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Referees! Give Arsenal A Fighting Chance – Please!

So The Arsenal, one of the great clubs in the world, puts on a pre-season friendly tournament in the capital city, and invites three decent European sides, Benfica, Monaco and Valencia to come and join the party. They throw the doors open to their wider fan-base ensuring a full house of 60,000 on both days of the weekend, many of whom are children visiting the ground for the first time. There is a real carnival atmosphere, and although the Sunday game does not go entirely to script (it is after all a proper match, albeit one played not quite at full pace) a clear cut foul on the home team’s striker in the penalty area ensures that a moment of high drama will see the match end as a draw. Not quite the perfect result, but the young crowd will experience a home goal in front of the North Bank and glow as their heroes parade the trophy that they all but guaranteed in a five goal romp against Benfica on the Saturday. Just about perfect in every way, and the officials (who have been treated with the utmost respect and looked after all weekend so that they too can get up to match speed for the coming season) don’t even have to massage the rules to achieve the result desired by all those who flocked to the Emirates.  Just about perfect in every way. It is almost as if a script has been written. God, or at least Arsene Wenger, is in his heaven and all is well with the world.

Except between them the linesman and referee manage to find a way to avoid making the right decision. Instead of the initial penalty awarded by the ref, the linesman’s intervention results in a mere free kick. The match ends in defeat and the spoils go to a Valencia side that few in the crowd have even heard of. The disappointment is tangible and the young fans drift away: some will return, many won’t.

I cannot think of any other major club in the world that would have its hospitality so cynically abused. And if, given all the peripheral reasons for ensuring that justice was done on the Sunday afternoon of an essentially meaningless Emirates Cup, the officials still choose to disadvantage the home side, what chance is there that a level playing field will exist when we travel to Manchester, to Liverpool, to West London to contest not friendlies but proper matches where points and prestige are at stake.

The mind quickly returns to the FA Cup Final, May 17th 2014. The Arsenal, rocked by two early Hull goals, slowly but surely gain a foothold in the match through the excellent Cazorla and go about securing their first trophy for several years. Referee Lee Probert, who once infamously sent Arsene Wenger to the stands for having the temerity to kick a plastic water bottle in frustration at yet another anti-Arsenal decision at Old Trafford, turns down three obvious penalty decisions in a show of breathtaking indifference to the actual rules of the game he has been chosen to oversee. This time his meddling makes no difference and an extra-time winner secures the spoils, but few would deny that Probert made it much harder for the victors to impose their obvious on-field superiority.

Penalties are game-changing moments and as such spotlight the referee’s competence, not just in applying the rules correctly, but also and perhaps more importantly, of having the courage to do so impartially, no matter what the situation, no matter how hostile the home crowd. They are real talking points, and it is no wonder that at times it is obviously easier to wave play on. However, while penalties clearly do affect results, they are not necessarily the most important decisions that referees are called upon to make. An early Yellow Card not given for a professional foul sets in motion a whole series of cynical assaults, all designed to break up the rhythm of the better side – playmakers are targeted for rotational fouling, so lax officiating not only amounts to a cheat’s charter but also threatens the skilled player’s entire career. Any team that plays a passing game does so to maneuver their opposition out of position before making the final and telling assist: little unpunished professional fouls allow the out-maneuvered time and space to regroup. The Arsenal are particularly vulnerable to this tactic, but, and this cannot be stressed too strongly, this tactic cannot work if the referee is doing his job properly. Every time you see the official keep his card in his pocket when a yellow should have been given you will know that he is, either intentionally or unintentionally, favoring the transgressor over the transgressed. Every time you read an opinion that suggests that The Arsenal have been contained or beaten by a manager that does tactics, ask yourself whether the referee has also played a part in those tactics. And if you find that yes, in fact the ref has had an influence, then you might also begin to ask about the validity or the motive of that anti-Arsenal opinion.

Any Arsenal fan will have their own particular examples of games that have been refereed in a particularly anti-Arsenal way, and it will be interesting to see the comments section fill up with moments when the decisions have literally beggared belief. The best Arsenal site for detailing the vagaries of specific referees is Untold Arsenal, and it is always sobering to read their referee reviews before any game. There don’t seem to be many refs who call it evenly, and I leave it to you to think about why that might be the case, and why so few Arsenal blogs draw attention to that situation. But I think they should, and I think that all Arsenal fans have a responsibility to speak loudly and clearly about the way the games are officiated. If there is an anti-Arsenal bias then we should all draw attention to it. Fans interviewed on Arsenal TV should talk about the decisions of the referee, fans on Twitter should point to the man in black, influential bloggers should have the officials firmly in their sights. We all enjoy having our own views about what the manager should have done, and who has played well or not so well, and there is a time and place for those opinions, but I would suggest that in the immediate aftermath of a game the performance of the officials should be clearly and vociferously scrutinized.

And perhaps most importantly of all, those who go regularly to the stadium should be very loud and proud in support of their team – and even louder and more hostile towards the referee if he shows any signs of getting it wrong. The season ticket holders need to be the 12th man, and referees should expect any decision not correctly given Arsenal’s way to lead to a violent storm of ear-splitting hate. We expect marginal decisions to go against us at Old Trafford, the Bernabeu, and the Allianz for that is the way of things, but we must do all in our power to ensure that when we play at home we at the very least get the rub of the green. It would be nice to think that on match days all Arsenal fans would put aside their differences, and unite to make The Emirates a proper fortress that our players adore and opposing teams and referees fear. Make some noise, create merry hell and make the referees mind up for him. Together we can indeed be stronger and when we go to matches we need to remember that supporting The Arsenal means exactly that – and that proper and noisy support can and does lead to key decisions going the home team’s way

 

Today’s article was given to us by Tim Head @foreverheady

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146 comments on “Referees! Give Arsenal A Fighting Chance – Please!

  1. Danny ” The Brains” Murphy, Phil “I had great success with Moysie as a coach” Neville on the couch. Blimey.
    …looks like I’ll be giving MOTD a miss this season!

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  2. Tom Huddlestone? Hahaha. Let’s throw good old Scotty Parker into the mix and you have the perfect double pivot of utter uselessness.

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  3. Tom Huddlestone is the new Schweinsteiger.

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  4. Laughable as Murphy’s suggestion is the sobering thought is that there are not exactly a queue of high quality English central midfield players available to Hodgson who are obviously much better than the hairy exSpud

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  5. One thing I am surprised about – its the sadist in me in fact – is why Spuds have not so far this Summer had a wrestling match to hold on to Christian Eriksen

    Far too good a player for that mob

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  6. Spent this morning flitting between Test Match and Members Day on the Arsenal player and was struck yet again by my ability to waste time on a day off but also by the sheer good sense that Adrian Clarke talks.

    We suddenly seem to have a lot of players on our hands and I wondered how you can keep them all at peak fitness all of the time – or whether some players are earmarked for certain periods of the season.

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  7. Andy: I am anxious about that mob this season.

    I don’t like it: its too quiet. Cue arrow through the Stetson.

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  8. Well I certainly don’t think we need to worry about the Injuns !

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  9. It is quiet over there. Usually they are making a big racket of their to-ings and fro-ings. What can it all mean? Perhaps they want Pocchetino to work first with what is there. More effort is going right now, perhaps, into their stadium work? Hopefully it all ends in tragedy yet again.

    I too think Eriksen is a good player. He needed more than part of one season perhaps to make a big enough impression for top teams to go after him.

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  10. Midfielders in the PL that you’d pick in your five-a-side team ahead of Huddlestone?

    How about:

    – Leon Osman! All day. Every day. One cap for this player which is sad considering the shite that has played.
    – Cleverly. Tailed off but played well for England against Brazil and initially for the Mancs. He’s not great but better then Huddlestone, for me.
    – Any player who has an English passport at Southampton or Swansea including the rookie Ward-Prowse.

    Anyone!
    Hella bells I’d even pick the Arsenal rookie Hayden in my team ahead of the ex-Spud.

    Tottenham can only improve after last seasons horrors. Their new manager is a good ‘un, hopefully he’ll get the sack soon enough.

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  11. Ward Prowse is a good shout – I was watching an U19 game against Brazil inToulon before the World Cup (on the box) and he scored a peach of a free kick.

    Enjoy this on me;

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  12. Hi everyone, I havnt commented for a while. Just for the record although everyone is masterbaiting over our most expensive transfer window I actually think we are not very well prepared for a number of reasons and the first six games will be extremely tough. I’m hoping we can grind out some results otherwise there will be shit flying all over the place. Palace at home is a harder game than villa last year

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  13. a_or_b: know what you mean but hoping that because a few will be playing for their places they will lift their game. The most important games are the two Champions League games. We could lose all three EPL games and still recover over the course of the season and the Charity Shield is only a friendly – but the qualifiers do matter.

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  14. Anicol, thanks. Ward Prowse is not the quickest but I won’t hold my preference or prejudice against him. I think he’ll be a very good player if he’s lucky with the old injuries. Another feather for the Southampton coaches.

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  15. a_or_b
    If it helps I’ve been worrying for weeks.
    Bolasie. Weeks and weeks of set piece “drills” and not much else just like Hull had before the FA Cup final (my guess is that Brucie ignored his last few league games as he composed his formula). Palace will not be easy. Would really appreciate it if Tommy V helped out there before he skulks out the door, but he won’t.
    Then there will be the UCL qualifiers. The only time I’ve managed to avoid palpitations in the qualifying round was last year when it became obvious that Rambo had reached nirvana and was capable of beating Fener all by himself.

    I’m hoping the friendly against City mirrors the friendly in Helsinki last year when Rambo & Chambo were the stand out players.

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  16. Had been wondering myself a few hours ago about the spuds, I wonder what caused a few of us to think about them for the first time in weeks/months?

    Don’t think they have the strength in depth for an extended league run but they definitely have a decent manager at the moment. Fortunately Levy’s still around to drag them down into Europa/sub-Europa territory.

    Until he goes it’s hard to imagine them ‘troubling the scorers’ (to borrow a cricketing cliche).

    AFC due our traditional post-World Cup slow start – the price we pay for having so many winners in the side, alas. Doomers will likely have one last hurrah before being cast into the wilderness forever.

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  17. I’m worried too a_or_b, but then again, I always worry until we’ve got through those CL qualifiers. I will be praying hard and crossing everything it’s possible to cross!

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  18. Have to say I fully agree with FH post, and George’s previous post.

    Exciting and controversial, or what?!

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  19. Fins 4:51pm

    Answer: McCarthy, all day long, a mini Keano.

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  20. Opps, maybe the wrong answer, McCarthy is Irish (sort of) so not able to help England’s midfield deficit.
    rumours suggest AW is thinking of Chambers for the role.

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  21. Draw at 11 this morning so an edgy morning in prospect.

    Has to be Bilbao, or Besiktas.

    I see Celtic have be reinstated at the expense of Legia to the predictable howls of outrage. Probably worth a couple of million € to Legia at least apart from the prestige. In football terms is grossly unfair but if you enter a competition you are required to stick to the rules. Rather than ranting at Uefa perhaps Legia better to look at the fool who failed to register the player and understand the rules of the CL.

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  22. I think defensively we have to be concerned: Merts isn’t available yet, TV seems to be off, Sagna has left, and Chambers is a young talent but without yet a clear position in the part of football where experience and understanding are most vital. So we have a bit of transition to work through in an area that was our greatest strength over all last season.

    I hope we can keep TV through the qualifiers if he goes to MU, which I don’t think we should allow. But it means getting a CB of quality in quick perhaps as Barca will want to use TV in the CL.

    One solution is a more defensive midfielder who can shield the back four and/ or drop back into CB.

    I would also be quite happy if we refused to sell him this season at all. I’d prefer that.

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  23. Besiktas it is then, and Tommy V to Barcelona according to the BBC. To be fair, I think it is possible to argue that our defence has been a bit shaky for a while: 2 goals down in no time at Wembley just one of many moments when we looked vulnerable. If TV, Sagna and Fabianksi going signals the start of a new era then that is all to the good. They have done their best when they were here, but it is time for them, and us, to move on now.

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  24. Perfectly decent draw. The Turks will hope for an off day from our lads and put as much pressure on in the home leg as they can. They gave Feyenoord a bashing in the games this week. Up to us really. Turkish teams have a pretty dire record on the road.

    Napoli v Bilbao is a bit tasty !

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  25. Limestonegunner: it’s a deal!

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  26. I would be much happier if TV goes to Barcelona. We should avoid strengthening any of our domestic rivals. It sounds (and is) obvious, but we haven’t done a very good job of that in recent years.

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  27. Had Vermaelan managed a ten game run since his return from serious injuries? With the pair in front blocking that opportunity he really does need to go and play in order complete that return to form following all those injuries (Ramsey took the trouble to inform/remind people that this process can take years…). His last performance in the 1-1 at home against City was a good one. He was getting there, and I desperately wanted him to stay this coming season to help with the triple assault (CL, PL + FACup).
    But I was convinced he’d been convinced to join LVG’s neo-Dutch revolution by his former skipper, snake that he is.

    Fortunately it seems that Tommy has chosen his own path and is happy to join Bunga Bunga even though they have just signed another £15M left sided CB from Valencia.

    So, the Arsenal sign Sanchez for essentially under £20M whilst keeping a good player who wanted to go out of the hands of a major rival who are desperate for player this good, especially a left sided CB. Well played the Arsenal, and thanks to Tommy V for not being an idiot, for being smart enough to work out that the rain in Spain is not as bad as it is in Manchester (no offence George!). I think he’ll be a success there.

    This transfer window has been incredible!

    Besiktas! Ba!
    Eeeeeeek.

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  28. Besiktas should be winnable. However it’s not the nicest place to play is it. Think we have too much about us for them though.

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  29. Looks like Tommy V going for £15m to Barca. I can’t have imagined that going any better. It was obvious he would leave since last season really. I hope we replace him though.

    As a few have mentioned above we look a little sparse at the back (especially until Merty gets back). I’m hoping we don’t have to field a makeshift defence of sorts. Let’s please not give the moaners another footing to kick the season off in misery. Palace is going to be a bloody difficult game me thinks.

    With: Gibbs, Kos, Chambers, Debuchy it’s not exactly bad but I wouldn’t put it past that cunt in charge to get the elbows working on our defence.

    Saying that if we didn’t sign anyone until next summer I’d still feel spoiled.

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  30. Loving seeing the odd comment on Twitter of that twat Tim Payton being told to “give it up FFS it’s boring now”.

    His shit stirring seems to be falling on deaf ears for the time being. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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  31. My sums may not add up but as far as I can tell the end result of Arsenal losing this player who wanted to go and was in the last year of his contract is that the Arsenal have signed Alexis Sanchez for £10-£15M less then Tottenham paid for Loldado.

    When the former owner of Tottenham, Alan “I’m on TV” Sugar said that “Wenger knows the market” he was not kidding.

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  32. Fins. Alexis was nearly £35 million .so I’m told.

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  33. Boooo.
    I wanted to include Vermaelan’s inflated fee into the Sanchez transfer as a part-exchange even though it makes no sense to do so. Alright then. Time to try again:

    Arsenal signed Electric Sanchez for around about the same fee that Tottenham paid for Erik Lamela!

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  34. Arrrgh!

    You can see it on desktop (above).

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  35. try again

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  36. DC @1.47 am
    heh!
    People say he’s a good player, I have no idea. But it’s true that Everton will play good or entertaining football and be a dangerous team this season.

    Phil Neville’s elevation from Everton coach to Utd Coach was possibly underappreciated at the time. But not by us!

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  37. I shall be sorry to see Tommy leave as he is a good footballer and a club cant have too many good footballers. His form, disrupted by injury, has been a weaker in the past two seasons than in his first spell but still a good man on his day. If it is Barcelona then he is very much the sort of club where player comfortable with the balls at his feet will fit in well.

    You have to admire Barcelona – they have been stung a few times and on the wrong end of transfers of AFC players who proved not to be what it said on the tin. The experience has not put them off.

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  38. Barca:
    A club that supposed to be barred from transfer business, are doing quite well.
    Legia , just because some tjicko polish cub official made a mess of some UEFA paperwork are being massively punished, where as the Catalan child traffickers get away with much greater immoral shit.

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  39. 15MM for Vermaelen. Is that the price of 2nd string defenders today?

    My point being that a replacement could be as expensive if not moreso.

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  40. Sorry to see Tommy V go, but he has not really been the player he was due to the injuries disrupting his progress. I can’t blame him for wanting to play but I have to thank him for going to Barca rather than a domestic rival as we all know the power really lies with the player at the end of the day. I thought his English girlfriend might want to stay in the UK, but I’m glad to see that didn’t materialise unlike Trashley Cole, who had a chance to go to Real Madrid but went to Chelski instead because Cheryl didn’t want to live in Spain!

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  41. Wenger’s known all season that Tommy would be leaving, so I expect he has the replacement lined up.
    I know we have Chambers but I’m guessing well get in a seasoned pro who will be happy on the bench for the season.
    not Agger please!
    If Tommy was sold for €15m how on earth was Sideshow worth £50m pounds?

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  42. Arteta will be the Arsenal club captain for the season. Per and Rambo will be vice captains.
    DC has spoken, His will
    Be done.

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  43. Well 15 is a decent price, but as Shotta points out, that’s the market for his replacement as well.

    OutforaCorner, Excellent!

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  44. Great article Foreverheady.

    The decision that pissed me off and still rankles me about how blatant it was and not one word was said happened 3-4 years ago. We were playing Manure and they went one up. We were building steam and looking likely to equalise. Manure come forward and just on the inside of the penalty box, Clichy runs back to block a cross and slips and falls and the ball hits his arm as it rolls along the surface. Penalty to United. Even if Clichy had somehow gotten over his human instinct of putting down your arms to soften a fall and broken his spine instead, a penalty would have been given for obstruction of goal. What was infuriating was that, not a word was spoken by the commentators.

    With the love fest over toad face, expect referee decisions to swing back to Manure’s favour.

    We always seem to be playing against 12 men.

    The Judas yellow, the Aston Villa refereeing just makes us see red. How many times did Rosicky peel off from challenges in the Villa game and instead of advantage being played, time and again, we were awarded a foul giving ample time for Villa to regroup.

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