Before the season begun, officials were instructed to adopt a higher threshold for penalising contact in challenges.
I am sure we can all agree that as every passing season goes by, our game is getting softer and softer and we were hurtling towards “any contact is a foul”.
That being said, Robert Jones took the instruction to another level in our game against Southampton and made the decision that all wrestling and all grapling would not consitute a foul.
The referee set his stool out very early on – in the opening few minutes Gabriel Jesus was clearly shoved in the back by serial offender Duje Ćaleta-Car and Jones awarded a free kick to Southampton.
No too long later, Lyanco swung his elbow not once, but twice into the back of Jesus. Again, no free kick to Arsenal despite the clear violent conduct.
Then Mohammed Salisu bundles over Bukayo Saka right in-front of the linesman. It is becoming clear and obvious that the officials agreed pre-game to allow a higher level of contact than is reasonable and Southampton were now taking full advantage of the incompoetent refereeing.
Ćaleta-Car and Jesus then come together under a high ball. The Croatian central defender with an arm around Jesus’s neck. No freekick. Moments later a near identical incident results in the same outcome.
We then have the penalties.
Firstly we had Jesus who had turned Ćaleta-Car who in turn pulled back the Brazilian.
Not only should it have been a penalty, it should have been a red card.
On speaking to the referee after the game, Jesus said “I spoke with him straight after and he said ‘if you go down before maybe I can give a penalty’.
And with that statement, we can now see why players go down when fouled, even when the contact was mpt enough to send them to the ground – not ever foul is enough to send a player tumbling, but it seems unless a player hits the deck referees are reluctant to give a penalty.
So we have Ćaleta-Car wrestling or going through the back of Jesus on 4 occasions. Each occasion the ref did not penalise the defender. I guess at least he was consistent!
Shortly before half time, Ben White was shoved in the back, 2 handed, in the area. once again the referee waved it away, despite the Southampton player impeding his opponent whilst not playing the ball.
And finally we have Kieran Tierney.
The Scotsman was taken out at the far post by a leading arm whilst trying to head the ball back across. It was not too dissimilar to what happend with Son last season.
On that occasion, Cedric took Son out in the air whilst getting no-where near the ball. Just like Sunday.
Then towards the end of the game Lyanco attempts a head butt on Eddie Nketiah, and then later grabs him by the throat.
The attempted headbutt was a red card in itself, but he only got a yellow. You then have to question why he did not get a second yellow for the throat grab – or did the “2 yellow cards” thing only happen that once for Gabriel Martinelli and has never been seen again?
I think it is clear to everyone watching that the referees made the pre-match decision to allow a physical game happen.
They were consistent in their decision making in allowing a lot of grappling and wrestling from Southampton during the game – but ultimately they got their decisions wrong.
To further highlight how poor the officials were, we have the Saka incident.
During the first half, Jones booked Bukayo Saka for “diving”.
Now it was one of those incidents that we have seen the likes of Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane do week in, week out.
Leave the leg dangling to initiate the contact. The aforementioned pair have won plenty of penalties using this method in the past.
An incident like that should never be a penalty – and VAR has cancelled out a few of them this season. But it is also never a booking.
Interesting that the ref then tells Jesus “you should have gone down”.
Both Mikel Arteta and Jesus responded to the poor decision making in the correct way. It was not the reason we failed to win the game.
“That is not the reason why we don’t win the game and we had a lot of chances” Jesus said during his post-game interview.
Whilst Arteta followed that with “This is football. We were really good in the first half and totally controlled the game. We created loads of big chances that we didn’t put away.”
And that is why I like this Arsenal under Arteta.
No excuses, no feeling sorry for ourselves, just dust yourself down and get on with the next game.
If it was Jurgen Klopp, he would probably still be ranting into next week!
So 12 wins from 14 games.
The media will paint this as “Arsenal have a weak squad” and try to make a mountain out of a mole hill. But we have had an increible start (and Manchester City did not gain similar criticism when they drew away to Aston Villa).
And meanwhile, Spurs will escape any sort of negative comments over losing 2 on the bounce.
Thursday we go again where I would expect a more rested XI having secured Europa League qualification.
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