Richarliason penalty was just that: a penalty

Good morning folks. Things are quiet here in Tacoma. I took the dog for a walk this morning and the only sound I heard was the white-noise of cars on the freeway off in the distance. It’s days like this that I feel lucky.

I want to start by saying thank you to the folks who have donated to Margarette through my paypal account. If you missed yesterday’s article, I encourage you to read her own words. She is a dear friend and as you know Dominica has been through hell with Hurricane Maria hitting them hard, destroying their buildings, roads, and power and leaving them dependent on the kindness of others.

You are those others, and your donations are that kindness.

Maybe I should just stop here because I don’t want to get too negative and I don’t want to talk about the defeat to Watford too much.

It was predictable. Like literally: my model predicted defeat. And it was simply down to team selection, Arsenal didn’t start their best 11, and the fact that Arsenal were away from home. My model actually predicted the score 2-1.

However, if I’m honest, my personal expected goals model showed that the score should have been about 1-1… if we don’t include the penalty.

I do include the penalty. It was a good call. I know I’m in the minority by voicing that opinion but when I saw it live, I thought “damn, that’s a pen.” And then when I saw the replay I thought “what are they talking about, there is definite contact and that is a pen”. And then when I saw the replay again and again, I thought “am I really the only one who sees the contact?”

That incident is one which happens all the time in the Premier League. We actually saw a carbon copy of that play in the match on Sunday when Shane Long won a penalty for Southampton. I hate linking to things and putting video or pictures in the blog but I will do it when necessary and here it’s necessary. Here is the video of Shane Long literally toe-poking the ball out of play, drawing the contact, and then going down:

Long knows exactly what he’s doing here. He has no chance of controlling the ball, so his only hope is to get there first and draw contact from the defender. Wayne Rooney famously did this exact thing against Manuel Almunia. He toe-poked the ball into Greater Manchester and fell over – you can even see Rooney actually dragging his trailing foot in the grass in order to draw contact with Almunia.

Richarliason did the exact thing against Arsenal. A through ball is played, he runs after it, Bellerin makes a bona fide effort to get there first, Richarliason toe-pokes the ball away and draws contact. I know you don’t believe me so here are the video stills:

Richarliason reaches the ball first and toe-pokes it:

Bellerin is late and when his foot lands it’s in Richarliason’s path and hits Richarliason’s leg:

Personally I hate the rule. The defenders have no choice, they have to go after the ball. The referees have no choice, they see contact like that in the box and according to the laws of the game, they have to call a foul. Personally, I think that in order to draw a penalty, a shot which has an 80% chance of scoring (100% against Arsenal), the player should have to control the ball. But this is just how penalties are called.

Wenger after the match disagreed saying that it was a “scandalous decision to give a penalty like that.” I get that he’s defending his club and team and trying to probably get some penalties called for Arsenal down the road but it wasn’t a scandal. Or if it is, then it’s a scandal that happens every weekend and sometimes twice.

Anyway, I’m not upset by the loss. Like I said, I expected it. Just like I expect Arsenal to finish well outside of the Champions League places this season and get dumped out of the Europa League as soon as the knockout rounds start.

This doesn’t even feel like negativity to me! It just feels like “this is just how things are.” Like last week, the US Secretary of State had to tell everyone that he hasn’t been castrated “I checked,” he said “I’m still intact.” And today a hurricane is buffeting Ireland and Wales. The world has turned upside down.

But we can still have some moments of joy; savor the moments of silence and help the people we can.



  1. I’m not going to argue whether or not it was a penalty, in my opinion it wasn’t. I’m simply protesting over the argument that if there was contact, it has to be called a foul. Soccer is supposed to be a contact sport, a sport in which there are legal forms of physical contact. So the question shouldn’t be whether or not there was contact per se, the question should be if the contact was inside or outside the bounds of the rules.

    Outside the penalty area, you’ll hear ex-players saying a tackle from behind which scissors an opponents ankles between the tackler’s legs is ok since they made contact with the ball first. Inevitably, said ex-player will snidely comment that the rule makers are trying to make football a non-contact sport and will question the “manliness” of current players.

    And yet, inside the penalty area, often the very same ex-players will triumphantly pronounce that on review of multiple slow motion replays that one player brushes gently against another player and that therefore there was contact and so there was a penalty.

    So again, sure Bellerin made contact with Richarliason. That shouldn’t be the decision point. The decision point is was it enough contact to cause him to be unable to continue with his genuine attempt to score. We’ll never know the answer because he’s clearly diving. His back leg is not in a natural running position. A natural stride doesn’t involve scraping the top of your foot along the ground. All the penalty did was reward a player for deliberately falling to ground under minimal contact.

    But more to my point, I really hate when any contact in the penalty area is justification for giving a penalty. Soccer is a contact sport and so all contact in the box is not a basis for giving a foul.

    1. That’s my issue with it as well.

      While I agree with Tim that this is the kind of thing that wins penalties so it’s to be expected, the problem for me is the inconsistency of the rules and how they’re applied.

      Contact is clearly allowed all over the pitch and what is an isn’t a foul is so open to interpretation, or the whims of the ref that’s it’s often impossible to tell what’s allowed and what isn’t.

      Shirt holding grabbing players goes on ALL THE TIME in the penalty box from corners and it’s never called, except for the 1% of the time it is and then it’s a free or a penalty.

      Like you say, contact isn’t enough for a free kick in and of itself. There’s contact allowed all over the pitch all the time without anyone getting a free kick.

    2. First off, this is more than just minimal contact. Bellerin trips him. There is clear, hard contact.

      Second, they are sprinting full speed. Any knee to knee contact is going to send a player tumbling.

      Third, there is very clearly not a “no contact in the box” rule. What Bellerin did was attempt a tackle and fail and in failing he tripped his opponent. Does Richarliason go down easily? Easier than 20 year old scotch. But it can be both a dive and a foul. Actually, you don’t even need to have contact with the player for that to be a foul! If I slide in on you to take the ball and you have to jump over me to escape the contact but you fall on the ground after that… it’s a foul. That’s a foul in the 18 yard box, in the 6 yard box, in England, in Russia, even in MLS.

      As for this idea of “enough contact”: the laws of the game are already highly interpretive, which leads to this very debate. They already do decide whether there was enough contact. That’s how we get yellow cards for diving. There was certainly enough contact for me. I would want this penalty all day. I also want my defenders to be smarter and not try to make tackles in 18 yard box. But for some reason Arsenal’s defenders have never learned this lesson in all the years I’ve been watching Arsene Wenger, master coacher.

      1. Tim, again the thrust of my comment was on the argument that contact=penalty. I heartily disagree with that sentiment. In your original post, you only mention that there was “contact” by Bellerin. Here you clarify that by saying Bellerin tripped him. I agree that tripping IS a foul. But I don’t agree that any physical contact is a foul.

        And inevitably, when debating these types of calls, the debate revolves around the simple fact of establishing whether ANY contact occurred. The decision tree is yes or no, was the defender late? Then, was there contact? If yes, penalty. For me there needs to another branch–was the contact, as defined and normally interpreted, illegal? If not, then not a foul.

        1. That is literally already the law…

          Direct free kick
          A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any
          of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be
          careless, reckless or using excessive force:
          • kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
          • trips or attempts to trip an opponent
          • jumps at an opponent
          • charges an opponent
          • strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
          • pushes an opponent
          • tackles an opponent
          A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any
          of the following three offences:
          • holds an opponent
          • spits at an opponent
          • handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own
          penalty area)
          A direct free kick is taken from the place where the offence occurred
          (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).
          Penalty kick
          A penalty kick is awarded if any of the above ten offences is committed by
          a player inside his own penalty area, irrespective of the position of the ball,
          provided it is in play

          It’s a penalty. It’s always a penalty. Always has been a penalty.

          1. Tim,
            1. The problems created by the large gaps between (a) how the laws are written, (b) how the laws are interpreted and spoken about by media/fans/managers, etc, and (c) how they are actually applied on the pitch, are many and various. When I say “never a pen in a million years”, I’m mostly speaking to (c), since, whether right or wrong, the way most of us evaluate whether an official has gotten a call right or not is whether it’s more or less consistent with how officials typically call similar situations (of course, a further problem is that there’s no one answer to the question, “how do officials typically call this kind of situation on the pitch?” since officials are terribly inconsistent). But the problem with strictly following (a) is that the laws are TERRIBLY TERRIBLY VAGUE, and, more generally, just TERRIBLY TERRIBLY WRITTEN. This is a big problem that has bothered me for ages.

            2. Having said that, I don’t think it’s a pen because I don’t think Bellerin tripped him. And I don’t think your stills show this or even that Bellerin’s foot lands in Richarliason’s path, as you claim. In real time I suspected it might be a pen, but when I saw the 3-4 initial replays of it they showed on the live broadcast, I didn’t see the sort of contact that would count as a trip or any other kind of foul, which is why I didn’t think it a pen (and Danny’s wasn’t a pen at the other end either, and none of this has to do with whether Richarliason dived or not (he did)). But I’d be happy to admit I’m wrong on second viewing (being a bit lazy, I haven’t found a replay of the incident on youtube yet). So I don’t really object to the structure of your argument about how the rules ought to be applied, as much as to the factual details of the case in question.

            And I’m not crying foul because I’m biased, as a) I don’t think our performance deserved a result and b) we obviously got away with one against WBA the other week.

            What do others think? Am I the only one not seeing the alleged trip?

          2. The play by the defender has to be “careless, reckless or with excessive force” Tim, it’s right there in the bit you posted. You’re correct that contact is irrelevant, there doesn’t even have to be contact, but there does have to be a careless, reckless or excessive play by the defender. And Bellerin’s tackle was none of those things. Not by any measure. It was controlled, careful, was intended to reach the ball if possible and block any attempted cross if not, the minimal contact happened after the ball had been played and failed to be brought under control. It’s a bad, bad decision and I would say that if it was an Arsenal player who went down.

          3. It’s a foul to try to tackle the ball and fail and then trip the player that you hit. I can’t believe that I even had to write that.

    1. It wasn’t a dive.
      Richarlison’s oversized nose ,which makes him top heavy , made him lose his balance at the slightest contact from Bellerin.

      If you don’t believe me check his tweeter profile 🙂

  2. it was a good dive, but it was a dive. He didn’t do enough to get in front of the defender so fell over.

    no more a penalty than welbeck’s was in the same scenario earlier in the game.

  3. Never a pen in a million years (basically for the reason Teesong said; going into further details would not be worth anyone’s time), and I honestly don’t think this is me being biased towards Arsenal, since I’m typically disgusted with our performances these days and am fine with us getting our just deserts for being so insipid for 90 minutes.

  4. I also don’t see an issue with the penalty.
    If it were the other way around we would just shrug and say “well, tough luck for the other team”.
    We really are becoming a mid table team. Going into a match away against Watford and not being certain of the outcome should be a thing Southampton supporters fear, not Arsenal fans.
    But it is what it is, we soon will keep the Denilsons and Songs and Walcott while selling the Henrys and Bergkamps, but hey – it worked in 2007, maybe it can work again (of course it can’t).

    On a side note Tim, and I’ve been meaning to comment on this since the change of the layout, but I can’t get enough of this layout. It’s crisp and it’s clean and has a very bookish feel to it which I love.
    One thing only bothers me, and of course I don’t expect you to change it on account of Little Ole Me, but why is the font sans serif when I open the page, then it goes into a serif font headline with serif text, while keeping everything else like the reply section and the comments again sans serif.
    Certain days it drives me crazy reading the beginning of a post in one font and then when clicking on the link, continuing in a completely different one.

    Like I said, this is just to get it off my chest, I hope you don’t mind this remark.

    1. I don’t know what you’re talking about… Watford is not a mid-table team. They’re in 4th. You can only assess teams based on where they are at the moment, not based on where you project they’ll finish based on historical evidence. They have something we don’t have; a young, tactically astute and capable manager. I think this is part of the problem – we (Arsenal that is) don’t take these away games against “middling” opponents with the utmost seriousness, especially early in the season. Penalty or no penalty, did Wenger customize his tactics going into this game to address Watford’s strengths and weaknesses? I can guarantee you not. Wenger’s approach was guaranteed to go into the game and encourage his players to “be themselves, express their talents”.

      I think the run we had before this game deceived people again. This is a 6th-7th place team and nothing is going to alter that until the manager is turfed.

      1. Well I never said Watford were a mid-table team, I said we are. But I also wouldn’t call Watford a top four team, even though they are in 4th place at this point of the 38 game season.
        They will slide down, I can guarantee you that, but I don’t think it will be Arsenal that will take their place in the table.

  5. I don’t think there’s any doubt that contact was made, but surely not enough for a strapping lad like Richarliason to go down so dramatically?
    It’s been dismissed by the FA committee that judges these things, so officially it’s not a pen.

  6. Your blog was praised today by a commenter (Polo) on Untold Arsenal. Don’t know what to make of that to be honest, but another commenter (Jax) also praised you and said wonderful things about your comments section.
    Be proud!

      1. Here you are:
        16/10/2017 at 3:28 pm
        Note the quality of the comments section on 7amkickoff.
        Light years ahead of any other blog (including this one), and it’s no coincidence that these are mostly (if not all) USA citizens.
        Says a lot for their education system that they can discuss a ‘soccer’ match so expertly and without trolling.
        I’ve always been a big fan of Tim Todd & 7am.

        1. Agreed. This is the site with by far the most considered and intelligent discussion. But I cannot agree with Tim over the penalty award. Clear dive. Clear cheating.

  7. I was supposed to spend the day with my niece so I recorded the game hoping to watch it later. Inevitably, I saw the result before I returned home, my frustration got the better of me and I deleted the recording as soon as I got home. This has happened to me a few times now. I fear that the strong connection that I once felt with the club has diminished in the past few seasons. I used to watch every game twice, win or lose. A loss these days doesn’t simply feel like a loss though. It feels like a sickness.

  8. If contact like this is a foul then the referees are going be blowing up every 30 seconds. If it’s a foul in the penalty area it’s a foul anywhere on the pitch.

  9. I’ve not seen a good enough replay of the Richarliason incident to agree or disagree with the notion that Bellerin tripped him, but I am 95% sure that outside the penalty area that’s not getting called as a foul. And while there are similarities with the Shane Long incident, in that case the defender clearly, on every viewing, cuts his left leg across the front of Shlong’s right. That one is a foul anywhere on the pitch.

    What I would like to see is
    1) more consistently in what is and what isn’t a foul. If it’s a foul in the area, it should be a foul in the centre circle.
    2) an option for referees to give an indirect free kick for a foul in the area if they deem there to be a negligible to nil chance of generating a scoring chance.
    – the foul on Long
    – a player dribbling away from goal
    Clear goal scoring opportunity: Red and a penalty
    Positive play, player in decent possession: Penalty
    Player going nowhere, or not in posession and not about to get possession: Indirect free kick in the area

    (The latter could also apply to foul play by defenders on corners)

  10. The penalty was not scandalous… What was scandalous, was a midfield of Xhaka and Elneny. It was like Elneny has to pass sideways (no problem with that) and Xhaka has to ping risky passes forward and over the top. Must be a directive from the coaching team. And Elneny refusing to tackle is unbelievable. Also it seems all his runs are decoys. He made so many runs and not once somebody passed to him in the forward area. After a while even the Watford players started ignoring his runs…

    1. I agree, the penalty incident wasn’t THAT scandalous. Bellerin made contact and the referee had a decision to make.

      It’s far more troubling that they scored in the 70th minute and we didn’t have another chance until the 89th minute. In the same period Watford had 3, then they scored with the 4th.

      This Xhaka-Elneny unit is hilarious – it’s like setting up your defensive midfield with two Subbuteo players. Not enough athleticism, no change of pace, no offensive threat. They can only beat you with the quality of their passing and Marco Silva’s quick, well-drilled side seemed to read every pass they made, won a bunch of interceptions, and spaced themselves well and used the ball cleverly (fuck this pun and fuck any team that makes Tom Cleverly look competent).

  11. Don’t know why the penalty is so “scandalous” to Wenger. Because it made the difference between 0 points and 1 point?

    What about taking all 3 points? This is what shite teams and managers do. Whinge and whine about bad calls/no calls.

    We should have sewn this up and put it away well into the 1st half FFS and I don’t give a flying f$%k where Watford are in the table. Troy f&?king Deeney!
    That fat f$%k can go f&&k himself for f%&KS sake.

    See? This is what Arsenal have turned me into. Some lame version of Joe Pesci swearing his head off in Good fellas. And I can’t even swear all all that well. But it’s a talent that will no doubt develop given the state of The Arsenal right now.

  12. Former PL referees Hackett, Gallagher, and Clattenburg all commented on the Richarlison’s penalty .

    Hackett called it a dive and asked for retroactive ban for the Brazilian.
    Gallagher said no pen but no disciplinary action since there was some contact.
    Clattenburg thought it was a clear penalty.

    Can’t wait for VAR to sort these out 🙂

  13. For me any discussion of the penalty is irrelevant despite the 1 goal loss. What is relevant is our overall performance, or lack thereof, especially in 2nd half.

    What’s relevant is Wenger’s Arsenal doesn’t even find new ways to disappoint. It’s the same old s$%t that regularly comes around to derail any decent run of games we manage to put together.

    And it slowly but surely erodes Arsenal’s overall relevance in club football to limit it eventually to hardcore Gooners.

    And Troy Deeney can f%&k himself the fat f&%king f%#k! F#$K!!!

    See? Now I’m a pale imitation of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas because I am terrible at swearing. But that’s all I want to do at my club right now.

  14. We routinely see more severe contact than this go unpunished. I know I have witnessed this several times this week.
    By the most literal interpretation of the rules, I suppose you could call that a penalty — but Richarlison definitely dived (or, if you prefer, embellished the incident.)
    Perhaps they should consider a Yellow card for the diver, independent of the penalty decision in cases like this.

  15. I had my doubts until I saw the angle from behind: there’s no trip, just both players’ knees slightly coming together. Actually, your second screen capture shows Richarlison dragging one of his feet before losing his balance, which is what divers do. On BT Sport, which broadcast the game in England, Graham Poll, a former referee, said it was a dive. In Arsenal’s The Breakdown, Adrian Clarke said it was “a clear dive”. On the BBC, the game commentator said: “I don’t think that’s a penalty. I don’t think there was any real contact there.” In Match of the Day, Ian Wright said: “I think that he dives.” The fact that some people think it’s a legitimate penalty shows that Richarlison is a very good con artist. Not the first, not the last.

  16. Only discovered this site recently, and find it really well done, and the comments section much more intelligent and troll-free than others. Kudos. Watching the play live, I thought it was borderline. I wasn’t entirely surprised by the pen, and I could have seen no call. After watching replays, it’s clear the call was too harsh.
    Did Hector knock him over so that he woudl fall so dramatically? No way. And I disagree that it was careless. Careless means “not giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors”. I think Hector was making a legit play on the ball, and in the process made very minimal contact with Richarlison, who made an effort to embellish it when he went down. If you watch the replay, you’ll see Richarlison is leaning in hard toward Bellerin, and that’s part of why he fell. He is initiating contact as much as Hector is. That’s what made me decid against a penalty. If the offensive player is initiating contact, and the defender also makes contact, it’s “play on”, unless someone is egregious. That wasn’t the case. They both go for th ball, they knock knees slightly, and one guy goes down. That’s a very poor case for a penalty.

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