Tuesday, April 16, 2024

🎶🎶 … Kai Havertz gets booked again …🎶🎶

It’s a damp Interlull Wednesday in March, the blogging equivalent of a cold rainy Tuesday night in Stoke. Let’s see what we can come up with.

Let’s start with Kai Havertz, and the story that he should have been given a second yellow card against Brentford for a ‘clear act of simulation’. This is what the Key Match Incidents panel have decided anyway, a group made up of former players and coaches, and a representative of both the PGMOL and the Premier League.

So, to be clear: on the night none of the on-field officials thought it was worthy of a second yellow, and after the game none of the old refs they bring out on Sky Sports etc thought it was a second yellow either. VAR, of course, couldn’t intervene on the night as they are not allowed review yellow cards.

Here’s what I wrote at the time: “Was it a penalty on Havertz? No. Was it a second yellow card? Absolutely not. You can’t send a player off for that. There was some contact that he made the most of, but that’s it. Frank’s post-game garbage also conveniently ignores the penalty Trossard should have had, and the one Gabriel ought to have had right at the end. If the Brazilian was booked for a shirt pull early in the first half, what’s the difference between that foul and the one committed on him in the box? Exactly.”

I’m not going to circle the conspiracy drain here, but this kind of thing feels like a soft target decision that really does nothing to benefit anybody. Why was there no review of the Trossard incident which, to me, is 100% a penalty? Why, if we want to look at this through a Brentford lens, was there no review of the incident in their last game against Burnley when David Datro Fofana basically rugby tackled Mathias Jorgensen in the box and got away with it? For me that’s unquestionably a penalty for Brentford, and far more obvious a ‘foul’ than Havertz purported dive.

I could be wrong, but that one was a can of worms decision, because once you start giving penalties for that kind of thing, corners would basically become unmanageable. Players would be throwing themselves around as if they come from, and play for, Porto, but a foul in the box is still a foul in the box. That came at 1-0 in that Brentford game too, and although they were already down to 10 men, it could have changed the trajectory of it against a team who did their best to throw away a two goal lead later on.

It’s funny though, this is the second time that this KMI panel has said Havertz should have had red. His challenge in the Newcastle game back in November was deemed to have been worthy of a sending off, but hilariously we heard a lot more about that than the officials ignoring the blatant act of violent conduct by Bruno Guimaraes on Jorginho. They sheepishly admitted the Brazilian got away with it, but did in such a throwaway manner it felt like they were forced into it. On that Newcastle one, I can see how it could have been red, I just can’t understand how making the most of some contact – which players do all the time – can be categorised as a ‘clear act of simulation’. That implies zero contact, which is not the case.

Is there a stat for Expected Red Card? xRC. xSO, perhaps. x2ndY? Anyway, I still don’t believe you can convince people that the officials are up to scratch when they say a soft incident should see a player sent off when they continue to ignore more obvious and more violent challenges every week. Just wait and see what Michael Oliver ignores when we visit Man City next weekend.

On Havertz though, just have a look at our yellow card stats this season. He leads the way with 10 in all competitions which, when you consider the initial perception of him as this kind of meek figure, is quite interesting. He’s not the archetypal hatchet man or anything like that, but there’s certainly a bit more edge to his game than people might first have thought. I mean, his first yellow against Brentford last week was really harsh, which would have made a second even more ridiculous, but he certainly puts himself about – whether he’s playing up top or in midfield.

Arsenal yellow cards this season

Kai Havertz – 10
Ben White – 7
Gabriel Jesus – 6
Declan Rice – 5
William Saliba – 5
Gabriel – 4

Right, well let’s leave it there for this morning. There’s a bit of extra reading for you in the shape of a new tactics column from Lewis who looks at the high quality versatility of Ben White – check it out here.

Have a good Wednesday folks.

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