With Champions League action tomorrow night, Mikel Arteta will meet the press later today, and no doubt there will be some follow-up to his comments made after the defeat to Newcastle on Saturday. Will he have calmed down a bit? Probably.
Will he be in the mood to talk about it all again? Let’s see. I suspect he might try and draw a line under things, but after the club’s statement, and another night where officiating and VAR dominated it might well be difficult to avoid. It’s one of those where the response was so strident, there’s not much more to say, but if he wants to be a bit more expansive about refereeing standards – without verging into Rafa Benitez ‘facts’ territory – then I’d certainly listen.
As I’ve said over the last couple of days, I don’t believe Arteta’s anger was down to just this game. It’s an accumulation of things and as you’d expect there’s been push-back. The ‘We must respect referees, they have a difficult job’ brigade have been out in force, and even during last night’s mayhem of a game, Gary Neville made more than a couple of references to Arsenal. As if any of that had anything to do with us.
For me it’s simple: while I think referees should be respected, and there’s nobody here saying they deserve abuse, they shouldn’t be a protected species either. The idea they should be above any kind of criticism or scrutiny is far too pervasive, and it’s part of why managers and fans – not just Mikel Arteta and Arsenal supporters – have concerns about the standards. If you insist on shutting down any legitimate discussion, then you’re part of the problem. Instead of a blanket dismissal of those concerns, regardless of how they are expressed, the game would be better if people took this more seriously. But then, that doesn’t make good headlines or farm you engagement on Twitter.
We’ll bring all the press conference stories on Arseblog News, and maybe somebody could ask the question about what Brazil know about Gabriel Jesus’ hamstring that we don’t. He’s been included in the squad for the upcoming internationals, so does that suggest he’s not as far away from a return as feared? Or will Arsenal look to nix that. Let’s see.
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As for last night, as an Arsenal blog I rarely write about that lot unless there is direct involvement in the shape of a North London derby. However, their 4-1 defeat to Chelsea was one of the most extraordinary games of football I think I’ve ever seen. 1-0 up, they had a goal disallowed to make it 2-0, then escaped one of the clearest red cards you will ever see. When Udogie jumped in two-footed on Raheem Sterling, there isn’t really a decision to make, but somehow they fudged it. Yellow card only. Mad.
Romero’s kick out was silly but not a red, but you can always count on this oxen-brained lummox to do something stupid.
After Chelsea had a goal disallowed for offside, VAR checked his challenge in the area and although he got the ball, he couldn’t help himself. He had to follow through and put studs on the opponent’s shin/ankle. Dangerous and dumb, and an obvious red card, which VAR told the referee to take a look at and he duly obliged. Chelsea scored from the spot.
Then there were a couple of injuries, and some nonsense on Sky when Gary Neville tried to make out Reece James jumping for the ball was the same as Bruno Guimares drive-by forearm to Jorginho’s head. He must really think people are stupid, and it’s obvious what he was up to there. It’s dishonest punditry and disrespectful to the viewers.
Anyway, Udogie got his second yellow for a stupid foul on Sterling, and all of a sudden it was 9 v 11. At which point it was about how Chelsea would break down the opposition. Thankfully for them, Sp*rs played a high line, trying to catch them offside which they did a few times because Chelsea were unbelievably bad and borderline thick. If they had an ounce of wit about them, it would have been about 8-1 by the 70th minute, instead they had to huff and puff until the 75th minute when the atrocious Nicholas Jackson found the net.
Even then they didn’t look safe. Against 9 men you just keep the ball, make the opposition chase it, pop it off here and there until they’re disorganised, then you pounce. They had as much pounce as a 2-legged cheetah, and kept giving Sp*rs chances. How, when you have a two man advantage, you let Eric Dier get free at the back post with nobody near him, I just can’t explain. Beyond sheer ineptitude.
Chelsea did get a couple of late goals to add gloss to the scoreline, but they didn’t deserve them. Not that I understand the glowing plaudits for Sp*rs who had two men sent off. Sure, they didn’t just sit off in a deep block, but if they’d been playing anyone worth their salt they’d have conceded 10. I saw one correspondent refer to this as a ‘moral victory’ for the home side, which is extremely funny. If that was Arsenal, you wouldn’t be able to move for the ‘White Hart Shame’ headlines. Also, while I think many people share some concerns about £60m Kai Havertz, I wonder how we’d be feeling had we spent £100m on Mykhaylo Mudryk. To say he looks a long way off the required level is an understatement.
Still, it was all pretty hilarious, although the use of VAR is a bit of a concern. The decisions took so long to make, even when obvious. The Dier one, for example, was miles off but they spent an age on it. ESPN reported that in the first half there were 17 minutes of VAR checks, but only 12 minutes of added time. How does that work?
Anyway, the point is, every team has now lost a game in the Premier League this season. Happy Invincibles Day to you all.
Join us on Patreon a bit later on for some more on this ridiculous game, and a preview of our Champions League tie against Sevilla tomorrow night.