Referee Paul Tierney was completely correct in booking Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Matteo Guendouzi for diving.
We have to remember that a dive is not just feigning contact. FA rules state:
Diving is defined as an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by falling to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to give the impression that a foul has been committed.
Just because their has been contact, it does not mean that a foul has been committed. All too often, a player go’s to ground with minimal contact, rolls about feigning injury, exaggerating the contact, in the hope of gaining an advantage.
FIFA call this “simulation”. Just because you might have been touched, it does not give you a right to go down. If the contact was not enough to impede you, then it is not a foul. If, at the slightest brush, you then decide to go down instead of remain on your feet, you should be booked for diving.
Unfortunately, when it comes to diving, referee’s in England tend to be very inconsistent.
Against Huddersfield on Saturday, Tierney followed the rules of the game, booking Xhaka, Mustafi and Guendouzi. The problem is all too often referees wave play on.
We often see Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy, and others go down with little to no contact. The referee waves play on a we get on with the game. Against Leicester on Saturday Dele Alli feigned injury to give an impression that a foul had been committed. The referee in that game waved play on.
So Arsenal (rightly) got 3 players booked – one of which will lead to a suspension – whilst other players never get punished as referee’s wave play on.
Against Tottenham, Son Heung-min went down to win a penalty. Rob Holding lunged into a challenge, and made zero contact with the South Korean.
The media response was that due to Holding sliding in, Son had a right to go down. He did not. He cheated. He went down with no contact (or at most minimal) and rolled about feigning injury. He should have been booked. Instead the referee gave a penalty.
Mistakes happen, but what has happened since just highlights the inconsistency of the FA.
November last year, Everton’s Oumar Niasse was banned for 2 games having been deemed to have deliberately attempted to con referee Anthony Taylor to give a penalty.
The FA charged Niasse with “successful deception of a match official” and an Independent Regulatory Commission was unanimous in its decision to ban the Senegalese.
After the game, Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann (who made the challenge) said the referee had been “conned”.
“I don’t like to see people getting punished but also I don’t like people diving to win penalties. [Niasse] probably knows he has conned them.
“If there was [contact] it was minimal. I haven’t tried to tackle him; he has gone past me and you can see on the replays he has dived. At half-time, [Taylor] probably knew he made the wrong decision.”
Replays showed that there was contact between Dann and Niasse, but it was extremely minimal. The Holding incident with Son was similar. If there was contact it was minimal.
Yet a week on from that game, Son has not been charged by the FA – let alone given a 2-game ban like Niasse. Meanwhile Arsenal have 3 players booked for similar incidents. Mustafi now suspended after reaching 5 yellow cards.
The incidents involving Xhaka and Mustafi had a similar level of “contact” as Son against us last weekend.
If the FA believe Xhaka and Mustafi were dives why have they not charged and suspended Son?
Too often they hide behind what the referee has “seen” and “not seen”. Were Xhaka and Mustafi incorreclty booked? Probably not. Should Son have been suspended for 2 games? Well the precedent is there with Niasse.
Further inconsistency was shown on Wednesday.
Marouane Fellaini pulled Guendouzi back by his hair. A similar incident happened back in 2016 when Robert Huth pulled back Fellaini by his hair. Huth was banned for 3 games.
In the incident with Guendouzi, Fellaini has escaped any retrospective action.
Now some will say you are only moaning because it is Arsenal and you are right, I am moaning because it was Arsenal. But up and down the country every weekend fans of clubs are complaining about referee decisions. We are all affected by it. The quicker VAR comes in the better.
All fans want is consistency.