Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The FA charge Arsenal, and I kinda like it

Happy Saturday to you all, a very quick round-up for you.

Let’s start with the news that the FA have laid charges on Arsenal after the Newcastle game. They say: “It is alleged that Arsenal FC failed to ensure its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion in the 95th minute, and the club has until January 10th to respond.”

The 95th minute was when Granit Xhaka’s cross hit the arm of some Newcastle player who I can’t be arsed to look up, and referee Andy Madley didn’t award a penalty. I said what I think about the incident in the post-Newcastle blog itself, so there’s no need to go over that again, but I can fully understand the appeals of the Arsenal players.

The balance here is that passion and desire to win the game with respect for the officials. I don’t think it’s ever a good look when a team surrounds a referee, so I can understand where these charges are coming from. The other side of it is that the game wasn’t officiated particularly well, and I think that’s being quite kind. It doesn’t condone anything, but it goes some way to explaining it, particularly as there’s a sense that refereeing standards are slipping all the time – even with the introduction of VAR.

Anyway, we’ll likely take the hit and pick up a fine. It’s the second time we’ve been hit with this charge this season too. After the Leeds game, when they were awarded a late penalty which was then overturned by VAR, the same FA charge applied. In that case a £20,000 fine was dished out. Maybe it’ll be slightly more in this game because it’s the second time, but let’s see.

Here’s the thing though, I kinda like this. I like how Arsenal fans are annoyed by it because they thought that Andy Madley was terrible. I like how we focus on the fact Kieran Trippier was in the ref’s ear all game – and to be fair, that’s a smart-ish way to do things. Make no mistake though, had that handball incident happened up the other end and Newcastle were denied the penalty, they’d be the club with the charge this morning.

I’m all for things which create a kind of us and them mentality, because it can have an impact when it comes to the atmosphere. I want 60,000 Gooners bellowing for every foul we suffer when we play big games. I like how Mikel Arteta’s passion on the sideline is now being singled out by dickhead dinosaurs, disgraced TV presenters with bearded hands turned media snitch, and pundits alike. The same people who never said anything when Mourinho or Klopp or Guardiola lose their shit have got a bee in their poxy little bonnets about our manager. And this is something Arsenal fans should rally around in my opinion. If you side with those people on this, you’re on the wrong side.

On the Arsecast yesterday, Clive made a really interesting point about Arteta’s post-game comments about the penalties he felt we should have been awarded. His use of the word ‘scandalous’ in every interview, from Sky to BBC to his post-game press conference, was quite deliberate. We have a North London derby coming up. There has been a long history of penalties given, some of which were absurd decisions. The one at White Hart Lane last season was a genuine disgrace. I think Arteta fully believed the incidents against Newcastle should have been penalties, but his comments were also tactical.

So if people are upset about FA charges, great. It all adds into the sense of unity you need as a football club that is trying to win a title. We’ll pay the fine, I’m sure Arteta will use it as a moment of learning for his players. Find the balance between passion and applying some pressure to referees at key moments, but also as a way to foster the spirit and positive mentality within the group that is already evident.

Just finally, on the wider point about our disciplinary record and some concerns about it under Mikel Arteta since he took over, we’re definitely improved in that regard. I don’t think it’s that we’re any less committed or determined or anything like that. It’s down to our control of games. There’s less desperation because we’re well organised, we know what we need to do – even in matches where our possession is as low as 32% – and I think that’s an improvement we needed to make. We had too many silly red cards that cost us too many points. It’s good to see.*

Right, that’s your lot for now. Have a great Saturday.

* We also got rid of some the red card magnets, I think it’s important to point that out too.

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