Handball or not? Analyzing the decision.

By Walter Broeckx

In our match against Leicester we had an incident where Alexis tried to make a pass and a Leicester defender handled the ball and the ref gave no penalty. Let us have a closer look on this particular incident with the laws of the game in hand, the instructions towards referees and using a few pictures to show what happened.

First of all we use the most important theoretical thing and I quote this from the laws of the game from Fifa:

A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following three offences:

• holds an opponent

• spits at an opponent

handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

So handling the ball deliberately is a foul. That should be clear to all of us who know a bit about football. Now does this mean that each time the ball hits a hand it is a foul? No as the a not deliberate handball is not a foul. Of course we can argue till the end of times about what is deliberate or not. The ref has a lot of room for interpretation in this. And so Fifa tries to help the refs by giving them some instructions on how to determinate those calls.

And so we quote from the instructions from Fifa:

Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into consideration:

the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)

the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)

the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement

• touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement

• hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement

The last two lines I just included to be complete as they have no bearing with this article.

So there has to be a movement of the hand towards the ball. We will check this with a picture to check this. We also have to keep in mind the distance between the opponent and the ball. That means that if a ball bounces between two players who stand close to each other and it touches an arm this can be seen as an unexpected ball hitting the hand and then it is no foul.

The 3rd line about the position of the hand is about the natural position of a hand. If you have your hands next to your body and your hand touches your leg and it touches the ball it is not considered to be a foul. If the only way to avoid contact would have been to amputate the arm and remove it from your body we can assume that you could not prevent the handball. This is the hands touching your own body position.

So let us now check what happened and for this I used a clip from arsenalist and took a few pictures of the video. The complete clip can be found here and I hope he doesn’t mind if we use his fine clip for further analysing this incident.

 Let us look at the starting position of the incident.

Alexis kicks the ball

Sorry for the big arrow in the middle of the picture but that just happened when I froze the picture. This is the moment Alexis has already kicked the ball. I think I was a split second late. But the most important player you have to look at is the player who will handle the ball. As you can see he has his left arm inside his body.  If the ball would have hit his arm in that position there would be no foul for me. If you hold your arms in front of your body there is not much you can do apart from chopping your arms off to prevent it being hit by a ball.

But how was the position when the ball hit his arm?  Let us look at the next picture.

Ball hits arm

The first thing I want to point at is the fact that the arm of the Leicester player has moved from inside his body to being completely away from his body to the outside. This means that the player himself has moved his arm towards the ball. If his arm had been in front of his body there would have been a case to say that it was ball to hand. But the player moved his arm himself while standing almost still and so he made a deliberate movement.

Another point to take in account is the distance between the players. There is about 3 meters distance between the player. So it is not that the ball just bounced between the players and then unfortunately hit an arm or a hand. No in fact there was so much distance between the players that the Leicester player had time enough to move his arm from inside his body to the outside of his body.  You can even see that there might have been enough space between his body and his arm to let a ball pass by on its flight.

So the Leicester defender didn’t have his arm in a natural position (he did at first) when the ball touched his hand. It is fair to say that this is a good example of a deliberate handball. And thus a penalty should have been given.

I would say that this once again is a good example what a difference a video ref can make. After seeing it one time and then freezing the image at the critical moments (playing the ball and handling the ball) I had seen this within 5 seconds. Time to bring on a video ref, Mr. Riley. And I do feel that we will not get a 98% correct score from the ref when we review this match later on.


Anniversary of the day

  • 11 February 1992: Arsenal 1 Norwich 1 in front of 22890 – the lowest attendance of the season.  Rockets and flares were let off in protest against bond scheme.  This was the ninth game in a run of just one win, scoring four goals.  How times change.

Coming up next: “A fine example of Type III match fixing”

35 Replies to “Handball or not? Analyzing the decision.”

  1. As always, excellent report and analysis
    We have all seen hand ball given when the ball moves a yard or less(impossible to avoid)
    Will you get things changed ?
    I certainly wouldn`t bet a quid on it let alone your life
    Refs have power and I can`t see them give it up, no matter how logical your analysis
    Cynically, how could they influence games otherwise !!

  2. For those wondering: I do have a life. So filled I can’t even breath properly at times. 😉

  3. Thanks for the good illustration but bear in mind that Arsenal were playing against a ref who influenced the revival of the Leicester team as he encouraged them by not giving fouls against as the case mentioned above, the goal they scored as they fouled leCoq inthe process and the tactackle on Sanchez let alone the continuous fouling of Ozil by Simpson, just to point out few

  4. Good write up Walter and thank you for your diligence.

    But to be blunt both the ref and the Leicester players are low down cheats… I do not recall seeing so many blatant handballs as I have this season… not to mention the tackles clearly designed to injure our players and set Arsenal back.

    I suspect that a meeting was held and managers are told that when playing Arsenal anything… and I do mean anything goes.

    What cowards…

  5. And what about the handball their attacker makes in the play up to their goal? Thought that one was quite obvious too.

  6. The level of refereeing against us continues to somehow get worse, and to those that say Arsene doesn’t do anything, he in his press conference said “tackles that we get” he keeps telling the media but they don’t understand him or just leave it alone, he’s not blatant but then the rules don’t allow him to be.
    Oh have also seen a lot of the old “it’s Arsenals training and Arsene’s fault” again, some people…

  7. Great work Walter. 100% penalty, as was the penalty not given in the previous match, when Mason couldn’t control the ball with his foot, but then did so with his hand. And to think Mourenho thinks there’s a conspiracy by the refs, on his side. It appears to me,there’s a great deal of incompetence.

  8. Nice write up Watler….as for the refs…i think they r trying not to give us penalty kicks again this season since we have taken more penalty kick this season than the last 3 seasons put together…it makes the angry the allowed us get that much in the first place….lol.2 in the NLD and this one,watch out for more…the press r as culpable as cheating ref…they dont report bad tackles and y ref allow them.

  9. Personally I don’t think there even has to be a movement of the hand towards the ball for it to be ‘intentional’ hand ball.

    I will try to explain.

    As the attacking playing approaches the penalty area the defending player faces him up.

    When he does so he can take up a few stances to prevent the attacking player either going passed him, or to make it more difficult for him to get a cross in, and that’s what I am focusing on.

    1) He can hold his hands together behind his back. This is an obvious attempt to avoid the ball hitting the hand or arm. Players I’ve noticed that do this regularly are Kos and Davis Luis once of Chelsea. There are many others I’ve seen do it but I cant recall the names.

    2) Hold the arms firmly against the side of the body.

    3) Hold the arms out to the side, away from the body.

    Whilst 1 and 2 are a concerted attempt to avoid handling the ball 3 is the complete opposite. Widening the body, or the obstacle between the ball and it’s intended target, is a deliberate act, and I contest that makes any contact between hand/arm and ball ‘intentional’ and should therefore be deemed a foul.

    Now, if the defender faces up the attacking player with his arms away from his side, by lets say, an angle of 45%, this creates an increase of about 33% in the width of the obstacle/player. (sadly I’ve actually done a practical test and in my case changed an approximately 2 foot wide obstacle into a 3 foot wide obstacle) Now that is not an insignificant increase.

    And what’s more it is not necessary, as demonstrated by the players that do make a deliberate attempt to keep there hands/arms/ out of harms way.

    Let me tell you why this always irked me, because I was one of the defenders that faced up an attacker with my arms behind my back so I knew it could be done, and I always felt anyone who didn’t do it was intentionally making themselves a bigger obstacle.

    So in summery, I don’t think there even needs to be a deliberate movement by the hand towards the ball, because just by placing your arms away from your body in an attempt to make yourself wider is a deliberate act of hand to ball.

    Sorry to go on but a simple point, not so simple to explain.

  10. Jambug, is there not a case that arms are used by the body to balance itself while running?

    In a static scenario, yes the defender should keep his arms down.

    But in the real world, wouldn’t a defender be impacting on his ability to change direction quickly by deliberately keeping his arms out of the way?

  11. I don`t think the handball, bad refereeing etc. are only aimed at Arsenal, although we get more than our fair share
    I remember one game last season, Spurs-Chelsea where a ball struck the thigh of the Spurs player, ricocheted up and struck his hand
    Penalty given
    Spurs( I think) were leading 2-1 at the time
    Oooh, there`s a surprise, Chelsea given a lifeline by a kind ref !!!
    They drew 2-2 of course
    But there is a correlation about bad decisions and certain refs as your statistics point out
    Smells a bit, but actually proving anything is extremely difficult
    We hear so much about betting coups, especially in the far east

    Walter, you`ve written so many critiques about the standard of Refereeing and even you have only managed to change very little
    So please keep on trying, don`t be selfish and think about getting a life . just think about us, we depend on you for our sanity

  12. Thanks for this analysis. you know what irritates me most when things like this happens is the way the Ref involved signals play on like “I see this but I’m not gonna give it”.
    The ref almost cost us the game last night more than our poor display might have.

  13. As I have said in the past, unless the club goes on the offensive, there is not going to be any change, unless they sack AW.

  14. esxste

    I agree that if running it is much more difficult to keep your arms by your side. Of course, if the defender is running along side the attacker and attempts a lunging block, his arms could be in all kinds of ‘un natural’ positions. If ball strikes hand/arm in those situations of course that’s different.

    But I am really talking about the many incidents such as last nights, where the defender and the attacker are stationary, or at least almost stationary. This is why I used the generic term ‘facing up’.

    In that case, when both attacker and defender are almost at a stand, there is no reason why the defender has to ‘face up’ to the attacker with his arms out wide, as shown by the likes of Kos and others.

    If they do, I contest it is a deliberate attempt to make themselves wider using there arms, therefore deliberate hand ball.

  15. Gouresh,
    I notice you tend to moan about the way Arsenal are set up most times and seem to generally lean towards blaming Wenger all the time. For that reason I find your comment ‘unless they sack AW’ as an actual call for that to happen. Could you have said unless AW leaves/goes? I can’t remember who advised you (previously) to stick to watching cricket. And while I thought it was a little harsh at the time, I fully concur with whoever that was – most of your arguments suggest you don’t seem to understand football at all.

  16. Can someone compile states on the dangerous tackles we recieve. When playing a team which is managed by a British manager? Compared to a foreign manager? Just wondering

  17. jambug,
    Absolutely agree with yuor assessment. Exeste may be correct in that you need to balance your body with your hand movement, but it does not appear the leicester defender needed to balance his body in this case as he was stationary and looking towards the direction the ball was coming from. Maybe if he was a toddler trying to balance himself, then maybe….

    As Michael Ram pointed out on another thread, the FA/PGMO have decided Wenger will NOT be allowed to win anything(at least the league) again that no matter who he puts together as a team we won’t win. You could take Madrid tomorrow, dress them in Arsenal shirts and make them play Leicester with the same result as yesterday’s. They will just get kicked to lumps that they would find hard to get their rhythm going. Any team would. Football is an art, like boxing (although I hate violence). If the opponent is allowed to hug, headbutt and use his elbows without the ref penalizing him it doesn’t matter whether you’re pacquiao or mayweather, the contest will degenerate into a brawl, and anyone can win a fight that’s not clean.

    One just needs look at the amount of yellow cards Tottenham got last night against Liverpool compared with what they got when they played us to see that it’s open season on Arsenal players. I am positive the same leicester players will get treble the amount of bookings they got yesterday in their next match against Villa should they try the same fouls, with probably a red or two in there too. And then you still get some people calling our players wimpy. SMH.

  18. What I find interesting is the clear unwillingness of the media to criticize the referees. I watched the American football championship game and the commentators very professionally noted the errors of the referees (two blatant – one helping each team) and spent the time to show and explain why the referee decisions were incorrect. An interest difference in league/game cultures.

  19. We could consider complaining , but who to ? The league don’t want to know , for that matter neither do the referees ,In his first few years Wenger embarrassed them with critical video evidence , they have not forgotten. The media think that all Wenger does is complain and have no sympathy for him . We could take it to Eufa but Platini and Wenger are not exactly bosom buddies as Platini realises that were there a popularity contest in France Wenger would win it hands down. There is nowhere to go and I am afraid the catalyst is the manager.

  20. porter The Lord works in mysterious ways. When something strange happens in the lives of the cheat they will change their ways. It does not need complaints or demos it needs a conscience to change a mans behaviour.

  21. Ob1977
    “The level of refereeing against
    us continues to somehow get worse, and to
    those that say Arsene doesn’t do anything,
    he in his press conference said “tackles
    that we get” he keeps telling the media but
    they don’t understand him or just leave it
    alone, he’s not blatant but then the rules
    don’t allow him to be.”

    I sometimes am sad coz Arsène doesn’t point out 2 d press d hacking down of our players,but I realize now that he actually is just applying wisdom. He said abt d push by arnautovic which led 2 debuchy’s injury as being totally unneeded, abt Atkinson not being up to scratch and so many others. Yet, d press ddnt emphasize it. I now absolutely believe that there r many things dirty with the referees and the FA. The only way to win our games 95% of the time is to be very better than the opposition. Arsène really does have his work cut out for him. But I hope that spurs him to produce the extraordinary. COYG. In arsène I trust.

  22. I will not accept Wenger should leave when he is the best thing that has happened to the game this century. He has opened the eyes of players & fans to the games simplicity. There will always be the bully who hates skill, like the Riley who hates simple passing. The dunces call it ticky tacky football with no end result. The end results can be seen in the history of Wengerball & the trophies he has won.

  23. This incident is a perfect illustration of how hard it is to determine a player’s intent and also to judge what is a natural playing position and what constitutes an infringement versus an accident in the few seconds a referee has to decide.
    At first glance it appeared to me that the player did not move his arm to block the ball (a clear handball) but rather was caught by surprise by Sanchez’s hard pass towards his teammate.
    This, in my mind was a 50/50 decision but since the majority of referees tend to give the defense the benefit of the doubt in such situations and since he was pretty generous to Leicester all evening, then it comes as no surprise that he would deem the incident as fair and continue play.
    Part of the problem is the tendency of players to cry foul even if the ball hit their opponent’s hand by accident. This makes referees very hesitant to award a foul and imho pushes them towards a very conservative approach to apply that law. It is also a reason to seriously doubt some officials integrity when we see an unintentional handball punished by a soft penalty.

  24. @Al, my comment on “unless they sack AW” was a tongue-in-cheek remark as we dont get decisions. Pl do lighten up. As for my moaning, yes I do because I want the team to play well. Not win (thats a treat) but play well. I do get very very upset when we loose because I take it personally. Even in my playing days, when we lost I could not sleep. Unfortunately thats me.

  25. Incredibly dishonest comments above:

    I don’t think AW was at te club when the points were deducted and the arsenal fans sand Tony’s favourite song for our beloved sweet FA

    “You can stick your two points up your arse…”

    To which we could now add:

    “You can stick your comments that such things only began with the marriage between AW and AFC up your arse”

    Of course it is simple and easy to understand that this long healthy relationship between this club and this manager because of their shared experiences prior to their engagement. But that would completely undermine AAA memes. So they have to ignore all that. The history of the club. Etc.

  26. Wenger’s comments at the time of the invincibles demise. Riley is a vindictive man and still is taking his revenge.

    I can’t be happy about the penalty, I can’t be happy about the incident when Freddie Ljungberg was through on goal and I can’t be happy that (Jose Antonio) Reyes was kicked off the park deliberately. The players have a deep sense of injustice.’ Wenger berated Riley as he left the field and later pointed out that the Leeds official had awarded United eight penalties in his last eight visits to Old Trafford. He said: ‘You take the record of the referee at Manchester United and that will tell you much more than any statements. I questioned his decision making as he came off the field as I prefer to do it directly.

    Read more at: http://www.sport.net/cesc-fabregas-threw-pizza-at-alex-fergusons-shirt-like-a-frisbee_269840

  27. Jones idea of a penalty differs depending on how far north the team plays football Liverpool it’s handball and penalty if it hits a players face.
    What an idiot or is it worse I know what I believe.

  28. This is from our ref preview from Andrew.

    This was about the match at Stoke which we lost 1-0 last season because he gave a penalty against Arsenal for a…..handball: “He then gave a very soft penalty in favour of Stoke, Walters kicked the ball Kos was about a metre away and the ball hit his hand as he was jumping to attempt to block it. The assistant who was close didn’t move but Mr Jones was convinced.”

    Do you need any more evidence about the ref not being consistent to say the least…

  29. Walter
    In the same theme, Maureen has complained that Van Persie was not red carded by Clattenburg for an elbow. I hate to admit that Maureen could possibly be right on anything
    But, he is right. When is a red card foul not a red card foul?
    The FA is powerless to prosecute Van Persie because Clattenberg saw the incident !!

    Giraud was Red Carded for “touching foreheads” not “nutting”
    Within the laws of the game Giraud had to go
    Within the laws of the game Van Persie MUST go
    But didn`t

    I am getting a very nasty taste in my mouth about some Refs.
    It`s funny, the same names keep occurring, not just with Arsenal, but some very strange decisions
    The gentleman who did not red card Van Persie also gave a very strange decision some years back in a L`pool Chelsea game. Chelsea very clearly committed a foul and got the free kick/penalty(can`t remember which) from which they scored

    Following on porters comments about the Pizza bunging game and Rileys part in it
    Prior to this Wenger had pronounced about the amount of penalties given in favour of Man U
    What has changed ? F` all to a jam tart
    Referees are given carte blanche to decide what is an offence and what is not an offence
    Either there are rules to the game we love or there are not
    Yes, I believe that Arsenal suffer far more than many teams,but not only Arsenal. I must leave it up to your imagination why Arsenal do not get the rules applied correctly

  30. In a mother’s womb were two babies.
    One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”
    The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

    “Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
    The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

    The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
    The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

    The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
    “Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

    The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”
    The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

    Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”
    To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

  31. “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on her own wings. Always believe in yourself.” ~unknown

  32. Ahhh ! Bliss is me !

    The less you respond to rude, critical, argumentative people, the more peaceful your life will become.
    ~ Mandy Hale

  33. Brickfields

    Very philosophical, silly thing is you are totally right
    There is always something to learn on this blog


    P.S. “you one shrewd cookie”

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