Suddenly the media blames the referee – although not an English referee



By Bulldog Drummond

Arsenal are playing Newcastle tomorrow (Saturday) at the ludicrous time of 8pm – ludicrous that is for anyone who has to travel from outside London, and then wants to try and find transport back home after.  

But it was ever thus, and the game itself is becoming something of interest because of the way the league table stands and the way the media is considering the matter.   Let’s have a look at the league table – but not quite in the way that we normally do.  

Because this is the league table over the last five games.  I’ve included the “big seven” that we normally follow, and it turns out they are all in the top ten.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal  5 5 0 0 21 2 19 15
2 Manchester City 5 4 1 0 10 3 7 13
3 Manchester United 5 4 1 0 13 7 6 13
4 Liverpool 5 4 0 1 16 6 10 12
5 Newcastle United 5 2 2 1 14 12 2 8
6 Tottenham Hotspur 5 2 2 1 10 9 1 8
7 Aston Villa 5 2 1 2 9 6 3 7
8 Brighton & Hove Albion 5 2 1 2 10 7 3 7
9 Wolverhampton Wanderers 5 2 1 2 9 9 0 7
10 Chelsea 5 2 1 2 8 10 -2 7


And I wanted to emphasise this table to counter the mountains of doom and gloom about Arsenal that have been published since the match against Porto.   It is nice, after all, to have a spot of broader context sometimes.  Indeed, who would have expected Wolverhampton to be right up there?

But there is more of an unexpected nature.   This comes from the Guardian: “When Newcastle last visited the Emirates, in January 2023, they deployed every trick in the defensive manual.”  Well, it is nice of them to admit it, even if it is a year late.

And indeed good of them to follow that up with the notion that they wouldn’t get away with it again.  However, while we have taken a peek at the last five games (which shows Newcastle with the worst defence among those top ten clubs) the Guardian went the other way into the last seven games and found that Newcastle “have conceded 19 goals in their last seven top-flight games…”

That is the context to the match tomorrow, while as the Telegraph pointed out, Arsenal played Porto with almost zero experience of football played, and officiated, as it is in Europe.  Which is odd, because Arsenal are showing ever more awareness of the foibles of individual referees in Premier League matches.  How could they have not seen what was coming in Europe?

I find that phrase “and officiated” in the Telegraph report rather interesting.  A direct comment about the refereeing of an Arsenal match in the English media!!!   Except… not in relation to an Arsenal match in the Premier League.   No, no comment about refereeing of an Arsenal match in the Premier League – nor any match in the Premier League because, well, it doesn’t seem to be allowed.

Criticise the funny foreigners for their odd behaviour when overseeing games, yes that is ok.  But not the English referees.

So what happened in Europe?   In the midweek match Arsenal were deemed to have committed 22 fouls.   Now according to Who Scored Arsenal have this season committed an average of 9.6 fouls per game.  

So apparently Arsenal upped their fouling rate by 129% for that one European game.   Porto on the other hand were alleged by the referee to have committed 14 fouls in the match.   The match thus contained 36 fouls.compared to an average of around 20 in a Premier League game.

In other words either Arsenal ludicrously went into this match thinking “let’s kick them off the park” (which looking at the game I simply don’t believe) or the match was refereed in a completely different way from the way in which Premier League games are refereed.

But it is not that Champions League games are refereed differently from Premier League games all the time – that was (according to the Telegraph) “the highest number of fouls in any Champions League game this season.”   Indeed they have pointed out that the ball being in play “for just 52 per cent of the match, which is by far the lowest percentage of the last-16 ties so far.”

What was clear from that game was that Arsenal were not fully prepared for the approach the referee was going to take whereas, again as the Telegraph said, this was “just how Porto wanted it.”

They also add, “Porto’s tactic… was simple: wait for any sort of contact from Arsenal’s players in the box, and then hit the ground.”   And they further add, “At one point, three Porto players collapsed to the turf in their own six-yard box, clutching their heads. Inevitably, they were awarded a free-kick.

The Telegraph’s conclusion is that “The blunt truth is that the best Champions League teams know how to handle these occasions.”  But for me that is wrong.  The blunt truth is that the media will talk about referees who are not employed by PGMO but will never, ever criticise referees who are.   Tomorrow’s game will be different.

So we may still ask, what sort of referee will we be having for that match?  I’ll take a look shortly.


One Reply to “Suddenly the media blames the referee – although not an English referee”

  1. I totally agree, you are spot on with your article as always.
    The ref was easily influenced by the home crowd as well as the diving that Porto, or should I say the navy seals cheating diving displays.

    I did also noticed that White was not himself and lacked the energy and intelligence to play the inverted fallback role.

    White was constantly out of position and this allowed Porto to take advantage of during their closing down. This led to two crucial mistakes.

    First mistake was when Porto closed Arsenal down that gave Rice his early yellow card, because Rice was expecting the back pass to fall to the out of position White and was slow to react.

    Second Mistake was the late conceded goal, because White was not in the fall back position to defend their interception, that gave Porto plenty of time and space to take their successful shot on target which was basically unchallenged with White being off piste.

    Maybe White is feeling the pressure in the inverted role, or the Porto manager did his homework and took advantage of White always being slow and out of position.

    Let’s face it, he is not a great defender, he is the worst at throw ins and set piece corner positioning, and he offers no real support to Saka, who is left constantly isolated with no fullback over runs of quick one twos etc.

    I think you are correct about the ref and the diving, but also they took advantage of Whites poor energy and positioning sense.

    Let’s hope it’s a different game when we take the aka navy seals back home at the Emirates.

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