By Tony Attwood
I have heard stadium protests against a referee before, but never on this scale. And it was utterly deserved for Martin Atkinson delivered the worst display of refereeing I have ever seen in a lifetime of going to football matches at grounds from Wood Green Town to Highbury, from Poole Town to Wembley, from Aberdeen to Plymouth Argyle – this was beyond belief. The only thing one can say about it is that it makes betting on Arsenal results a bit easier (try the 10bet homepage for example) when we know it is going to be like this.
Indeed I find it impossible to convey in words just how utterly, totally awful the man was. In every regard he dominated the game giving the club previously known as West Ham every chance and opportunity by punishing move after move of Arsenal while letting go anything that West Ham did go.
And this wasn’t just me who saw it. Atkinson was roundly booed as one inept and insane decision piled upon another. Exasperation gave way to outrage which gave way to downright disbelief: it was an extraordinary display.
Of course we were expecting something – this was the man who did the notorious Manchester City away game. And if you read Andrew’s referee preview you will know how biased he has been against Arsenal in the past.
But this time he surpassed himself taking either utter ineptitude or downright open bias to a new and previously unseen level.
Of course I don’t know why he is like this. Is he just grossly incompetent, or does he go out to fix a match? I can’t say, and he has the absolute protection not only of the PGMO but also the media that comments on Arsenal games.
The Guardian for example let him off with one paragraph (although we should be grateful for that given that normally the ref gets no mention at all). They say…
“Walcott felt he ought to have had a penalty in the 18th minute, when Arthur Masuaku checked him with his upper body but there was no decision from Martin Atkinson. The referee would ignore another strong Arsenal penalty appeal on 80 minutes when James Collins went into Nacho Monreal and a blatant one at the very end when Sam Byram caught Monreal.”
The Telegraph tries to turn it the other way with
“West Ham’s players felt that Sanchez was both offside and influencing play but replays confirmed that Atkinson was correct in allowing the goal to stand. You could tangibly sense the confidence flooding back into the Arsenal team once they had taken their 58th minute lead.”
They have no other mention of Atkinson in their commentary, but they did a minute by minute report which included
- Penalty shout for Arsenal as Walcott goes down under the challenge of Masuaku in the box. There definitely looked like enough contact in that to be a pen, but referee Martin Atkinson waves away the appeals.
- Mustafi goes down and claims he’s been elbowed by Carroll. Martin Atkinson shakes his head, and promptly blows the half-time whistle. All square at the break.
- Er, surely that was a penalty? Byram, who’s already on a booking, absolutely clatters Monreal in the area but somehow Martin Atkinson decides it wasn’t a foul.
The BBC on the other hand didn’t even see any of those moments (which were just a few from the whole game) saying only, “Hammers keeper Darren Randolph was unhappy with Ozil’s opener as he felt Sanchez was offside and blocking his view, but referee Martin Atkinson did not care for his appeals.”
As for the rabidly anti-Arsenal Sun they go utterly berserk with
“ARSENE WENGER was fuming with ref Martin Atkinson when he booked Hector Bellerin for bringing down Michail Antonio. Not sure why. He twice cynically pulled his shirt before almost rugby tackling his opponent. He was lucky Atkinson did not booked (sic) Theo Walcott seconds later for a blatant dive in the West Ham penalty box.”
Curiously not only does the Sun not see the events the Guardian and Telegraph noted, but there is no mention of those “events” which they perceived anywhere else. One wonders what influence is being brought to bear on the Sun to run such comments – or maybe the “reporter” was at another game. Or on another planet.
The Express goes with the following (and do remember I am not selecting from these reports out but giving you every mention of either the “referee” or “Atkinson” in each report I find).
“Walcott thumped a reply at Darren Randolph and referee Martin Atkinson angered the home support by ruling no penalty when Arthur Masuaku seemed to bring down Walcott.”
The Standard has
“Walcott walked off in discussion with Atkinson, still apparently bemused at his failure to award a penalty earlier in the half.”
Of course maybe it was all just me. And all the people around me. But given the video analyses of the first 160 games of this season, all the referee reports from games in the past, and the two years of the Referee Decisions web site which used refs who have no affiliation with Arsenal to write reports, there is a certain consistency here either in incompetence or deliberate attempts at match fixing from this man.
Meanwhile as the game went on supporters of the club once known as West Ham carried on their tradition from their home matches with constant violence in the away section as they fought and launched a series of attacks on the stewards who were hard pressed to keep them away from the Arsenal fans behind the Clock End goal. It was the worst behaviour we have seen at the ground since Tottenham fans threw coins and other objects at the ambulance crew who were helping Theo after his serious injury which kept him out for almost a year. I wonder why Arsenal continues to allow them into the ground.
And the 13th minute protest? I sit one seat away from the gangway so everyone up to the centre of my row has to go past me. No one went by at the allotted time. Indeed the last straggler was there by the third minute of the game. I kept an eye on other rows and the same – there was no protest. Another non-event it seems.
But at least despite the best efforts of the referee and his friends in the media and the aaa, Arsenal won. And won rather well I thought.