Thursday, December 7, 2023

Penalties, discipline and shop windows

I’m not much of a betting man really. From time to time I’ll get a tip and throw a couple of quid on it, win a few quid back, then fritter that few quid away betting on stuff I really have no clue about. But I’m sorry now I didn’t have a pop on both Spanish clubs going out of the Champions League this week. I’d have said the odds would have pretty generous.

Last night it was Madrid’s turn and after a great first half the away goals rule stifled the second, and extra time, and then penalties. And if there was ever an illustration of how much of a penalty shoot-out is in the mind you saw it last night. Professional footballers, paid tens of thousands a week to do nothing else but kick a football, turned into hungover, Sunday League hackers.

Nueur made good saves from Ronaldo and Kaka but Munich made it easy for Casillas with two of the worst penalties you’ll ever seen, before Sergio Ramos, a man with all the mental strength of Timmaaaahh blasted his over the bar to more or less send Bayern into the final. Is it wrong to expect players to do better? Penalties aren’t really that difficult and the reason there’s pressure is because they’re at the very top of the game. Which is why they’re paid so much, these guys are supposed to be able to cope with that.

Look, we’ve had our share of penalty misery down the years but if I were a manager and one of my players hoofed one over the bar like that to cost us a place in the Champions League final I’d box his ears. To those who say ‘Well, at least he had the balls to take one’, that’s what he’s fucking well paid to do. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t also box the ears of strikers who stood by or refused, but still. Bayern’s penalties were slightly less shit and so they went through. Great drama, I guess, and shoot-outs are always fun for the neutral, but let’s not pretend it was a classic or anything.

Anyway, it is off-topic I know, and this will be the last mention of the Champions League this season. Unless Bayern win it.

Considering we’ve got a rather important game with Stoke on Saturday it’s pretty quiet in terms of Arsenal news. Arsene is talking about sin-bins in football, an idea which isn’t a bad one at all, but because it would require some thought and intelligence to implement, as well as having to make some changes to an antiquated disciplinary system, is unlikely to happen.

That said, with much talk recently about the triple-whammy punishment in situations like the penalty we got at Wolves it might make sense. Wolves punishment was a penalty against them, a red card for their player and that player then being suspended for the next game, all for the slightest of contact. In these situations maybe a yellow card and 10 minutes in a sin-bin would be more than adequate.

It does seem ridiculously harsh for a relatively trivial offence, particularly when the more serious offences carry a maximum three game ban. Again though, we’re reliant on people who are clearly resistant to any kind of change to make decisions they simply don’t want to make, content to muddle through with things the way they are, burying their heads in the sand until any temporary fuss blows over when the limitations of the current system are exposed.

What’s that about late, studs-up challenges to the knee which could be punished retrospectively? Can’t quite remember? You need to quit living in the past old chap. We’ve all moved on now.

Speaking of discipline, The Sun reports that Arsene Wenger has decided against appealing his ban for racism match-fixing corruption bribery tapping-up players bringing the game into disreptute speaking to, and about, a referee. Perhaps he just thinks it’s more trouble than it’s worth, given the fact you’re dealing with idiots who consider what he did was worse than racist chanting. And who would blame him?

UEFA continue to be soft on things which really need a firm hand, yet their schoolmarm approach to trivial matters mean they undermine themselves. There’s no real harm in being strict when it comes to applying the rules, but when the rules themselves are nonsense then it does nothing to provide a solution to of any of the issues the game has. Everyone who has been through school will know that strictness only works if combined with fairness. When you’ve got a seemingly arbitrary system of punishments which makes light of the worst offences then you don’t solve any problems, you just create more.

Meanwhile, two of our on loan players talk about their futures. Both Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner were considered surplus to requirements last summer and nobody had any real complaints. In hindsight, considering the contributions of both Chamakh and Park, we might have done better to hold onto them, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. The first successful fortune-teller/football manager hybrid will be the most successful man ever.

Bendtner says he doesn’t think he’d sign with Sunderland even if they offered him a deal. Which I doubt they will anyway, so he’s got the Euros as a nice big shop window, while Carlos Vela is quite sanguine about his prospects, admitting Arsenal have a right to get some money for him but he says:

The decision is Wenger’s. If he says he’ll sell me, then I’ll have to find another team for next season. If he says that I’ll stay then I’ll need to speak to him and ask him to let me go because it’s clear my intention is not to go back.

He’s having a good time in Spain, 11 goals this season, which might well help us get a decent price for a player who I think we have to accept is never going to do it in England. Some will say he didn’t have the chances at Arsenal to prove himself, I think he had plenty and perhaps with more application on the training ground he’d have had even more.

It is easy to suggest he and Bendtner would have offered more than Park or Chamakh this season, but then so would Tony Woodcock and Paul Mariner. We had to judge them on what they did last season, not what they might have done this time around.

Right, that’s yer lot. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast.

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