Saturday, September 23, 2023

Arteta, officials, and common sense + Martinelli

Morning. There’s a midweek tumbleweed blowing through the online Arsenal space right now. Mikel Arteta is due to meet the press this morning ahead of tomorrow’s game against Wolves, so it should pick up news-wise throughout the day, but it’s pretty quiet at the moment.

After the Wolves game a couple of weeks ago, when Gabriel Martinelli picked up his ludicrous double-yellow red card, the manager said he was due to speak to ‘officials’ about some of the decisions Arsenal have been on the end of this season. I wonder if that happened, and I wonder too about whether or not it will have done any good.

While the PGMOL is very much a closed shop, one thing we do know about Mike Riley is that he doesn’t like to be challenged. As a referee he was like that, and as head of that organisation, it feels like any threat to his personal fiefdom would not go down well. Nevertheless, all Arteta has to do is scroll through Arsenal Twitter to find a mountain of evidence to show how other sides have been treated far more leniently than we have – which I think is his major issue (rather than a sense that we’re being targetted specifically).

It would be easy to understand how he might hold that point of view when he sees one of his players sent off for two routine fouls inside 5 seconds in an incident that is unprecedented at Premier League level, while Scott McTominay can get away with this kind of brutality and escape a red card. You look at that and it’s hard to tally with what Martinelli was sent off for. If what Martinelli did is, in fact, worthy of a red card, then McTominay should have had a couple at least.

I do think it’s a question of perception to a large extent. We’re an easy side to give bookings to. We’re an easy team to reduce to 10 men. It’s been like that for a while, and I don’t really know how you change it. Being better is one way, playing more in the opposition half and having greater control so we’re not making desperate fouls can certainly help, but this one of those situations where our attempts to be in control are not fully in our control because of how arbitrary some of the refereeing decisions are. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, they cook up something new.

I guess all Mikel Arteta can do is preach common sense and caution to his players as much as he can, then cross his fingers and hope for the best. It’s just not possible to avoid making fouls, but when we do commit them light some candles, say a prayer, and make a sacrifice to all the Gods in all the realms that the officiating is grounded in common sense too.

Maybe Arteta will be asked about his plans for Wolves and whether or not Martinelli will return to the side having served his suspension against Brentford. He was in the stands to see Emile Smith Rowe make the kind of contribution that demands he keeps his place, so that’s going to be an interesting one. However, when you think about the player issues we’ve had to deal with in the not too distant past, I find it hard to get worked up about which one of these good players is going to play in our next game. It’s far preferable than the old ‘Which square peg will we try and fit into this round hole?’.

Whether it’s Smith Rowe on the pitch and Martinelli on the bench, or vice-versa; or even some other combination of those front players, that we have at least a couple of guys to call on to provide some goal threat is a bit of a comfort. I don’t expect a great deal from Eddie when he’s given minutes, but if we need something from a game, having Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe to put on to try and change things gives us a decent chance to make that happen.

So, all in all a quiet one, but we’ll have all the press conference news on Arseblog News as and when it drops later on. It’s a busy week around these parts for reasons which will become clear in the not too distant future, so I’m going to get the head down and get on with it.

Till tomorrow when we’ll preview the Wolves game, and you can look forward to the Wolves preview podcast on Patreon later this afternoon. Until then.

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