Thursday, February 29, 2024

“You’re off … for 10 minutes!”

Morning all, welcome to Friday.

It’s the day we all look forward to most in the week. The day when a reporter asks Mikel Arteta about the physical condition of some of his players, and he gives them a vague answer and we try and work out if he’s been 0.000001% more open than usual, or 0.000001% less open than usual.

What a time to be alive.

We’ll hear from the manager ahead of our game against West Ham a bit later on this afternoon. As ever we’ll bring you the stories over on Arseblog News. By the time we play the Hammers, we’ll likely be behind Man City who will unquestionably trounce Everton in the early game on Saturday, and further behind Liverpool who are at home to Burnley. Even if 8 of Burnley’s 13 points this season have come away from home, the idea of them getting anything at Anfield is pretty far-fetched. Pretty, pretty, pretty far-fetched.

And thus when Sunday comes around, there isn’t just the pressure of the game itself, but the external weight of what the other two teams have done. But look, we had that last week when we played Liverpool. Would the gap be 8 or would it be 2? We coped pretty well with it then, and when it comes right down to it, this is the reality of being in a title race. While it causes its own kind of stress and anxiety, it is, by any measure, far preferable to foostering around in mid-table wondering if it would be better to finish 7th and have play in the Europa Conference League or finish 8th and have no Europe at all. Those kind of rationalisations are testing.

Meanwhile, IFAB (International Football Association Board) will reportedly announce upcoming trials for sin-bins in top-level football. A mooted ‘blue card’ could be used for players who show dissent and for cynical fouls. The full announcement is expected today, and we don’t know yet where and when these trials will take place. Sin-bins have been in operation in grassroots levels of English football for a while now, but how effective they have been, I don’t know.

I have to say I’m a little torn on this. Not so much about sin-bins themselves, but I’ve felt for some time that the whole card structure could do with a complete overhaul. There is just too much variance. Take the sending off of Takehiro Tomiyasu against Crystal Palace this season. Did he, and Arsenal, deserve to be down to 10 men – basically the ultimate sanction for a player and a team – for what happened? A slight delay on a throw in, and a ‘foul’ where he barely touched the opponent.

I don’t think you can make a good case for that, especially when officials – whether on-pitch or in the VAR lair – have been quite willing to overlook acts of serious and obvious violent conduct. In Tomiyasu’s case, maybe a 10 minute sin-bin would be a fairer outcome for his ‘indiscretions’. There are some fouls that don’t deserve a yellow card, per se, but which merit some other punishment. Or some fouls that need to be a touch more than a yellow but not quite a red.

The big problem will be implementation. One referee might tell a player who has something to say ‘Hey, remember the blue card. I can sin-bin you so shut up!’, and another who immediately takes out the card and sidelines him for 10 minutes without any kind of warning. That inconsistency will drive people mad. I guess that’s what the trials will be for, but having introduced VAR to make everything better only to discover it made lots of things worse, you can understand why people would have some concerns about a new layer of officiating.

Speaking of VAR, the head of the Premier League has admitted some problems, not least the amount of time it takes to make decisions and the experience for fans in stadiums who are left almost completely in the dark every time the game is stopped for a review. I also found this interesting:

The latest Premier League statistics show before VAR was introduced, 82 per cent of refereeing decisions were correct. Now, since VAR was introduced, 96 per cent of decisions are correct.

Which made me sit up a bit, because here’s snippet from a Sky Sports article from 2018, citing figures from PGMOL:

In total, refs make around five errors per game, meaning they are right 98 per cent of the time.

The assistant referee makes on average 50 decisions each game; 45 of these are pure offside judgements, with four of these resulting in offside flags. Their accuracy? Again, a staggering 98 per cent.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether we were being fed bullshit numbers back then or bullshit numbers now. Either way, something doesn’t smell right.

Right. Let’s leave it there for now. Stand by for a day full of podcasts by the way. Coming up, an exclusive interview between Tim Stillman and Arsenal Women goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger, an Arsecast this morning too, and in the afternoon the injury pod I mentioned yesterday, as well as a West Ham preview podcast for our Patreon members.

It’s gonna be a busy day on the mic, and for some extra reading, here’s Tim on David Raya.

Have a good one.

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