By Walter Broeckx
In an excellent article Andrew made a summary based on the referee reviews we have done this season. The question has been asked a few times before in the last weeks: are referees giving us a fairer crack of the whip lately? Statistically the answer is no.
The bias is still appalling against Arsenal in most matches. We get the odd decision in our favour but that is then outdone by a dozen other decisions going against us. Still too many bad fouls are not being called by referees. Still the holy cow from Mike Riley “to keep the game flowing” results in important calls not being made.
I have said it many times before that the main task of a referee IS NOT TO KEEP THE GAME FLOWING! The main task is to make sure that the laws of the game are respected equally by and for both teams on the field. And if both teams feel that a referee will make sure that the laws of the game will be strictly followed those teams have two options.
One option is to try to ignore the ref and still kick the shit out of the other team. In that case that team should and will be punished with numerous fouls , yellow cards and finally red cards. But believe me apart from idiotic players most teams will see that the ref will be strict and then will stop the kicking and the nonsense. Because the last thing most teams want is to be a man (or more) down.
Now most PGMO refs are putting the carriage in front of the horse. They allow the kicking from the start and only when things seem to get out of control they start to act. I believe that it should be the other way. Be strict from the first second and show you will not tolerate any shit and kicking from the players. Players will adapt to this quickly (again apart from the brainless idiots but their dismissal is no real disaster) and will try to avoid making too many fouls. And as a result….the game will start to flow.
What I have seen the last weeks and can remember from the back of my head is that we got away with a few big decisions. That is rather new for us. Because up to a few weeks and this for many seasons we didn’t get away with almost anything at all. By this I mean decisions in our own penalty area when in the past the ball would have ended up on the spot without hesitation. That is the big change we have seen. Was it by sheer luck? I don’t know yet. We will find out in the future.
But what hasn’t changed is the fact that our players are still very much hacked and kicked without real punishment. Elbows are aimed at our players face without fouls being called. In the semi final the elbow towards Koscielny was a such a blatant attack that I couldn’t believe that Atkinson let it go. More so he even allowed play to continue and give Reading a possible shooting chance despite a player lying on the floor holding his face.
The terrible kick on the Achilles of Özil still sends shivers down my spine. That could have been “a season is finished”-foul. Putting your studs on a player like that can not only rupture the Achilles but also injure the knee ligaments. That is by the way what happened to Theo in the FA cup match against Tottenham in the season before this. Özil has escaped it seemed and had no bad consequences but this was a very nasty and dirty foul. And what did our PGMO man do? Yep, nothing. He even didn’t call the foul. Needless to say he didn’t produce any card of course.
The kicking still goes on. But we seem to be a bit more lucky for now and the consequences of the attacks are not as dramatic as we have seen in the past. But that is not down to referees. That is down to luck. Luck that wasn’t on Per Mertesacker his side when he got kicked on his ankle and he had to go. We still don’t know the impact and how long he will be out but that was another fine example on how the ref letting things go ‘to keep the game flowing’ will result in players being injured later on.
When players feel they can get away with some things, they will try to go further. Any decent ref should know this and that is why a decent ref will first try to cut out such things and then if the feels the players are in the mood to play football and are not there to hack and kick, the can try to let the game flow. But not the other way round.
Alas that is the PGMO way of doing things most of the time. It sometimes feels as if referees are afraid to blow too many fouls in a match. It is as if they get punished by the PGMO for every foul they blow. So they will do anything to not blow fouls.
I do know that you can give advantage and that is even a great way of referee gamesmanship one could say but giving an advantage can only be done when there is a real and clear advantage to the team being fouled. But keeping the ball in the middle of the park with a teammate being down injured is not an advantage for a team. Yet that is the most given advantage in England that I see. That is keeping possession. And that is something completely different.
So the only thing that has changed a bit with referees lately is that we have escaped a few narrow could have been given decisions in and around our own penalty area. A breath of fresh air compared to the era starting around 2008. But the kicking of our players still goes on and still mostly unpunished. And as long as this goes on (the Mike Riley match 50 blueprint one could say) we are only one kick away from our next seriously injured player.
Two cup finals on this day
23 April 1927: Arsenal’s first FA Cup Final – lost to Cardiff 0-1 at Wembley. The crowd of 91,206 was the largest thus far to see an Arsenal game. This was also the first cup final broadcast on radio.
23 April 1932: Arsenal’s 3rd cup final, losing 1-2 to Newcastle. It was a season of being runner’s up as Arsenal also came second in the First Division.