Arsenal defending corners off and in the field

by Walter Broeckx

In the game against Legia Warsaw we saw once again that some teams don’t know the rules at all. Or better said intentionally try to break the rules. Now that is not a big surprise for me as a ref as I have to see the same attempts every week and hear a lot of rubbish being said about the rules by players and spectators. And even by most pundits who get paid to give their thoughts on the game but know almost nothing when it comes to the rules.

But the worst thing is that many referees don’t seem to know the rules at all and don’t give fouls for something where there should be no discussion. I refer to the second goal Legia scored against us and every corner kick where they packed the goal mouth with lots of players to prevent the keeper to come and claim the ball.

So let me start by quoting the Fifa rule book and guidelines on page 113:


Offences committed against goalkeepers

• It is an offence for a player to prevent a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands

• A player must be penalised for playing in a dangerous manner if he kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it

It is an offence to restrict the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him, e.g. at the taking of a corner kick

So there it is in clear written and understandable English for all to see. Managers can see it, players can read it and refs should know this by heart. Now I really do think that most refs know this. But the problem is that many refs don’t dare to take action when it is needed.

This is certainly the case when we play away from home and the crowd is breathing in the neck of the ref. Tests have shown that refs are influenced by the noise the crowd makes and so it is more difficult for a ref to give a foul against the home team when they restrict the movement of the goalkeeper. But this isn’t an excuse for a ref for not give the foul. If he can’t stand the pressure of the crowd he has to stop being a ref.

Piling players in front of a goalkeeper is what should be punished according to this rule as it always will unfairly impede the keeper to come for the ball. You are only allow to obstruct a player when you have the ball in your reach. So when the ball is flying from the corner flag to the goal at that moment you are not allowed to impede or obstruct the keeper.

In the past we have seen so many times that other team use this tactics against us and get away with it. So what can Arsenal do about this? What can they do to wake up the referees and remind them of the rules. Now it may look silly that I tell you that we should remind the refs about some rules but I can tell you that it isn’t. As you can see there are a  lot of pages in the rules and guidelines to the rules. And sometimes you lose something. It can happen as a ref that you don’t remember a rule at all or not correct. So how could we help the refs in this?

First of all I think that in the Emirates in the dressing room of the refs Arsenal should make sure that there is a rule book lying around. But they also should make it sure that they paint some of the rules that are used against us in an unfair way on the wall of the dressing rooms. They can copy parts of the rule book and put them on the wall in some kind of art form. You could compare it with the Arsenalisation of the Emirates. Why not call it the referalisation of the refs dressing room. I don’t think there can be any rule against this. How could one forbid displaying the Fifa rules in a football stadium?

So the refs will have to look at them even if they don’t want to do this. When you are a ref and when you are waiting  before a game and there is something on the wall the refs will have the habit or reading it. And if the refs every time read for example the article in the rule book I have written above it could well be that they are more aware of this rule and will apply it on the field. They could have the feeling : hey that’s right it is black on white in the rule book. And on the field they could even tell a player if he is complaining about it: ‘Now look son, it is in the rulebook on  page 113, check it out this evening’. It does make you feel smart as a ref and it will shut every player up for a while. They will be thinking: “wow, this guy knows the rules really well.”

And Arsenal could do another thing about it, on the field. Now when such a team puts 3 players around our goalkeeper we respond by putting also 3 players in there. This is so totally wrong in my opinion for 2 reasons.

First of all by putting your own players there you restrict the space even more. Then there is some kind or wrestling competition between the players and the keeper can be tripped over by his own players. As it happened in Warsaw last weekend. So by pulling the defenders a few yards out you also will create room for your own keeper and make it easier for him to collect the ball.

And the second reason is that if there are only attackers surrounding the goalkeeper it is clear to see for the ref that they obstruct the goalkeeper at the taking of a corner. If the keeper moves himself to go for the ball and an attacker impedes him the ref can see it clearly and blow the foul. But if there are as many body’s from both teams in there it is much more difficult for the ref to see who did what.

So I would suggest that Arsenal does the writing on the wall thing in the refs dressing room at the Emirates. When away they could give the ref a short reminder on those things and we know which teams apply those tactics and if the Arsenal official meets the ref before the game he can tell him: “don’t forget the rule book page 113 about impeding the goalkeeper when a corner is taken.” And as you catch a bear with honey and not with vinegar you can also add: “but we know that you will apply those rules as we know you are a good ref”.   

So if Arsenal reminds the refs and the pundits of these rules every game it could well be that the refs do apply those rules far better. I know that there are some rules that you tend to become negligent after a while as a ref. But if they don’t do their job then Arsène Wenger should come out at the press conference, take a paper out of his pocket (page 113) and tell the journalists that you don’t get it that a ref is not knowing these simple rules at all. Give the paper to the journalists and ask them why these rules are not followed even though they come directly from Fifa.

It sure will add some live in to the press conferences and if you act like this you cannot get fined for giving a bad name to the ref. You just can say you are dissapointed about the ref seemingly not knowing the rules who are available for all.

Football has a rule book and all the rules must be followed and when they are not the ref should act. That’s all we can ask. But will the refs do this? Come and see from next week. I will be having a close look on it.

33 Replies to “Arsenal defending corners off and in the field”

  1. Like the thought Walter. May make a couple of our keepers look better! One worry is that refs, some of them being very snotty, seeing the rules on the wall may say “Arsenal are taking the piss” and penalise us more badly than usual!

  2. The problem for us is more that we do not have a CB or a GK that likes to attack the ball at corners. We now go to Anfield with a choice of 4 keepers but worryingly our fit and current CB list looks like this Vermaelen Koscielny Nordveit Hoyte Miquel. Only 1 international CB available from a professional squad of 60 players you cannot blame that on Fifa or referees!!

  3. BC
    You totally missed the point. Article is about the fifa rule on the fouls on goalkeepers, and not about our squads. Of course we can have better squad and defend better. But that is another subject.

  4. So if that,s the case why don,t Arsenal players do exactly the same against their opponents starting at Anfield this coming Sunday ,harass the goalie when it,s Arsenal corners ?

  5. This is very informative but I have one observation. The wording includes the phrase ‘unfairly impeding him’. What exactly does this mean? Obviously grabbing the goalie by the arm or standing on his foot would come into the category of unfair but would standing in close proximity also qualify? It seems to me that it is not as clear cut as you say unless close proximity can categorically be classified as commiting an offence. If a player deliberately moves to block the keeper after he (the keeper) makes a move to claim the ball then that is deliberate obstuction, but if the player/players are already standing there how can it be construed as an offence, irrespective of how close he/they are to the goalie. It would be very hard for the ref to decide given all the other things going on during a corner situation.

  6. “this is bullshit..”
    Oh dear. Listen carefully. It isn’t bullshit it is the rules by which the game should be played.

  7. Great approach Walter.
    Dont know if you have heard of a guy called Derren Brown ( but he is on Tv here in the UK
    A subtle approach which a person is not aware of seems to work quite well and then they think they are making their own decision.
    It would also overcome the point made by Gf60
    —-Anyone got any ideas???—-
    Could do with something for the doom merchants as well to stop them groaning when someone makes a mistake — it doesn’t help you know!!!

  8. Stick that 20 year old 6’5″ prodigy we have between the sticks and the attempted impeding would cease fairly sharpish.

  9. Of course it’s against the rules, but then so is about 3/4 of the physical play I see in the Premier League.

    Besides, this isn’t anything new at Arsenal. Teams used to target Jens all the time, try to wind him up by putting a player right in front of him and he would get them off of him. Our defenders are exacerbating this problem by standing right next to the offensive players who are forming a chevron around the keeper — make it clear that the offensive players are forming a wall and step away. Besides, when the corner comes swinging in, our defenders could get a running start at the header and really clatter some of these çunts.

  10. Excellent idea ‘referalisation’. Could the crowd not remind the ref of his rule book obligations!

  11. That makes it twice you’ve taught me rules to this sport! Nobody really reads the rules anymore, theyr sort of handed down by tv commentators and coaches. There are occasions where I thought our keepers have been hard done by, like last season at blackburn where dunn pushed campbell into fabianksi, who was knocked off balance, and so couldnt come out to claim, leaving samba with an easy header. As a result lukasz was unfairly attacked almost universally by arsenal fans.
    I dont know how easy it would be for the ref to spot that particular foul, but it definitely seems like something that comes up a lot. Many people thought fabianski was given TOO MUCH protection in that game, somehow, even though allardyce had made his intentions clear beforehand.
    These rules should really be made more widely known.
    It’s ridiculous that referees do not follow the rules when they are claerly able. It’s forgiveable to get an offside wrong, or not see it clearly when a shot crosses the goal-line, or even to fail to give a foul sometimes, but it’s not acceptable for the refs to not no the rules, or simply refuse to enforce them because the general population doesn’t want to recognise that rule.

  12. I have noticed this problem for awhile and it’s nice that you’ve brought it up. I’m curious as to whether our previous goalkeepers would have allowed such bullying in the first place. I highly doubt Lehman would keep quiet the way Almunia does in these situations. You can see clearly almost everytime a ball comes in from a corner it’s like the opposing attackers and their markers form a pocket around the keeper so he can’t move or do anything really. The keeper needs to get in there and command his area. That’s not to say the rules shouldn’t be followed but our keepers don’t seem as commanding and opposing teams take advantage of that

  13. no it’s down to AW putting all 11 players in the box at corners, when the ball coming in there is about 12-15 players in the 6 yard box and the keeper as some how got to get too the ball

  14. Mick,

    what I haven’t written in the article is that a few seasons ago we had this as a point of attention in the anual update of referees before the seasons started.
    We then had some clear examples on what was meant and what we should punish. They showed images on dvd of situations. Many situations were from the EPL and guess what some scenes from games where Arsenal played at Bolton and with Jens Lehman in goal.
    At the end of the day: almost all the goals shown and scored against us had to be disapproved according to the instructors.

    The instructors told us that putting 1 player in front of a keeper is not a foul HOWEVER this player may not IN ANY WAY MOVE or place himself in SUCH A WAY THAT HE OBSTRUCTS THE KEEPER IN ANY WAY.
    If such a player even jumping up and down in front of the goalkeeper to prevent that he can see what is happening that is enough for calling the foul.

    In short the only way such a player would not commit a foul is that if the corner goes to him and that he has been standing still and he jumps up at the moment the ball gets there and heads the ball before the goalkeeper can reach the ball.

    In this case I am only talking about the players putting the “shield’ up before the keeper. We had to take those battles out of football. That is what we were instructed by our FA.

    And like Blatter always tells us: in football the rules are the same in all countries and at all levels.

    So the instructions given to us should be the same in all countries and rules stay the same unless they are changed in an official way. I can garantuee you that since then this rule is still the same and the instructions are still the same.

    The text from rulebook I used is the actual rulebook on

  15. GF60, if I make the assumption that the refs are unbiased it would work.
    I admit that the rule book is somewhat big and there are many rules in it. And there are rules and instructions that you forget after a while. Just look at the asking for cards. You must give a yellow card at players asking for a card but how many times do you this still given? This is part of the human brain: most refs forget it.

    And the more players wave with their hands around without punishment the more people AND refs accept it and find it normal. Well it still should be punished but you hardly see it anymore.

    This goes for most of the rules. You will not see this with offside as the linesman know that they have to punish it. But the ref has to take care of over 100 pages of rules and then you can, in the heat of the moment, forget a rule.

    Maybe if you make it in an artist impression together with paintings of play situations where refs do it rigth you can influence a ref.
    And by influencing a ref I don’t mean to get him to blow in favour of Arsenal but I mean influence him to apply the rules correct. That is all we need.

  16. A mate of mine who qualified as a ref many years ago would be belting out his mantra at some of the posts- they are not “rules” they are “laws”!

    I think though the captain should approach the ref to remind him as this may help but there again he may take it the wrong way and think that he is being undermined!

  17. I Dont think it matters if the refs interpet the rules wrong, it only matters how you as a team can play in such a way that it does not affect you. If arsenl is being treated unfair, then we got to deal with that, and make sure the oponents cannot take advanatage of that injustice.

    After all we can moan all we wont it will not change reality,refs will still do the same and other teams will still bhave like they always have, just as the doom and gloom can moan all they want, there will be no 20M pluss signing like ever!

    So instead of moaning we should come up with clever, nifty tricks,tricks that makes it so horrible for the oponent that they actually do stop.
    That is our only way of winning this battle, do things that makes the oponent not want to take advantage.

    We can overcome injustice, it has been done before and surly we can do it to.

    Focus has to be on how we deal with reality not how reality is not fair. Cos reality rarly is fair.

  18. Walter – it’s good to hear a referee agree with a point I made several days ago on this blog about making fouls on our keeper more obvious by taking our players out of the six yard box.
    Obviously a coach would like to keep a man on each post to provide extra cover on the line but, other than that, all other defenders could be seen to be adding to the confusion rather than preventing it.
    Cast your minds back to Blackburns winning goal against us at the end of last season. David Dunn, with no intention of going for the ball (he was bending down for goodness sake) backed into Sol Campbell who was pushed onto Fabianski. Maybe the ref allowed it because he believed that the ‘foul’ on the keeper was actually caused by Campbell. Maybe, because it wasn’t Dunn who scored the goal, it was thought that the scorer hadn’t directly gained advantage from the jostling that was a ’50/50 offence’.
    Either way – if there are no other defenders there can be, at the very least, a great deal less confusion about who’s fouling who. All the keeper has to do is to make a show of going for the ball and ‘accidently’ finding himself blocked by an attacker. Attackers would be forced to move further away from the keeper and everyones tactics at corners would have to change.
    The direct-into-the-box corner would become obsolete, and the short corner would become the norm.
    One other bonus of the goalkeeper being given more such protection would be that teams who seem to rely totally on set pieces to be played above the head of the keeper would find them redundant. They would stop playing for fouls in the opponents half and would concentrate more on keeping the ball ‘live’.
    Result – more entertaining football.

  19. I gave a proposal to handle it in the article: get your defenders out of the crowd surrounding the keeper! Create space for the keeper.

  20. Walter- are you giving an excuse for arsenal not handling corners properly? we should be expecting more physical stuff than this in the premier league. If our keepers cant handle such things then who will?

  21. Inspired to do some research after the Blackburn game I came to the indisputable conclusion: that in Lancashire an official will give a player in a ‘line out’ during a game of Rugby League more protection then an Arsenal goalkeeper in a game of football.
    But that’s just your average style of play in the PL? I don’t think so.

    No wonder so many ‘Up Norf’ prefer to watch and play Rugby.

  22. Nope, Legia did not do anything of the sort.
    Well played Legia Warsaw, that was a fun game.

  23. Got my refereeing exam tomorrow Walter, I’ll let you know if this comes up! Good article though, Blackburn away was a shambles from a ref’s point of view, I could see the fouls from the stands!

  24. Dark Prince, I’m just trying to explain the rules for those who want to know them.
    BTW the mantra : it’s a mans game is not in the rule book. Because it isn’t a mans game. It is a sport with laws and refs have to take care of those laws.

    Keith as a non English speaker I will try to remember this in the future.I must say that in my mother language we use the word “regels” and in translation I came up with “rules”.

  25. Thanks Walter. I’ve got to get up at 5am to get a train to the FA headquarters, but I want to get the qualification so I can do something about the Ramsey assaults as opposed to just complaining.

  26. This is a very informative article Walter and gives yet another example of the extent to which English refs and their governing bodies have re-interpreted the laws of the game.
    Surely there is a need to establish an independent body to re-xamine the way refs are interpreting the rules in England-surely this has got to be a factor in our world cup and European Championship failures-its time we came into line with the rest of Europe.

  27. Very thoughtful and amusing piece Walter. I do have one question – Did you check the rules, er, laws of football or “English football” ? Perhaps the latter has a different set?!

    I think teams like Stoke and Blackburn will get relegated if the laws are strictly followed … I’ve a feeling half the teams in the Premiership will struggle to score any goals at all.

    I also feel it’s not so much about refs forgetting the laws, while that is definitely possible, I think there is too much pressure on them, especially in England. Far too many commentators and media writers start saying the ref spoilt the game by giving a yellow card or a red card and that kind of stuff.

  28. They say that handball as sport is often suffering from referees freedom of interpretation, what proved on all last big competitions by favoring host nations or big teams. Simple, World Handball Association let refs be a bit flexible with decisions to “promote” certain countries.

    Now what handball have with Arsenal? Well I think same happen in EPL where FA let referees freely interpret certain rules for sake of protecting “nature” of British football, what, obviously, some teams learned how to use. I don’t think it is aimed against Arsenal, but against every team who relay more on technical abilities over physical strength.

    I don’t think, this time, its Ficking Fufa mistake, as we all witnessed such things didnt happen in CL games (nor in Europa League). And first time in Legia game I sow it happen on “international” level, and that could be sign for alarm, if it would be widely accepted. But fortunately World Cup showed on international level it wont be accepted. So problem is FA…

  29. Current Arsenal and future Arsenal keepers should take a leaf out of the book of JENS. Realising that referees would simply not enforce the rules of the game and protect his right to challenge for the ball, Jens took the law into his own hands and started polishing his studs with the achilles tendons of the offenders.
    Amazing how incidents lessened after that eh

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