By Bulldog Drummond
The frigid way in which the English newspapers and websites consider English referees and their controlling organisation PGMO, contrasts remarkably with the way in which the media elsewhere look at the issue of refereeing.
We’ll have a look at this on Untold once today’s Arsenal game has been and gone, but for today, following the sorts of refereeing performances that we have seen of late in Europe there is no doubt Arsenal are going to have to watch out in case we have a referee with his own idiosyncratic attitude towards the rules tonight.
Indeed even if we set any question of refereeing aside, that still leaves us with surprises about the doings in matches including Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester City.
A win tonight of course will give Arsenal our first European semi-final in nine years. But results in the last few days suggest that strange events are now normality in Europe – for reasons which at the moment cannot be fully explained.
Of course this is not new this season – Barcelona 6 PSG 1 caused quite a stir, although the English media managed it with their usual approach of thinking that match fixing meant fixing just one match, and can be explained with the notion that these funny foreign referees don’t understand the game. Only the English referee can be fully trusted it seems.
Of course all these unexpected results could be down to footballers suddenly forgetting how to play as a team, but there are simpler more likely explanations. MeanwhileMr Wenger described the match involving Roma and Barcelona in the Stadio Olimpico as a “good warning” for Arsenal. We are, he suggested, in the same place that Barcelona were in.
Even before the results of the last couple of days the plan was to rest half a dozen players last weekend given the possible refereeing vagaries of the Premier League (as indeed we saw although things were to some degree corrected after the game) and that now looks like a very sound decision.
“The best way to build on the advantage is to try to win the game, so we will play with our best possible team and have a positive attitude,” Mr Wenger announced.
“We are in a position where I don’t think we are under threat of complacency. It is an important target for us to go as far as possible…. But let us not go overboard as well. Yes, we have a big job to do but we are in a strong position and it is how we approach the game that will be vital.”
Because the media in Britain only talk about the last result or two it takes a conscious effort to remember all the negativity of successive defeats there was before the Milan game and what followed.
Of course the media are now saying that Arsenal’s season will be defined by tonight’s result, but in reality that won’t happen. If Arsenal were to win the Europa League the media would talk of Arsenal getting into the Champions League by the back door. For the anti-Wengerians the Europa will be considered as meretricious as the League Cup and only those of us with the old attitude of supporting the club come what may, will truly rejoice.
Mr Wenger said, “The Europa League is important for us, everyone knows that. We are at a stage where we focus on it because in the Premier League we have a very, very, very slim chance to move further up, so the Europa League is one of the big targets now.”
As we know CSKA have never beaten a Premier League team in six home games and at a time when Britain seems to be contemplating a proxy war against Russia by bombing another country any visit to a country on the other side of the divide is worth considering with great caution. Which is why the number of Arsenal fans in Moscow could be as small as the number of CSKA fans who came to the Ems.
But Mr Wenger played this down saying, “Sport can always play a positive role in life and between countries as well. That is why football is a good opportunity always to facilitate relations. I am convinced the game tonight will be absolutely normal and the World Cup will be perfectly well organised. I have no problem about that. But maybe sport will have a more active role during this period than ever.”
We’ll continue looking forward to the game shortly.
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