Arsenal Must Learn To Deal With The Errors Of Match Officials

In the game against Villa, we all saw that a blatant offside decision against Carew, that led to the first goal for the home side, was not given.

I assume most readers know the ruling well enough so I don’t have to explain in detail why the Villa striker was offside. As we can see from the following image, Carew was blocking Fabianski’s vision and thereby interfering with play. The fact that he was injured does not have any bearing on the decision.

The most surprising part of this goal was that the linesman’s flag never went up. As I said in the match report, I can’t quite understand why that was the case. It’s not his job to judge whether a player in an offside position is in front of the goalkeeper or not. From his viewpoint there is no way a linesman can make that call. The correct thing for him to do was raise the flag and let the referee decide. As we can see in the image above, the ref was in a good position to see that Carew was right in front of Fabianski.

The most disappointing part of this goal however, was that no Arsenal player complained about the offside. It was as if they just didn’t have the presence of mind at that moment.

Now let’s look at the third goal for the Tiny Totts. The light and dark shades of grass make it easy for us to see difference between the location of the foul and one where the free kick was actually taken.


It’s clear from the above images that Van der Vaart stole 10 yards or so and created a much better angle for himself.

Obviously, the responsibility to ensure that such a freekick is taken from the right spot is with the match officials. But if they don’t get it right, surely some Arsenal player must be alert to the situation and to the dangers of allowing the opposition to sneak forward?

These are small issues but they can make a big difference at the end. If the Villa goal had been disallowed that win might have been a lot more comfortable. If Van der Vaart had delivered from a different angle we might have defended it better. If it had been 2-2 with five minutes to go, who knows what the final result might have been.

I’m trying to think of why Arsenal fail to focus on such issues. It’s not because the players are dumb or don’t care. That’d be a stupid argument. I feel the following explanations make some sense.

Firstly, there is a problem with the language. I’m not sure players like Arshavin, Song, Rosicky, Chamakh, and some others can talk to the ref in fluent English. That would make it very difficult for them to express their opinion. But this might be an excuse for other issues, it cannot be an excuse for the above two cases where they just had to say offside or point to the correct spot for the freekick.

Secondly, there is a general problem of perception against the Arsenal players. If they’re seen talking to the ref I see a lot of criticism in the media whereas other players get away with it all the time. This also affects the refs and sometimes our players are unnecessarily and unfairly punished when they try to talk to the ref or his assistant. This, when combined with the first issue, might be preventing them from approaching the referee.

Thirdly, there is the problem of confidence. Right now, after some poor results at home and in the Champions League, Arsenal players seem too concerned and hesitant when they’re under pressure. This undoubtedly affects their speed of thought in situations like the ones I mentioned above.

When Cesc is on the pitch he does a decent job of talking to the ref but even he is not really cut out for such a role. Sol Campbell was IMO excellent at this. But right now we don’t have many players who can just keep chatting with the ref and ensure that the men in black aren’t making any glaring mistakes.

In some ways we have to live with the fact that the officials will make mistakes and more often than not the decision will be against Arsenal rather than the opponent. I don’t think this can be completely eliminated. But if we have a couple of players on the pitch who can maintain their focus on refereeing decisions and develop the art of talking to the referee, it could make a vital impact on our title challenge.

39 Responses to Arsenal Must Learn To Deal With The Errors Of Match Officials

  1. Arsenalisto says:

    I think for all criticism that our team takes supposedly for not being ruthless, aggressive, and for being “soft”..etc from various sources (media, other managers…and even us the fans) it got to their mind that they really are and that when things go wrong, they’re always solely the ones responsible. They’re not looking after themselves anymore, they want to do anything possible to please the fans and prove themselves to them. That probably can be portrayed as complacency in some way and I think they’re not really to blame for, because they’ve always complained about these stuff until as of late. We really should start supporting our team properly to hopefully give them a bit of arrogance towards other teams, refs..etc, that extra bit of arrogance can make a different on the pitch. It’s also once an Arsenal players makes anything wrong for the first time, they’re made criminals on papers, MOTD and all those nonsense media sources.

  2. billy austin says:

    I think Rosicky and Arshavin both speak very good English.

    Agree with you about the rest, though. It’s all part of our being too much of a soft touch. Hopefully it’ll improve.

    • desigunner says:

      I guess I didn’t put my point across well enough. My intention was not to belittle the players’ command on English given that it is not their first language.

      I think some of the players speak good English but in a formal sort of a way. When dealing with the refs if they use that kind of a language it might come across as confrontational. What we need is someone who can have a casual chat or banter which would make the ref feel at ease and not threatened. I don’t think most foreign players would be able to do that unless they train for it or have spent quite a few years in England.

  3. Henry XIV says:

    I agree with you that we should defend our interests better with the ref, but I wouldn’t stand it if we became like UNITEd, always SYSEMATICALLY raising hands even when there is nothing wrong, or screaming at the ref, complaining when there’s nothing to complain about, and NEEVR gove the ref a break, even for throw-ins which they blatantly conceded, or scream at every single decision against them however insignificant it is. I think such behaviour is a disgrace to the game, to fair-play, and is the main reason I dislike UNITED. This attitude and the diving/cheating go hand in hand.

    But on the first Villa goan, I too wondered what kept them from pointing out to the ref what was so obvious to us all.

    • GoonerTerry says:

      The simple answer Henry is that the players are playing a different game than what we spectators are seeing! If you play the game you will know that in any given situation a player’s field of vision is narrowed to the thing he is doing and the thing he wants to do next…exceptional players have a little more but its nowhere near the perspective that a spectator has…So in the Carew incident not even Fab – who has the best perspective of all our players involved – is only concerned with his positioning and where the ball is (look at the photo again)..

      Like you I would hate it if Arsenal started to behave like United. Rather I would like it if we never got involved with the ref at all. If we have something to say then it should be the Captain’s job to communicate with the officials. Besides what players say to the ref rarely have a positive effect on the outcome of decisions anyway – although we fans like to think they do…I believe that the crowd has far more influence than the players in the case under discussion. We should have been booing Carew – the cheating bastard – who recovered very fast once they had scored. You could see him looking up the field to where the ref was as the shot was made – he knew he was interfering with play

    • gunner32 says:

      Amen to that.

    • desigunner says:

      I agree we should not fall to the level of United and some other clubs in this regard. I don’t want to see us complaining about everything but someone should be talking to the ref throughout the game and pointing out the minor details just to ensure that the ref is in the know.

      And we need to protest the blatant decisions like the offside. No point in accepting that silently.

      The Captain on the day should have this responsibility of having good communication with the ref.

  4. HexyDre says:

    Another excellent write-up.
    Even though we won the game, I still get annoyed bout the fact that none of our players complained the to ref about it. I can’t say for certain why no one did (not even Fabianski), maybe they (the players) didn’t see it as an offside right then at the moment. Had we lost the game (or drawn), I would have been horribly gutted.

    • desigunner says:

      I didn’t consider that before you mentioned it but you’re right, if the result had been anything but a win I would have shared your feelings.

  5. ak47 says:

    to be honest mate even if the whole team spoke like steve fry it wouldnt make a difference would it? there will always be a hierarchy hence why refs arent accountable, we now have extra refs! whats changed? nowt.
    its a bit like a ghetto black yout going to a predominately white private school in chelsea, i think the problem lies with the lack of faith after having to put up with so much, not all but some. and you know what they say about chains.
    we need more attitudes like jacks if you ask me.

    • desigunner says:

      I feel the whole team speaking would make matters worse. That’s why Arsenal have to be intelligent about this and figure out a way of just keeping the ref in sync.

  6. 7masters says:

    I would add another worse was Song fouled on the goal scored by Tim Cahill in last minutes in our 2-1 away win. Song just never got up to protest or do anything why?

    The problem is not language cause even Arshavin spoke little English when he signed for Us. I also watch Arshavin in English Television show recently which is shown on world cup he spoke and understood everything. Song came he very young and was educated here while in Academy. I don’t think the language is the problem but the culture which Wenger has created at Arsenal is to blame.

    Don’t get me wrong but we would still see many ‘rabbit on headlights moments’ When collectively team just walk around like Zombie to allow other team to bully the way to beat us. Wenger problem seem to be he is to involved in everything Arsenal Fc club does both on field and outside. On football side he should delegate more cause players must be tired of seeing him all the time with his instructions. Recently after Spurs Defeat he went on Television saying the players lacked leadership on the field why? Whose fault is it?

    The best captain Arsenal ever got was Gilberto or Kolo Toure but guess who was given the Captain Armband?

    William Gallas a man who seem to have problem wherever he goes. Secondly the idea of Making Fabregas captain is not really good idea at all. Arsenal problem is one man and it Wenger he need to stop messing around and be focused on his job instead of constantly tinkering with the team. I still don’t understand why he never plays JD when he has played good last few games. He has issues and until he address them Arsenal players would be to scared to make mistake in case the overbearing manager blame it on you hence everyone is mum cause only man can speak on behalf of Arsenal.

    It his jobs to tell his players what to do and not just let them get on with it day by day.

  7. shottagunna says:

    Nice one Desi. You hinted at it but failed to say it explicitly. The fact that Arsenal has a significant number of French players and other foreigners playing under a French Manger is a handicap competing in a nominally English league. Note that the League itself is currently marketing itself as as the Barclay’s Premier League but it is essentially a marketing ploy. As a consequence the club is always fighting uphill against many institutional biases especially that of the referees who literally own the game for 90 minutes. Unlike Man Utd, for example, we never get the marginal calls, the extra minutes etc that make the difference in really tight matches. To the contrary, Martin Atkinson, Chris Foy and Mike Dean (they head the honor roll) are reknown for rolling over at Old Trafford seemingly in fear of the wrath of Old Purple nose. As Arsene often says, when in a confrontation with the League and the English press, “we know how it is in this country.”
    Take the physicality of the English game which apparently the tippy-tappy Frenchified players are reputedly a soft touch. Yet our own Alexandre Song hardly gets a break for being as robust as his English counterparts. Last season a Polish blogger noticed “a strange coincidence” about Alex Song; he had played 26 games total in English competitions and gathered 11 yellow cards while in 17 international and European matches he has gotten zero yellow cards. Most of these cards were in the 1st half of the games making our midfielder more tentative in the 2nd with the accompanying loss of effectiveness (see 7AM Kickoff blog). Already this season Song was given a second yellow in a game by a ref for the most innocuous of fouls. Then and now I remain convinced it was a case of had institutional bias.
    The other classic situation developing in front of our very eyes is the unique difference in how the refs treat Wilshere vs our other so-called tippy-tappy midfielders. Granted Wilshere is a massive talent and has merited his promotion to the 1st team but in comparison to Denilson, for example, it is remarkable how the refs take care of him. Note how teams are now careful in how they tackle him while in the past and even now they are quite happy to plow into the back of Denilson or to kick him from behind when in possession.
    I am sure the usual xenophobes will rant and accuse me of making things up but I hope I have gone some way into explaining why our players just refuse to argue with the refs and just focus on their game.

    • Gennie says:

      Yours Shottagunna is the most if not ONLY explanation to Desi’s observations. It is so clear to every other person watching the game except for most British viewers. Anybody with a little knowledge of France and Great Britain History can see that. Historically, France has fought many wars with Great Britain, and not only wars fought with bombs and fire arms, cultural wars between London and Paris are well documented. Just see the commentators, the bloggers, the papers, the fans (Arsenal fans, even), match officials, the FA, other managers of other clubs, you name it, everything said about Arsenal stinks of it, “xenophobia / institutional biases”.

      Arsenal players have tried to talk to the officials when they felt decisions were against them but were booked, remember Gallas? The captain was booked for talking to the referee. Cesc has come very close to being booked. If a captain is booked for speaking to the referee, what does that say to the other players? They will not raise a voice. Arsenal players are not muppets, nor are they soft as they are portrayed by the media and Arsenal fans. When Viera was at Arsenal, he was booked for fouls which Roy Kean and every other British player was not booked for. That is why he ended up being red carded so often, some how his team mates were able to withstand his absence. In fact between 2000 – 2004, Arsenal seemed to revel from one of them being sent off. They rarely lost in such situations as more often than not, they won the matches. However, the present team is still young, not as seasoned as the invincibles, that is why we are seeing what we are seeing.

      For Arsenal, the present Arsenal and even the invincibles, they have / had to work four times harder than the other teams to win. What you pointed out about how Wilshere is treated, I have also noticed. It is not only the match official or the opposition, even Arsenal fans. Now what can the other players do if they are even mistreated by their own fans? Non-English / British players have to be really better e.g. twice as good as the locals to be appreciated by the fans and any mistake they make they are vilified endlessly. The examples again are Denilson, Song and Clichy. Arsenal fans think that Gibbs can take Clichy’s position right now; Really? Yes Gibbs has improved very much, no body doubts that, but he is not yet at Clichy’s level. Even the lack of confidence that we see in Arsenal players, I would not be surprised if it does not stem from the constant criticism from their own fans.

      Desi, the only problem here that I see other than what Shottagunna pointed out, and which I elaborated above, is the “SUCCESS AND BRILLIANCE / INTELLIGENCE” of a “cultured and well-educated” frenchman in football management which no BRITISH / English manager can match or even come close to emulating. The worst thing is, he is doing it in the land where football is said to have been invented, Britain, if you follow the British line of thinking, otherwise, other people say the Chinese played it first.

      Britain, if you ask me, is still living off history. “We invented the game, so we know how it should be played”. “No Johnny foreigner, and especially the “Garlic One” can teach us anything about football. If what Wenger is doing was being done by a British /English manger, we would never hear the end of it. Witness how everybody kisses Ferguson’s arse. How would they treat him if he were English? See how they are trying to raise Harry Redknap from his self inflicted ruins? Should I say more!! I rest my case!

      • shottagunna says:

        Just in time. Chamakh speaks of how the corp of 100% English refs manage the game. Following quotes from the Daily Mail:
        The Moroccan said: ‘I was never been in such a state at Bordeaux. Things take on a new dimension here. Against West Ham I was in incredible pain with my neck.
        ‘It was impossible to turn my head. Every ball that’s contested here I get ploughed into – and the referee doesn’t blow for it.
        ‘When people pushed me in France, I fell down and got a free kick. When there’s a hard tackle here, I have to get up and play.
        ‘After a Premier League match, I walk off with my body aching, with scratch marks, stiff muscles. Three days later, we go again.’
        I doubt very much if Rooney is similarly manhandled in games. We know he is not to judge by the expletives he shouts at the refs when he is fouled and not given the calls. (BTW: He is never carded for cursing off the refs so blatantly, a clear case of dissent.) Chamakh is of Moroccan heritage grown up in France. I suspect he knows the game very well; that foreigners have to be twice as good. So he just gets up and play.

      • desigunner says:

        I tried to think how things would have been different if Arsene had been English. It’s an amusing exercise. The press would have put him on a pedestal and the Arsenal story would have a completely different spin. Arsenal would be the greatest club ever for doing what they’re doing.

        Over a year ago I’d done this piece about Redknapp and Wenger. You might find it interesting.

      • Henry XIV says:

        You make some good points there, bravo. I disagree completely on Clichy though. His consistently poor performances are to blame for the fans loss of patience with him. It has as much to do with his replacement being English as Almunia’s replacement to be Polish. Ok, maybe having an extra Englishman would be cool but victory comes first. I, for one, do not want Eastmond anywhere near our midfield tonight, and he’s English.

    • desigunner says:

      Excellent points shotta.

      I agree Arsenal will always have to be extra special to win in England.

      Interesting stats about Song. I didn’t know about his international record. But he is not in the national team these days so I’m not sure if he plays that well for them.

      Wilshere is treated differently, it’s too obvious to miss. I think that’s good for Arsenal in the long run and hopefully if we get the likes of JET and Afobe coming through it could get even better.

      Not that I want Arsenal to go English just to avoid the institutional biases that you mention but it’s good to have English talent when it’s top class.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Triswandono, EpiKnightz. EpiKnightz said: DesiGunner: Arsenal Must Learn To Deal With The Errors Of Match Officials: In the game against Villa, w… #Arsenal […]

  9. hiyu says:

    i didnt even notice that, well spotted about the vdv thing. officials should be doing better or we should be getting technology!

  10. Maximilien de R says:

    all top teams in this league have English and/or British internationals to make a stark point to the ref. Lamps/JT/COle. Gerard/Cara. and especially the Manu army of loud mouths. This has been always the weakness of Arsene’s teams, treated like a foreign column in the English order.
    Fab took it up this season,consistently, his english is good enough, and he is recognized now as an established worldclass payer with gravitas. but who else? it is not just the language thing but a certain gravitas ( imagine Theo or Wilsh..)
    Someone said Arshavin.. the captain of Russia is a very smart man but his english.. forget it… also he is not the type .

    On a different note, I just read Pat RICE retires by end of season. that is very good news, a little shake up in the coaching input next to the infallible one.
    The rumour is Bould might take over, excellent choice, (what happened to Keown??) a defensive specialist to coach AND interject when necessary in games in this sorry department..

    • desigunner says:

      Agree with you Arshavin is not that type. He is intelligent but too straightforward. One would need a bit of guile to deal with the officials.

  11. gunner32 says:

    Here is a link that describes the offside goal:

  12. gunner32 says:

    You might also add the Vela penalty against Braga that was turned down by the ref. It was 0-0 at the time and who knows what might have happened had we got the stonewall penalty.

    • Yidne says:

      What makes me more angry with this penality decision is the way Carlos Villa reacted when he is booked for diving. To my understanding, it is a pure penality and Villa should have showed some anger when the decision went against him. Though, this won’t change the decision, highlighting the refree that he has made a wrong decision helps the team to some extent. This Arsenal team is missing this ingredient. I want to see at least some players losing their bottle when things goes wrong and fighting with openent players. If we have one player like Viera who is not scared of Red Cards, it would have a substantial value on the gut of each player.

  13. sri aurobindo says:

    “Tiny Tots” , this sounds so pathetic,particularly when written from far out Texas or whatever other western exile you send your missives from…
    We love Arsenal but adore good spirited football too, and these so called Tots play big time adventurous spirited spontaneous football,
    Stop this populist nonsense, get back to serious blogging!

    • MSL says:

      If you don’t like banter then go watch Desperate Housewives or some such western exile crap that you so adore and wannabe a part of.

  14. famfam says:

    it certainly has notin to do with language as rosisky and arshavin can express themselves very well in dat language besides football has dis universal language outlook.

  15. Ole Gunner says:

    There’s no point arguing with the referee. I have been a referee, and I can tell you for certain that the one thing a referee would never do is change his mind.

    At Villa, Chamakh was trying to get a free kick taken from the correct position, and the referee blew to get him to stop delaying the restart of play. If he’d persisted he could have been sent off.

    I like the fact that our players don’t surround the referee or misbehave like the Man United players always do.

    You can’t change the referee’s mind. Arguing with him will only annoy him

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t think it’s about arguing with the ref.

      I think it makes sense to have someone talking to the ref throughout the game. To see the mood of the official and to point out his errors, in a friendly manner.

      Also there is no point in accepting a goal from a blatant offside. The players have to protest and even if 10% of the decisions are affected it would make a difference at the end of the season.

      The trick here is to find the balance so that you don’t get punished for arguing and the language skills needed for that are a bit complicated for non-native speakers.

      • Gennie says:

        Desi, nothing is complicated about talking to the referees, may be for a foreigner. Just watch John Terry, Gerald, Rooney and the Man U combo. Its only complicated when Arsenal are involved, but it may change when Wilshere, JET, Lansbury and others become involved.

  16. Ajinkya says:

    Good article. No one would have noticed VdV stealing that space, but, I think anybody would do that, and so we come back to your line that Arsenal must learn to deal with errors. Errors occur, sometimes change the match, but you have to get on with it.
    The media paints us black, and that does have a lot of effect on the decisions made. Unbiased decision making is very difficult. If decisions were fair, we would see gary neville get a red in every game.
    The another issue is Wenger talking, critically, about other clubs. He must stop that. OK, Wenger is an idealist, but there are people who do not appreciate such things, Mourinho is their leader. He must stay away and not court unnecessary trouble.

    • desigunner says:

      Agree with you. Arsene should stop commenting on others. Even though Wenger tries to focus on the issue it inevitably becomes an discussion about personalities or clubs.It doesn’t help Arsenal in any way.

      I liked the way he has dealt with his personal issues and should do that for most of the topics that tend to get personal.

  17. Menace says:

    The referees in England will book an Arsenal player – Captain or not – if he speaks about position of a foul. The referees are not answerable to the clubs. The clubs have very little say – that is apart from Manchester United who run the whole system of premier league. The whole system of officiating needs to be overhauled starting with Blatter and Platini the two most arrogant of officials in the game.

    In every match, FOOTBALL (the game) should win – not the organisations or officials that run it. Football has been losing for quite a few years because there are greedy individuals profiting by the controversy.

    • desigunner says:

      I agree, the Arsenal players run the risk of being booked. That’s the reason I feel we need someone who has the language skills to just have friendly banter with the ref with some well-timed opinions thrown in.

  18. Miranda says:

    Desi, thanks for promising to add some more players’ twitter links. You can leave out JET, though. Have just sampled it and find it consists of ‘buy mi sum calvin klien boxers’, and such like!

  19. […] Arsenal Must Learn To Deal With The Errors Of Match Officials In the game against Villa, we all saw that a blatant offside decision against Carew, that led to the first goal for the […] […]

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