Ref for this match was Mike Dean
I know on a lot of occasions people say that our referee reviews are all about sour grapes. So how do we judge the ref in a match when for the first time in 12 centuries (more or less) we beat a top 4 club at their home ground and that with ref Dean (our bogey ref) in charge?
Well to be honest I swung from one emotion to the other emotion during the review. Excellent refereeing mixed up with terrible within seconds sometimes. I saw great things but also bad things. Let me take you to a master class on how to do it and… on how not to do it.
In the 2nd minute Koscielny comes late and brings Fernandinho down but as the ball goes to a City player and the attack is promising he gives a real advantage (for the difference between advantage and possession I refer to the Stoke City ref review). When Arsenal can clear the cross for a corner he calls over Koscielny and gives him a yellow card. Master class : how to do it.
Arsenal committing a few fouls early on and then he gives a foul in favour of Arsenal. Well there was no foul for me. But this was an attempt to show that he would give fouls in favour of Arsenal also when he saw one. I know this is a little trick referees use when they have to give a few fouls in quick succession against one team and to avoid that the other team gets frustrated and asks tot give fouls both ways you take the first opportunity to give a foul to the other team.
We move on to minute 18. Oxlade-Chamberlain escapes a bad challenge from Di Michelis on the side line and again a great advantage played by Dean. Giroud heads the ball over and the ref or assistant wrongly give a corner. Well two wrong decisions in favour of Arsenal and that within 20 minutes. But then came a bad moment. He should have acted like he did with Koscielny and give Di Michelis a yellow card. His attempt was to stop a promising attack and if it wouldn’t have been for some great body flexibility and jumping ability from Oxlade-Chamberlain he would have ended up in the 5th or 6th row of the stands.
Next decision: the penalty. Kompany knew that Monreal was going for the return ball from the one-two with Giroud and would have been one on one with the keeper. So he stepped across in the path of Monreal who could only run in to Kompany. Kompany tried to point at the ball in an attempt to pretend to have played the ball (which was ridiculous as he never came closer than 2 or 3 meters from the ball). The gesture of a player who knows he has been caught in the act and tries to justifies his behaviour. Seen it all before. This was a typical off the ball foul where a player steps in the way of another player to stop him from getting the return ball. A foul everywhere on the pitch so when done in the penalty area it is a penalty.
I must say that I and with me a few million other Arsenal supporters all over the world were stunned that the ref gave the penalty to Arsenal. Was this really Dean must have been the thought of many of them. The decision was correct but Arsenal is not used to be on the good end of a correct decision in the penalty area from Dean at all.
What was missing however was the card for Kompany. Some might even argue a red card could have been given. If you would interpreted the rules very strictly you could say that Monreal would be one on one with the keeper and had a real scoring opportunity. The angle would have been tight and difficult to be honest for Monreal and at the moment of the foul another City defender might have covered the centre a bit. But it surely was a very promising attack and when you stop it with a deliberate foul you must give a yellow card. Dean let Kompan off the hook.
Move on to minute 37 up to minute 40. Ramsey commits a foul in midfield and gets a yellow card. Very soft this. Not a promising attack, just slightly coming late with an angle. No need to give a card certainly in a match with hardly any fouls up to then. And a few minutes later Kompany commits a foul when Giroud goes past him not that far from the half way line. Dean also gets his card out this time. I didn’t think this was worthy of a yellow card. However I did agree with the yellow card because of Kompany mouthing off the ref for his decision. It was so bad that the ref had to call Kompany over to tell him to shut it. For that protest he certainly deserved a yellow card. That should have been then his second with the penalty being the first. But I’m sure Dean wouldn’t have given a second yellow card for this foul if he knew that Kompany would have been booked before.
The score in the first half was 68% overall and when we put weight on it he got a score of 67% so that is the same almost. So not that great but that was down to messing up with the yellow cards. If we look at the important decisions he gets a score of 50%. Not really great but we have seen worse from him and from others this season. And remarkably is his first half bias! 4 wrong decisions in favour of Manchester City and 3 in favour of Arsenal! This is as close to even as you can get!
In the second half I have only one big debating point. Minute 53 to minute 55. It started with Bellerin making a little pull on Silva who could continue with the ball and Dean again gave a good advantage. The ball then stayed in play a while till Arsenal two minutes later set up a great attack. Alexis was hacked down by Kompany just outside the penalty area, the ball ran to Giroud who gave it to Ramsey who had a good shooting chance. Dean again applying another great advantage. Ramsey shot went over the goal and what then followed was a big let off for me as a ref.
Dean went over to Bellerin to give him a yellow card for the small foul two minutes earlier. Very soft yellow card really. But he completely let go the dangerous tackle from Kompany who came in with two feet towards Alexis. That certainly would have warranted at least another yellow card for Kompany and thus a red card should have been his part. This was a master class in how NOT to do it.
For the rest he was okay one could say. The bias in favour if City grew a bit with 7 wrong decisions in favour of City and one in favour of Arsenal. The overall score in the second half was 63% and when we put weight on the decisions he gets a score of 60%. Only counting the important decisions his score is 37%. So not really great despite him making some excellent calls when he could play advantage.
The total score over the whole 90 minutes was just under 66%. When we put weight on the decisions his score was just under 64%. Only looking at the important decisions his score was just under 44%.
So Arsenal won but I must say that it wasn’t the best referee performance at all. It was going from hot to cold in seconds at times. No consistency at times in handing out the cards. And that cost him.
I would like to add a little note to this. After going in front Arsenal committed 1 (one) foul in the rest of the first half. And in the second half Arsenal committed a total of 2 (two) fouls. One where the ref gave an advantage and only one foul where the ref had to stop the game. A small pulling foul from Ramsey.
Let this sink in. Arsenal defending a lead for more than one hour and only making 2 fouls in that hour! That is completely amazing. And it also shows that defending a lead is not about hacking the other team down. But defending can be done with discipline and being clever and just closing players down. You don’t need to fly rashly in the tackles to defend well. Speaking of master class performances, I think this was a master class performance of defending within the laws of the game.
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