A modest proposal for all the Burnley supporters who think Arsenal are soft

Any time Arsenal play a northern team there’s a good chance, especially if the team play in like a 20,000 seat arena, that their supporters will bay for blood for 90 minutes. They will chant “same old Arsenal, always cheating” and almost nothing else for 90 minutes. They will boo the referee. They will boo players who have had their legs broken in their stadium. And when their players aren’t allowed to simply shove the Arsenal players to the ground or kick their legs to splinters they will go on irate tirades about how soft the Arsenal players are. If it wasn’t so sad and predictable, it would be hilarious.

On Sunday there was a so-called controversial moment that decided the game in favor of Arsenal. Aaron Ramsey, who didn’t stop sprinting for 90 minutes, made a last minute run into the penalty box, tried to flick the ball back to a teammate, but was shoved in the back and the referee blew up for a foul and pointed to the penalty spot. It was a clear foul and a 100% nailed-on, stonewall, penalty.

Dyche was asked if it was a penalty and responded “It probably is a penalty but my point is we were never not going to be given that on tonight’s performance.” There were no follow-up questions over this and what he means here is unclear. If I were to guess, I think he means that there is a bias against his team and he’s insinuating that the ref was looking for a reason to give the penalty. But the journalists never pressed him on this, instead just laughing and nodding their heads as Dyche repeatedly told them that he “tells it like it is”.

Dyche later asked the press why Arsenal have been given three late penalties in three consecutive games and wondered if some stats guys could help him out with the odds. I will do that right now: if your team makes a blatant foul in the penalty box they should be called for it 100% of the time, however, given that this is the Arsenal and they receive the fewest penalties of any of the top four teams despite being one of the most heavily fouled and despite multiple penalties not given – for example in this match there was a clear foul on Bellerin in the 67th minute which should have been awarded a penalty – then I can see why Dyche wonders why his team is the one getting called after they give away two blatant penalties. He’s right, the odds of this happening are extremely low and Burnley were unfortunate. They should be treated just like every other team in the Premier League and be allowed to foul Arsenal at will without repercussions. It is completely unfair that teams like Stoke get away with fouling Arsenal in the 18 yard box and Burnley don’t.

Meanwhile in the other presser, as if to highlight the wild differences between the way that these two managers are treated by the members of the press, Wenger was asked if Ramsey has a “right” to throw himself on the ground to highlight the penalty. The one manager is asked if it’s a penalty and allowed to go on a rant about how unfair the world is and the other manager is asked if he thinks his players have a right to cheat.

I don’t know how Wenger didn’t just dress this “reporter” down. Just say “you are really asking me if I think my players have a right to cheat???” And then instruct his people to escort this person out of the press room and never let him back to ask questions ever again. But instead, because he has class, he simply explained to the questioner that he spoke to Ramsey about the incident and that Ramsey stated he was trying to lean back to get a flick on and he was pushed hard in the back. He even said that Ramsey now has a problem in his neck because of that push.

This whole interaction, along with the way that the Burnley supporters basically kept calling Arsenal softies and cheaters the whole match, highlights an odd reality of being an Arsenal supporter. Their striker, Ashley Barnes, spent the entire match feigning fouls in order to win his team free kicks. This is something I see in every match with the so called “tough” teams – they always have a forward who collapses under any touch to win a free kick. The reason for doing this are multiple: they get to run down the clock and they get to bring up their center backs to try to get a scoring chance.

So, while their players are falling over to win free kicks we are constantly told that our players lack bottle, are soft, or that they don’t like it up em. Why these northern supporters are like this is complicated. There are certainly some built-in nationalistic feelings about the pure male Briton and how his righteousness doesn’t allow him to cheat while them foreigners, and especially the French, are all just effete cheaters. But there is also a toxic masculine identity subculture in football.

I get it. Here in the States us football fans are literally called “fags” and our sport is seen as less manly than American Football. Because to prove that you’re a real man you need to repeatedly smash your head into another 300lb man’s head until you get such severe brain damage that you lose control of your emotions and kill your girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend. It’s also super manly to take anabolic steroids in order to help bulk you up and to be so fat that you can only play your chosen sport for a few seconds at a time before requiring oxygen. And it’s also manly for your career to last one or two years.

What I’m saying is that over here we have no end of sports fans who would watch Ashley Barnes drop to his knees after Hacktor Bellringer slightly touched him and then turn to me and say “this is why I hate soccer, all dem girls falling over all the time”. I have literally experienced this hundreds of times and it is always followed up with one of those oh-so-clever compilations of footballers diving posted to my wall on Facebook.

The basic gist of this goes: violence is masculine, masculinity is good, therefore violence is good; pretend violence is feminine, feminine is bad, therefore pretend violence is bad. So, while you Burnley supporters are up there in Burnley shouting about the “southern softies” just remember that over here in the States there are even more maniacal versions of you one-upping you in the masculinity stakes.

I think the only answer is that we need to have a duel between these two groups. We will get them helmets and they can smash their heads into a brick wall over and over again. We could literally open this competition up to any men who want to participate and they can all smash their heads into brick walls until they either receive enlightenment and realize just how stupid they are being or they break through that enlightenment and keep smashing their heads forever. The one who smashes his head the most before passing out is the winner and will be crowned “Man of the Year”.

It’s the only way to really settle this.

So, start smashing your heads Burnley dudes! You don’t want to be labeled soft do ya?




  1. 100 percent a push, definitely a penalty. The debate last thread was an interesting academic exercise, but hey, there’s no inconsistency in saying that the foul on Ramsey was clear, while the Koln player dived. They were completely different sets of circumstances. Ramsey was shoved, and trying to divine what force is sufficient to send him sprawling is almost impossible,and ultimately pointless. A shove is a shove. Debuch’s shoulder-to-shoulder was not as clear-cut a foul.

    And hey, as one of his biggest defenders here, I’m glad to see Ramsey getting some love of late, both from you and from Arseblog. How many times this year has the guy’s play won us 3 points (or a trophy)? If were were to pick a prem all-star team for November, Ramsey would be in it, along with Nacho. He’s in terrific form, in the middle of the park and in the box.

    As for the game itself, I’d not have been unhappy with a point. Burnley were that good.

  2. Talkspite ..Joey Barton thinks Ramsey should be suspended for cheating….. am I missing something here.

      1. Joey Barton talks like that because he is a pathetic, massively insecure individual who is incredibly jealous of every British midfielder of his generation who happens to be more talented than him (Ramsey, of course, is in that category, with a fair few others).

  3. The other thing that makes me irate is the number of “robust” challenges against Arsenal that don’t get called. While lighter touches the other way get called a lot. Psychologically, I have to imagine that kind of an uphill battle makes the team tentative and less effective.

    1. yep. twas ever thus (or, at least, by ‘ever’, I mean at least since the early 2000’s when their huge success under a French manager made Arsenal the most resented team in England).

      1. To clarify, I think that in the vast, vast majority of games, when we drop points, it’s primarily because we’ve been bad and have deserved to drop points, not because of the refs (the City game being a good recent example).

  4. Funnily enough The Clarets have topped the Premier League RESPECT table for 2016/2017. Doesn’t quite fit your biased rant about northern clubs and Burnley in particular. Me thinks you wouldn’t be so mouthy if you weren’t hiding behind your keyboard.

    1. You want to take the smashed head challenge I see. Go on then, smash your head against a wall and let us know how many times you can do. We will let you know where you rank.

  5. There will always be controversy over penalties because it’s such a big punishment.
    You’ll have to back me up on the stats here but I would have thought the penalty success rate was pretty high overall. So giving one team a nailed on chance to score in response to a foul which may prevent a less than nailed on chance to score always seems ‘unfair’.
    But it’s the rules. And over time, decisions will usually even out. I don’t think there’s likely to be any systematic bias against particular teams, as most managers would probably agree in the cold light of day on a Monday morning, but even our erudite and wise manager sometimes fails to rise above conspiracy theories in the immediate aftermath of a decision against us (Sterling anyone?).
    What would be good is to recognise the difficulty of the ref making the call in the first place and get in VAR/slow motion video replays, as per rugby/cricket/tennis any other properly professional sport, as soon as possible.
    The game is still suffering from the idiot Blatter’s legacy of saying we need to preserve the authority of the ref. VAR would enhance his authority, make these incidents infinitely more entertaining and get rid of the collective, fallacious and lazy excuse of being hard done by/picked on/ disfavoured/conspired against.
    Let’s make football fit for the C21st.

    1. If you can look past the term ‘conspiracy theory’ to actually evaluate the theory, maybe you’ll find that there’s something to it after all. I mean even Tim mentions Arsenal getting very few penalties, despite being the most fouled.

      I think in the past few years, our penalty for totals are somewhere near the relegation zone of the penalty table, with teams like Sunderland. (Haven’t looked for a while) There was also a stat where we were among the most heavily punished in terms of fouls per card.

      Plus of course, there’s the ongoing narrative where Arsenal are only ever lucky, but otherwise lack cojones, or can’t deal with physical play. Well, they can’t because they aren’t usually allowed to meet fire with fire.

      It absolutely does not even out.

  6. I’d just like to comment and say the last 13 games out of 14 arsenal games that ref as refereed arsenal have won bit strange that don’t u guys think is he a sneaky arsenal fan or what

    1. Useless stat. Wanna hear more useless stats? Going back to 2013, Chelsea and Utd have both won 7/9 games with Lee Mason and if they didn’t have those melt down seasons (Chelsea with Jose and Utd with Moyes), those stats would be even more one-sided. So is he a secret Chelsea and Utd fan too?

    2. Your own managed has stated it was probably a penalty so what is the problem here? Please detail the decisions brave little Burnley had given against them , Had this discussion with a claret on twitter and he came up with not getting a corner and Defour being booked for dissent when Alexis wasn’t. Hardly game changing compared to the penalty Arsenal didn’t get and Brady staying on the pitch after that reckless challenge on Monreal.

    3. Correlation/causation, etc etc do they teach math in Burnley har har just copying your grammar style mate

  7. How is this penalty different from the one that was given when Sterling was pushed? When Wenger suggested that was a dive, all hell broke lose.

    1. Um, the bodies of the relevant parties in each instance are not in exactly the same positions. Is that simple enough for you?

  8. Dreadful article with no understanding of the north/south divide. I was actually at the match and it was a soft penalty at best. Ramsay dived like he was in a swimming pool. The refereeing was poor all match. The last 13 matches that the ref has been in charge of Arsenal matches they have won. Refs favour the larger clubs. Also the Arsenal fans were the worst I have come across in a long time.

    1. So you are implying you got a better view of the incident because you were at the match? I wasn’t at the match but they showed it in no less than 4 different angles in slow mo replay on TV and there was a CLEAR push on Ramsey using both hands. But yeah.. why don’t I take your word for it since you were at the game. I’m sure you were less an 10 feet away from the incident.

        1. I think Tim should be proud of his SEO that he gets so many of these comments every time he posts an article mentioning another team.

    2. Dreadful response. Dyche has admitted it was a penalty, You’re right the referee was poor. He denied Arsenal a stonewall penalty for the tackle on Bellerin. Took no action on Barnes’ continual diving and let Brady stay on the pitch. As for fans…what? You’re trawling an Arsenal website to criticise our fans…that’s sad.

  9. I come from both sides of the North South divide and it does wind me up when Londoners talk about northern clubs as though that word is pejorative, or as if it means anything beyond pure geography. Some of the most cultured football has always been played north of the Watford gap. Trouble is fans on both sides exploit the divide to troll the others – southerners are soft, northerners are Neanderthals. It gets pretty tiresome. And the irony is, as Tim notes, in most cases when the cliche gets wheeled out the ‘tough’ northern team doing the fouling are the same ones doing the diving and crying.

  10. I’m still holding out for a Koln Flat Cake recipe, Tim. I like learning to cook or bake ethnic dishes, and this one sounds pretty authentic!

  11. I’m with Arseblog on this, I’m lapping up every second of this crying over perceived injustice nonsense.

    Also, Sean Dyche is not a tactical mastermind. He’s merely the least bad British manager in the PL right now, a dubious at best distinction which is sure to land him in the tabloid conversations for future England manager. It’s kind of like how the least bad England player who is not yet on the England squad suddenly becomes a thing as if their presence would change a single thing. It won’t. The last thing this young England team needs is someone like Dyche leading them back into the 1980’s. Burnley don’t press the ball, Burnley don’t possess the ball and Burnley don’t beat their opponents on the ball. In other words, Burnley’s style is anachronistic. Some of that is financial disparity, but a lot of that is Sean Dyche coaching the way he chooses to coach. It may be effective for Burnley but to me that doesn’t make him a bright coach.

    1. They did press Arsenal. I haven’t seen whether they press other teams or not but their tackles were very high up the pitch. What happened to them against Arsenal was purely down to fatigue. It’s not a surprise that they fouled in the last minute: tired legs make mistakes.

      I agree with you that Dyche isn’t a revolutionary manager. Neither is Mourinho, really.

      1. Forget revolutionary, the kindest adjective that comes to mind is “effective” and even that is pushing it IMO.

        1. So staying up when everyone picked them to get relegated last season, and even with Arsenal on points before Sunday isn’t “effective “?
          Second lowest wages in the league and 1/6 of that of Arsenal’s no less.
          Doc, what would he have to do to be effective, I wonder.

          1. It’s not the first time Burnley has stayed up against the odds. Remember Owen Coyle? Nor are they the only small club to beat the odds consistently. Remember Wigan? It doesn’t take a genius or a special one to cultivate a siege mentality and ask his players to stay compact and not take big risks. For me, a really good football manager is not content with that. This is Dyche’s second season in charge in the PL and there is no recognizable progress or improvement from last year’s squad. That makes him just a latter day Tony Pulis in my book. Effective, ok, I’ll give him that.

  12. You get some given, you get some not given. Losing team supporters being losers, that’s all!

    67th minute, no penalty awarded for a clear foul on Bellerin. 92nd minute, penalty awarded for another clear foul on Ramsey.

    Arsenal were the better team and they won.

  13. Actually Tim, I don’t mind the fans so much. They are doing what they are supposed to. Give Burnley an advantage. Many years ago, when I started watching football, I was turned off by how completely, rabidly unfair ManU and Liverpool fans were when it came to appealing for a non existent penalty or foul. Arsenal fans, as a collective, by comparison seemed much fairer, and I liked that. Unfortunately, I think we’ve gone too far the other way where we tend to throw away home advantage. Cause and effect can be argued about here, but in my experience, both at the stadium and watching on TV, when the fans were really really up for the game and backing the team, we’ve done well. I’m not saying the fans can turn us into title winners, but they can help.

    The culture of violence though. That is kept well alive by the media. Why else would Joey Barton have a job in the media. Arsenal are of course often on the receiving end of this culture. I mean we know about the 3 broken legs we suffered, and it thankfully isn’t as bad now. But we still have the media using euphemisms for kicking us as a legitimate tactic to stop us, and then blaming us for being soft. Inviting Deeney in to talk about balls was another way to keep that narrative alive. Overall, the league has moved forward, but there’s still this insistence on nullifying a technical advantage with violence, and for whatever reason(s), Arsenal seem to be the favourite target of this. Whether it’s because Wenger’s French, whether it’s because we don’t pay off their favourite agents, whether it’s a much longer history as the first really successful southern team (Brian Clough said they were brought up to hate Arsenal, even as he praised us) or some other bunch of reasons, but there it is.

  14. I find the whole north south thing in England really weird. This goes beyond football, and I’ve seen it come up randomly in innocent conversations. I’ve also asked a few people what artificial line would demarcate the north from the south and no one seems to know. My feeling is it’s just something people do to feel better about themselves, and it just gets ingrained without it actually being a thing. I’ve never seen genuine animosity on that front.

    Football just seems to be an outlet for all the things you normally won’t do, much like the internet I suppose. It has its downsides, but maybe there’s something to the pressure valve theory of it too. Give the mob their circus to let off steam in a relatively controlled environment. Of course the problem comes if and when things go out of control and the authorities aren’t prepared because they accept it as just one of those things too.

    1. Lots of people think that the North – South divide is a rich South vs industrial North thing – snobbery in the South and inferiority complex in the North. That’s certainly part of it. But I actually think it’s strongest among working class reactionaries on both sides, Alf Garnett / Archie Bunker xenophobic types.

      As a godless socialist I think of it as an ideology designed to break up class solidarity among the working classes. But it would be very interesting to read up on it.

  15. I understand the thinking behind ‘it all evens out’. We need to believe the game is ultimately fair because otherwise it raises a whole host of problems for the game and for fandom regarding the integrity of the game and the joy we get from it.

    Unfortunately, things clearly don’t even out and the idea that they do somehow even out automatically over time doesn’t really hold up to much scrutiny.

    Things only really even out in the sense that Team A will concede an incorrectly awarded penalty in a game and, at some point in time, so will Team B. Every team suffers poor decisions and therefore every team suffers ‘equally.’

    What that doesn’t show or compare is the NUMBER of incorrect decisions each team faces and people who have looked into the matter and actually compiled the statistics discovered that incorrect decisions did not, in practice, effect every team equally. Some teams suffer more incorrect decisions over a season and other teams benefitted from incorrect decisions over a period. And this makes complete sense because there isn’t some invisible formula working behind the scenes to ensure that, ultimately, every team suffers the exact same number of incorrect decisions and those incorrect decisions have the exact same impact on success or failure of each team. And if one team over a season has suffered more incorrect decisions than another, there naturally isn’t a meeting between referees to make sure everything evens out and that balance is attained.

    What was perhaps more surprising was that people who kept track of those decisions discovered that, even over a period of years, some teams seemed to consistently, overwhelmingly, benefit from incorrect decisions or decisions that went their way while other teams seemed to consistently suffer from incorrect decisions and calls.

    People of course will call these type of findings biassed but even if one thinks that’s that’s the case, we know from experience that life isn’t ‘fair’ and life isn’t fair or unfair to everyone in a way that evens out over a season or a number of seasons.

    We all want to believe that sport is fair and just and everyone is treated the same, but reality just doesn’t reflect that.

  16. Interesting post Mr o’dwyer. I can confirm that a few years back before the start of the season. The referees were called together and told in no uncertain terms that certain teams ‘ the bigger one’s’ should receive favourable decisions eg less yelliw/red cards, more pens etc than the ‘smaller team’s in the epl. Just saying but I know this to be 100% true.

  17. OK, JO’D, without wanting to split hairs, I concede that saying that it all evens out is a bit too much of a generalisation.

    Obviously the extent that each team suffers from the incorrectness of the decisions that go against them depends on the nature of those decisions. Incorrect penalty calls are more painful than incorrectly fouls called outside the area.

    But I disagree with Shard that his stats support the possibility of conspiracy. The fact that Arsenal commit the least fouls per card given may just mean that we commit particularly bad ones (because we don’t have nautural midfield tacklers?). And the fact that we have a low number of pens awarded relative the fouls committed against us may just mean that most of those are committed outside the area.

    And I also don’t share Tony Peter’s belief that the referees have been instructed, as a group, to favour the bigger teams. That’s not to say there’s not the potential for an individual to be corrupted, just that I don’t think it would be systematic).

    While some playing styles may provoke more ‘tricky’ calls than others (eg a counterattacking side with pacy forwards may have greater potential for incorrect offside calls), beyond that each team is equally susceptible and so the number of incorrect calls occasioned by that style ‘ought to’ even out.

    However, the fact that incorrect calls happen at all, and can seriously impact outcomes, should be sufficient reason itself for thinking up ways to prevent them, even more so for those who feel their teams are being unjustly discriminated against. The passion produced by the thoughts of injustice would be more productively used pushing for remedies, like VAR (…altho’ there’s always a chance that someone might get to them too!).

  18. Untold did a video review of 160 games. They only called out wrong decisions when there was clear evidence. They found that the quality of refereeing was poor, that wrong decisions do not even out and that some teams benefited more than others. I found it persuasive.


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