By Tony Attwood
I suspect that if you asked most of the people in the Emirates Stadium for a review of Arsenal v WBA they would at the very least mention the issue of time wasting. Certainly, judging by noise levels, it was the issue that was the focus of the crowd’s attention throughout the game. It started in the second minute and went on to the last.
And yet there is not a single mention of the role of Foster, the key exponent of this dreadful and illegal tactic in this game, in the reports in the Guardian, Telegraph or Independent today. The Daily Mirror does however mention Foster – and they make his man of the match.
Of course there is nothing wrong in terms of the rules of football with time wasting itself, as long as the time wasting is done when the ball is in play. You can play the ball back and forth between the midfield and defence all day long if you want, and it is up to the opposition to do something about it. But the rules of the game lay down the fact that time wasting which relates to the ball being out of play and not getting it back into play quickly enough, is an offence.
But it is also one that the referee yet again in this match refused to acknowledge. So with each goal kick Foster could stroll around as much as he liked for as long as he like. And the referee’s reaction every time, which I suspect was probably not shown on TV, was to turn his back.
Yes, the ref, every single time that Foster started behaving in contravention of the rules of the game, turned his back and deliberately looked the other way! He knew the ball was not in open play because he must have been able to hear the loud booing from the crowd, but he turned his back on the ball and looked up the pitch to the goal WBA were “attacking” (although not literally).
I am of course not a referee, but I imagine that there is a reason for looking from the half way line to the opposite end of the pitch, while leaving your back turned to the ball, and that is to watch for jostling and pushing as the two sides get ready to receive the ball which is kicked up field. But then on the other hand it only takes a fraction of a second to turn the head as the ball is kicked, and one has a linesman who can watch out for offences, and flag for them.
SO IN REALITY WHY DID THE REF TURN HIS BACK ON THE GAME EACH TIME WBA HAD A GOAL KICK AND THUS IGNORE AN OFFENCE?
Apart from the fact that he absolutely didn’t want to penalise the keeper, and wanted to help WBA, I can’t think of an explanation.
In the end of course Foster was given a yellow, and that allowed him to waste even more time in protesting vigorously, but unlike Giroud, who was given a yellow for dissent, Foster was allowed to do what he liked when arguing with the ref.
Now the point of the yellow card is interesting. There were only about five minutes of normal time left when the incident happened so the referee’s report can show that the keeper was booked for time wasting. But of course the chance of the keeper then getting booked a second time was negligible and the influence on the match was limited.
Had Foster been warned in the fifth minute (after the first couple of time wasting activities), he could then have been booked in the 10th, and then if he persisted, sent off in the 15th. That would at least have been closer to the spirit of the rules of the game. As it was the wretched man was allowed to play the whole game.
Arsenal had 75% of the possession and 11 shots on target. West Bromwich Albion had (obviously) 25% of possession and one shot on target. Goodness knows what it is like to support such a team, and indeed how convoluted life must be to create newspaper reports which don’t reflect the reality of what happened on the pitch. The “Albion outfit more focused on frustration than attacking creation” was the closest anyone got in reporting what actually happened – that was in the Mirror.
Meanwhile some of those who know about such things are starting to suggest that the Chinese economy is overheating, and will start to implode sometime soon. When that happens some of the more trivial elements of the economy, such as the purchasing of football clubs could be affected as the investors seek to withdraw.
Apart from West Brom, we also have Aston Villa as well as a minority holding in Manchester City. and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Championship, in the hands Chinese investors. If there is a recession, there could be a bit of selling going on. Or it could come if any of the shareholders are forced to watch teams that play in this way.
From what I understand Foster did exactly the same thing when his team played Chelsea and again got away with it. Indeed this was his first yellow card all season and even though his antics were reported they were defended in the Birmingham Mail and Daily Express earlier this month. The BBC mentioned Foster’s antics in a report in the match against Everton noting that the ref “had a word with him” about it. Otherwise, it is seen, and ignored.
Instead the media continue to pump out “reports” of football matches which have little to do with the match that many in the stadium witnessed. One day that will become the story, and then maybe at last pressure could be put on the PGMO to wind themselves up and allow proper refereeing to take place.
Untold Arsenal: Arsenal v The Bus Station
And from the History Society
- August / September 1936: 20 different players used in the first seven league games
- Ralph Birkett: part of the South West club that Chapman built within Arsenal
- Arsenal players 1934/5 and 1935/36 the fundamental problem with the team
- Arsenal in the summer 1936: from winning the Cup to an assassination attempt on the king