Every season there’s a game that you play where you are utterly f*cked by circumstances beyond your control. It hurts. It’s unfair. It stings. That game was last night against Wolves.
The game hinged on a very poor decision from a very poor referee.
David Luiz was adjudged to have fouled Willian José when his foot clipped the Brazilian’s knee. Craig Pawson, desperate to give the penalty, was backed up by VAR and he issued a red card, going against double jeopardy ruling. This is Mark Clattenburg on the incident.
David Luiz was incorrectly sent off after giving away a penalty at Wolves — it should have been a yellow card.
The Arsenal defender made accidental contact with Willian Jose as he ran clear on goal and that caused the forward to fall. No one can dispute it was a foul and the award of a penalty was the right decision.
However, a law exists that protects teams from conceding a penalty and losing a player to a red card if a genuine attempt to play the ball has been made.
It was a horrible decision and it completely ruined the progressive football we’d been playing for the previous 46 minutes.
The penalty was scored and shortly after kick-off in the second half, Moutinho let off a screamer that beat Bernd Leno from about 25 yards. Saka and Partey should have done more, but really, it’s quite harsh to apportion blame, the strike was lethal.
Things got worse for Arsenal, Bernd Leno, an absolute rock for us, misjudged a long ball and was sent off when he handled outside the area. Matters were made worse when we gave the ball boy keeper gloves and played out the game with an amateur between the sticks.
We lost. It was rough. The game shone an light on a harsh reality… Premier League referees are awful.
I don’t want to be a conspiracist, but simply put, if you cannot make good decisions when you have the luxury of technology to support you, there needs to be a change. Arsene Wenger had it right, he said that no one wants to have this conversation, but when it comes to the World Cup, FIFA don’t exactly line-up for our referees. How could they be good, the managing director for PGMOL is Mike Riley, a bad referee famed for incompetence is leading them.
PGMOL lacks accountability. The standard of officiating in the UK is terrible. This isn’t mere gripping, it’s fact. Technology is used poorly, bad refs keep ruining important games, and there seems to be no one competent in charge to drive improvement.
Back to Arsenal. David Luiz needs to take some accountability. If you know the refs are shit, don’t take risks. If he were a driver, he’d be the guy going 80mph on a country road, 3 inches behind the car in front… chances are, that sort of motoring is going to get punished at some point. It was, and it happens too often. Still, the simple fact is, history doesn’t matter here, we were totally fucked by a shit referee… again.
However, let’s put some things in perspective, especially for all the ghouls that showed up after the game to condemn the project.
Arsenal are going places under Arteta. We all had our doubts before Christmas, but the transformation on the pitch has been nothing short of electric. If you can’t see it, it’s because you don’t want to see it.
That first half was the best half of football we’ve see all season. The energy was outrageous, we looked powerful, we pressed with intent. The attacking football at times was sublime. We’ve gone from one power-play to a whole plethora of options when we move forward.
Thomas Partey made amends for his average performance at the weekend. He was world-class. He is the balance between attack and defence. His instincts for the game are unreal. He was everywhere. Can you believe that people said they wouldn’t take him on a free? Embarrassing carry-on.
Bukayo Saka, you absolute beauty. He’s so, so important to us. He dominated in attack. His finishing was off, but my oh my is it clear that we missed him for the United game.
Xhaka was very impressive. Cedric had another good game. Lacazette played that false 9 role like a demon.
Nicolas Pepe… OH MY… is it starting to look like I bet on the wrong opinion. He should live on the left. He was unplayable at times. He is working like his career depends on it. His body language was excellent, his desire to be involved felt different, and he showed up with a goal. He won the ball back with the press, he held of challenges, retained balance, and smashed home with a clinical finish. A thing of beauty.
We’re shaping up nicely. Every issue we’ve had with Arteta is being resolved one game at a time. We’re still defensively resolute, even with 9 men, just look at what happened to Southampton. We’re getting better and better in attack, some of the football was scintillating. We are starting to look elite even without our best starting 11. Our bench had Martinelli, Gabriel, Auba and Odegaard… true strength in depth. We’re also rattling the naysayers… which makes me happy. Too many Arsenal fans hate it when we’re doing well, a shame, but the reality of the modern-day superbore.
A bad day at the office, but plenty to be pleased about.
This season is done. That’s terrible. It wasn’t on the bingo card this year. So we have to move on, we have to look to next season, we have to start thinking about how we can best used the remaining months as a preseason to a normal year in 2022.
We were robbed. 3 points would have been ours had it not been for that pesky ref. Time to show we have the strength to come back from it at the weekend.
Onwards and upwards, ignore the melts, we’re progressing very nicely.