By Tony Attwood
Sitting in the stands looking down on Mo Elneny being sent off all I could say to my chums sitting either side was, “Why has he sent Elneny off”? And no one knew – at least we guessed it was for pushing, but then, everyone seemed to be pushing. It used to be called “a bit of argy-bargy” meaning, it would calm down in a moment and matters would continue.
So Mo went off for pushing an opponent.
Yet the FA’s website says on sending off offences
A player, substitute or substituted player who commits any of the following offences is sent off:
- denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (except a goalkeeper within their penalty area)
- denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent whose overall movement is towards the offender’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick (unless as outlined below)
- serious foul play
- spitting at an opponent or any other person
- violent conduct
- using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
- receiving a second caution in the same match
The only one we can take from that is “violent conduct”. So the question is how much within the meaning of “violent” was the push, and if it was violent conduct were any of the other pushes around this time violent also, because if they were, they too should have resulted in a sending off.
Here’s one version of what happened
and in case that vanishes, as these things can do, or in case it doesn’t work trying this…
Now I know that there is a common view these days that an argument about one incident can be dismissed by picking up another incident. And of course there were other incidents going on: including a fair amount of shirt pulling.
Two issues arise from that.
First, the referee is supposed to judge the incident individually except where a player is guilty of repetitive foul play, so the action of Wilshire, for example, earlier in the game, has nothing to do with the Elneny incident – which is what I have chosen to highlight here. (Many other sites are focusing on Wilshire, so I leave them to get on with it).
Second there was a lot of pushing and buffeting of Elneny during the incident and after as the referee was being talking to by a Southampton player. Yet no action was taken against the Southampton players.
It was by any measure, a controversial moment in the game. So what did the press make of it? Here I quote the commentaries of a few papers in full…
The Guardian: “Mohamed Elneny would follow him down the tunnel – Arsène Wenger suggested Arsenal could appeal against the Egyptian midfielder’s dismissal for pushing Soares.”
The Telegraph: “Arsenal did ultimately still also finish the match with 10 men after Mohamed Elneny shoved Cedric Soares but Stephens will be more acutely missed for a Southampton team now in increasing danger of returning to the Championship.”
The Telegraph in its rolling commentary “Elneny is then sent off for pushing Cedric in the face!”
The Independent: “Mohamed Elneny was also dismissed for raising his hands at Cedric Soares in the ensuing melee.”
The Daily Mail: (absolutely nothing)
Daily Express: “Elneny pushed Cedric and was later sent off”
So rather like the issue of “he got the ball” when considering if a player has committed a foul, the newspapers have done little to relate their commentaries to the laws of the game. (Mind you, while driving on Saturday night I did hear Robbie Savage on the radio say in relation to an incident words to the effect that “he got the ball, mind you that has nothing to do with whether it was a foul or not”. Surely Mr Savage can’t have been reading Untold can he?)
If the referee in this case was right to send Elneny off then he was guilty of bias since there were several other pushes of equal strength around that time as can be seen from the video and was certainly visible from my place in the stand. And thus on that basis a number of players should have been sent off. That fact in itself doesn’t change whether Elneny should have gone, but if he should it does raise into very serious question why the referee failed to take into account all the other issues that happened around that time.
The preview we published of this particular referee suggested he was not fit for purpose, and certainly that prediction has been shown to be true. (Arsenal v Southampton Sunday 8 April – The Match Officials: always a bad omen!)
But there is a greater issue: what will PGMO do about this display by the referee? I think we know the answer: nothing. And if you want a simple explanation as to why no English referees will be in the World Cup finals, the answer can be found here. Not specifically in the incompetence or gross corruption of a referee, but rather by the fact that the PGMO will do nothing about this man.
Last, there is always the excuse that the referee sent off the player in a case of mistaken identity. It is not after all as if Mo is easy to spot in a crowd – no distinguishing marks, very ordinary hair, speaks fluent Arabic… It reminds me of Marriner with the case of Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain at Chelsea. There again, it was easy to see how the referee would have a problem telling the difference between them.
- Clubs are showing signs of fighting back at journalists
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.