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Do referees have a problem with Arsenal?

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Are referees biased against Arsenal? It’s a question that has been asked so many times over the past twenty years and after the game against Wolves is back in vogue. And looking at some of the decisions and punishments meted out I think it’s hard to not think that Arsenal have been treated slightly harsher than other teams.

Most seasons it seems that Arsenal’s disciplinary record is amongst the worst in the league despite being near the bottom in terms of fouls committed. Some of this can be explained by a certain naivety in the dark arts, that our players are not as good at disguising intention, but when watching Arsenal games you do get the feeling that Arsenal players get booked for infringements that the opposition do not. And then you have ridiculous decisions like the Nicolas Pepe booking versus Southampton; booked for taking too long to be substituted and then wasn’t substituted at all, imagine if he had got a second yellow after that.

 

The above highlights the thing I think is missing the most in officiating – consistency. It’s hard to not feel anger at referees when you see your team get punished for something and the opposition get away with it. If you look at the Wolves game and the David Luiz incident, how is it any different to what happened to Bukayo Saka earlier in the game? Neither defender made a proper challenge but there was accidental contact. One ends up being a red card and a penalty and the other isn’t given.

Inspired by @kickarsehd and @jonnyoneil on Twitter there have been plenty of instances where Arsenal have been punished and there has been talk of a rule change that was being used, only for it to never be heard of again.

Retrospective bans for diving in Europe – Eduardo was villainized and banned but I don’t think this has happened to any other player since

Tactical fouling – Granit Xhaka being sent off for a tactical foul on the half way line. Plenty of these challenges have happened since with not one red card given.

Swearing at referees – Patrick Vieira was sent off for swearing at the ref in what was meant to be a crackdown. How many players have sworn at a referee since and how many have been sent off?

When being offside isn’t enough to stop a penalty – When they re-interpreted the offside rule to justify giving Harry Kane a penalty

People like to have a go at VAR, because they see it as a faceless, non-human, but ignore the fact that bar offsides, it’s the same officials looking at it on the screen as it is officiating on the games. Every team has had frustrating offside calls go against them, goals being ruled on or off side by the smallest of margins but it’s hard not to feel that even with VAR when the call is subjective then it tends to go against Arsenal, below are just a few examples from many.

 

  • Sokratis’ disallowed goal vs Crystal Palace – ruled out for a foul by Calum Chambers despite it looking like Chambers himself was tripped as he plays the ball
  • Eddie Nketiah being sent off v Leicester and in the very next game a Liverpool player doing the exact same thing and staying on.
  • The previously mentioned incidents in the Wolves game (Luiz and Saka).

The last one and I would argue the Bruno Fernandes one at the weekend come down to what decision the on field referee makes. If the ref gives a penalty for the contact on Saka then it doesn’t get overturned, and if the referee gives Fernandes a red card I don’t think it gets overturned. And this is where I come to the answer of my initial question.

 

Are referees biased against Arsenal? In my opinion, apart from that 50th game at Old Trafford, not consciously but I think all referees have an unconscious bias. Arsenal are seen as foreign and whingers so any foul on an Arsenal player is viewed as exaggerated whereas a foul by an Arsenal player doesn’t get the benefit of that doubt. That’s why players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will, rightfully, get sent off for a bad challenge but do the same challenge to an Arsenal player and it would get a yellow card. This is also why Arsenal don’t get many penalties. Even when it’s an English player going down the first thought of the referee is that the contact has been exaggerated. Referees also seem to judge players on reputations. If Xhaka does that challenge on Fernandes then I would not be surprised to see him get sent off, and if another defender other than David Luiz is involved in an incident last night, like Virgil van Dijk say, I don’t think the outcome is the same. You also see this in how England captains get treated. Alan Shearer got away with kicking someone in the head and now Harry Kane suffers no punishment for his dangerous undercutting and gets many decisions that other players would not.

 

I believe Arsene Wenger was right every time he criticised referees but I am not sure that has helped us long term. After Eduardo, Wenger rightly called out the kick Arsenal narrative, but after that in the run of eight or so draws, numerous tight decisions went against us, and ultimately ended our title challenge. Jose Mourinho suffered similarly when he criticised the lack of penalties Chelsea were getting. Rather than get more penalties, they started to get less, even the stone wall ones were waved away. Referees, or more likely English referees, do not like criticism and react badly to it, and the Wenger clip going round about English referees and the World Cup has probably not been forgotten.

 

So in summary I give referees the benefit of the doubt on the bias and say it’s subconscious. I would not give them the benefit of the doubt on their abilities. Every game shows how poor the officiating is in the so-called best league in the world and VAR has served to highlight this rather than make them become better. I will probably look at VAR another time but even if it was taken away, you would still be left with the same inept officiating and this is the problem that most needs fixing.

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Robin van Persie & the red card that cost Arsenal dearly in 2011

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Remember when Arsenal were good? No, didn’t think so.

 

Joking aside, 2011 brings bittersweet memories for Gunners fans and, rose-tinted spectacles or not, most of them would snap your hand off if offered to go back to those times. Yes, even with Marouane Chamakh on the books and Jens Lehmann back in the squad.

 

Having completed an iconic 2-1 comeback win against Barcelona in front of a raucous Emirates Stadium, Arsenal felt invincible once again. A Jack Wilshere masterclass and a winning goal from Andrey Arshavin (who the streets will never forget) saw them take one step towards the Champions League quarter final, having schooled the competition favourites in a mighty and characterful display in north London.

 

With the second leg date set for 8 March 2011, Arsenal had a few weeks in between where they had the chance to win some silverware in preparation for the big trip to Barcelona, facing Birmingham in the League Cup final on 27 February.

 

Arsenal took the lead through Robin van Persie, but a last minute winner halted the Gunners in their pursuit of the trophy, because that’s what Arsenal do best. Not to panic, though, because the trip to Spain was waiting and all would be forgotten when the Gunners ran wild on Camp Nou, even if there were doubts over Van Persie’s fitness.

 

Barcelona were out for revenge having had a win in London stolen from under their eyes. They won all four games they played in between the two legs, and arrived at Camp Nou in March ready to throw everything they had at Arsenal.

 

 

It was going well for the Gunners after kick off, until Wojciech Szczesny was injured after saving a free kick from Dani Alves – one that was so hard it dislocated his finger and forced Arsenal into a substitution. Manuel Almunia came on and did well, but that was a sign that it would be a tough night at the office.

 

Arsenal’s defence had managed to limit the numbers of chances afforded to Lionel Messi in the first half, but he found a way through in injury time to give La Blaugrana the lead, majestically dinking the ball over Almunia before tapping home to level the aggregate score line.

 

Arsene Wenger’s side came out with intent after the break, and a bullet header from Sergio Busquets of all people saw the ball rifle into the back of his own net and restore Arsenal’s lead.

 

Then disaster struck.

 

Three minutes later, Van Persie was adjudged to be offside when he latched onto Cesc Fabregas’ through ball and fired just wide. For continuing to play on and taking the shot after the referee had blown his whistle, the Dutchman received a second yellow card and was sent off in bizarre fashion, leaving Arsenal down to 10 men and without their talisman. His face said it all – he was bewildered as to why he was being dismissed.

 

A furious Van Persie appealed to referee Massimo Busacca, explaining that he didn’t hear the whistle amid the cheers and jeers of a full Camp Nou as he burst through on goal. The ref was having none of it, though, and Arsenal capitulated while Barça seized the opportunity.

 

Andres Iniesta turned up the heat in the middle of the park, slaloming past a number of players to assist Xavi and level the aggregate score at 3-3 after 69 minutes. Messi gave his side the lead two minutes later from 12 yards after Laurent Koscielny tripped Pedro inside the box, and that was it.

 

The Gunners turned to a substitute Nicklas Bendtner, who couldn’t find a heroic winning goal for his side- obviously – and Barcelona strolled into the quarter finals winning 3-1 on the night.

 

Speaking after the final whistle, Van Persie hailed the decision as a ‘total joke’ and lambasted the referee for being poor and against Arsenal all night, having ‘killed the game’ with his performance.

 

 

The defeat was a kick in the teeth for Arsenal, who had gone from being favourites to win the League Cup and knock out Barcelona in the Champions League to a side left bereft by two damaging defeats.

 

To make matters worse, the injury to Szczesny resulted in 41-year-old Jens Lehmann being dragged out of retirement as Almunia was the only fit keeper at the club – what a way to end a whirlwind few weeks, eh?

 

It’s difficult to say with any certainty- particularly with a team consisting of Chamakh, Bendtner and the aforementioned German pensioner – whether Arsenal would have become European champions had they beaten Barça. But one thing is for sure – Van Persie’s dismissal cost them dearly on the night, and instead of Arsene Wenger lifting the Champions League high above his head, it was Pep Guardiola.

 

 

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Mikel Arteta demands answers over ‘obvious’ penalty Arsenal were denied in Burnley draw

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was left fuming following his side’s 1-1 draw with Burnley at Turf Moor because of the ‘obvious and clear’ penalty the Spaniard thought the Gunners should have been awarded.

 

It was a passage of play that saw Nicolas Pepe take on the Burnley left-back Erik Pieters, whose arm appeared to meet the ball and block it. The incident wasn’t flagged up by VAR and the game continued.

 

 

Pieters was later penalised for a separate incident when he blocked a goal-bound shot from Pepe, which deflected onto the crossbar and clear. Referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot and brandished a red card, but VAR intervened when replays showed it had struck his shoulder.

 

The latter incident was a perfect example of how VAR should work, but Arteta was perplexed as to why the first incident wasn’t ruled a penalty, which could have given Arsenal the win.

 

“I think it’s obvious and clear, I think there is no debate about that. If that is not a penalty, then would someone explain what a penalty is in this league,” he said, via Arsenal.com.

 

“We created, but we didn’t score enough. We gave a goal to the opponent and then don’t get the decision that we should get. It then becomes very difficult to win the game.”

 

Having taken the lead early through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the goal that Arsenal gave away was avoidable and the result of Granit Xhaka trying to play a pass that had been closed off by Burnley forward Chris Wood, who blocked it and diverted the ball into the goal.

 

Arteta defended Xhaka’s decision making in that instance, insisting that possession-based football from the back is still how he wants his team to play, despite the risks involved.

 

“It is what it is, it’s the way that we play and the way that I want to play,” the boss explained.

 

“We just have to know the risk and the rules that we have in certain areas in terms of the type of balls we have to play. But it is what it is.”

 

 

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English FA explains why Arsenal were denied penalty against Burnley

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The Premier League has claimed that Arsenal were denied a penalty against Burnley because Erik Pieters was in ‘close proximity’ to Nicolas Pepe.

The Gunners were forced to settle for a point at Turf Moor after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s early opener was cancelled out by Chris Wood, who benefitted from a huge mistake by Granit Xhaka.

However, Arsenal felt aggrieved in the 75th minute when Pepe’s touch inside Burnley’s box led the ball to hit Pieters’ outstretched arm, but Mikel Arteta’s side were not awarded a penalty following a VAR review.

Earlier this week, Fulham were involved in a similar incident as Mario Lemina was penalised for handball in the build-up to their disallowed goal against Tottenham.

But in a statement after the game, the Premier League clarified why Arsenal were not given the decision.

‘The ball has hit him from close proximity and he’s had no time to react,’ said the statement. ‘It wasn’t given on-field and the VAR didn’t think it was a clear error.’

 

Arteta, meanwhile, was left in no doubt that his side should have been awarded a penalty. ‘Absolutely,’ the Arsenal manager said after the game.

 ‘I think it is obvious and clear. I think there is no debate about that. ‘If that’s not a penalty, then someone will explain what a penalty is in this league.’

 

 

 

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