Wigan’s Nick Powell last weekend.

There is no place for it and players can blame the heat of the moment all they like, they need to behave better.

So yes, let’s get officials working harder to look after those skilful players but let’s also send the message out to players they need to do their part and play fairly.

No one likes being beaten but there is no excuse for letting that prompt you into an ‘I’ll show them’ type of reaction.

Let’s not rid the game of the art of tackling; just make sure we get back to a good old ‘hard but fair’ philosophy.