Morning all, a quick Friday round-up for you.
With the North London derby coming up on Sunday, Arsenal’s ‘discipline’ is in the spotlight again as the FA have charged us for the third time this season following an incident in the 3-0 win over Oxford United on Monday night.
In the 34th minute, Albert Sambi Lokonga took a shot which hit the hand of an Oxford defender. The Arsenal players appealed for a penalty. The ref said no. We got a corner. Took the corner and the game carried on. There didn’t seem to be much in it beyond the routine appeal any team would make for a penalty (which I think we’d have been given had VAR been active on the night).
However, yesterday afternoon, the FA released a statement saying:
Arsenal FC has been charged with breaching FA Rule E20.1 during its tie against Oxford United in the FA Cup on Monday 9th January 2023.
It’s alleged that Arsenal FC failed to ensure its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion during the 34th minute, and the club has until Monday 16th January to respond.
I saw some people suggest that this rule applies to fans, but I went back to check, and the wording on this one is the same as the Newcastle charge. The same rule is cited, and I don’t think Arsenal fans did anything to warrant such FA scrutiny, so we can assume it’s for the behaviour of the players.
Personally, I think this is a bit mad, and if that’s the threshold for an FA charge, then I look forward to a second half of the season replete with them for clubs up and down the country. Last night’s game between Chelsea and Fulham will surely see both sides censured for behaviour which was the same, if not worse, than the Arsenal players on Monday night.
I realise that on TV we might not have got the full picture of what happened, but on the Arsecast I spoke to Charles Watts who was there on Monday, and he was genuinely astonished when I told him about the FA statement. He didn’t see anything to warrant it, but like I said, if the threshold has been lowered, they’re going to be busy handing out charges all over the place.
I imagine part of this is the fact Arsenal are top, and certain lycanthropic Doha based busy-bodies have been doing their best to put us in the spotlight. I wrote about this after the Newcastle incident, and my gut feeling is that within the club itself, this can be used a positive thing to build that siege mentality and the ‘us against them (where them = everyone)’ mentality. That is absolutely something we should harness.
However, I do worry when all this happens before a North London derby, a game in which some pretty scandalous decisions have been made down the years. Think of that penalty they got last season, and we know it doesn’t take much for Harry Kane to be awarded one against us.
Strong gust of wind. Penalty. Lightly brushing off him. Penalty. Looking at him with intent. Penalty.
So if you were of a cynical mind, you might wonder about how Arsenal players might react to another generous decision that goes the home side’s way on Sunday. I’m not really one for refereeing conspiracy theories, but I also think certain referees on the PGMOL panel are quite keen to make themselves part of the story. Paul Tierney, who refereed the game at their place last season, is on VAR this time around.
All I’ll say is that we have a manager who won’t be unaware of all this. He’ll know there’s going to be a lot of focus on him and his players, and I’m sure he’ll make that part of his pre-game preparations. It will be interesting to hear from him later this afternoon when he meets the press and he’ll no doubt be asked about this. How much he’s willing to talk about it remains to be seen. He could try and downplay it, or he could potentially go big on it in the hope that the spotlight shines elsewhere. Let’s see.
Elsewhere, Joao Felix’s Chelsea debut ended with a straight red card and a three game ban after a knee high lunge. I don’t think he can have any complaints, but when you’re paying an £11m loan fee and wages of £250,000+ every week, it certainly impacts the value of that deal when a player picks up a suspension. Oh well, he made his choice because of the Chelsea project (££££££), suck it up.
Right, I’ll leave it there. There’s a brand new Arsecast for you below, and we’ll have all the presser coverage on Arseblog News later.