FA Cup Preview: Forest v. Arsenal
- They are a decent passing team – 2nd in the Championship in total passes, third in possession, 81% passing team. They might surprise a few Arsenal supporters with their ability to move the ball quickly.
- Their DM is Leon Bridcutt – he has 9 yellow cards to lead the Championship, he played for Leeds. He’s also their most prolific passer and leads the team in through ball key passes. He also leads Forest in tackles, interceptions, fouls, and is second on the team in assists. Weirdly, there’s a suggestion that Forest could rest him because he’s on 9 yellows and a 10th yellow would mean that he gets suspended for a big game against Aston Villa next week.
- Bridcutt is actually dispossessed a lot for a CM. Pressing him would be a good idea. Hell, pressing everyone is always a good idea in my book.
- They have a 34 year old Irish center forward named Daryl Murphy. Guess what his job is? He’s 6th in the Championship in shots with his head.
- That said they aren’t really a headering team: they are 2nd worst in goals from set plays with 4, last in free kick key passes with just 0.2 per contest, and middle of the pack in key passes off corners.
- Former Arsenal left back Armand Traore plays for them. He’s actually their best player according to the WhoScored.com metric. Not sure why because none of his numbers look that good. Also, I only ever remember Traore because A) he played in the 8-2 loss to United and B) he once gave the dot com an interview saying he was going to have his tattoos CUT OFF HIS BODY because he had become such a devout Muslim. He has since had a LOT of tattoos ADDED to his body.
- They have two young midfielders named Barrie McKay and Kieran Dowell. McKay is a tiny guy who gets tons of plaudits for his dribbles and his ability to see the final ball while Kieran Dowell is a slippery goal-scorer who is on loan from Everton.
- Much respect to Forest who field a number of young players and if Wenger follows suit, this could be an enjoyable, open contest between two teams that like to play.
- Expect Wenger to choose a mixed team like he did against West Ham in the League Cup; Walcott and Kolasinac, Willock, Welbeck, Iwobi, Elneny, Coquelin, Mertesacker, Debuchy, Ospina, Chambers? Many of us would like to see Maitland-Niles get more time but Wenger played him just the other day and he could probably use a rest.
Two more things:
First, a lot of people are calling for Hazard to receive a retroactive ban and I agree. Read this quote:
“The glaring example of simulation was the penalty award on 4 mins against XXXXXX. In my view, XXXXXXXXXX has dived to earn his team a penalty and Mr Taylor was successfully deceived. I accept there was contact made by XXXXXX. However the contact made is minimal – certainly not enough to make XXXXXX fall to the ground in the way he did”.
And this one:
“The Commission unanimously agree that the nature of the contact made by XXXXX was minimal in nature and would not have thrown XXXXXX off balance and knock him down in the way that XXXXXX portrayed it to have done.
“To the minds of the Commission members the movements of XXXXXX’s body, in particular the arching of the back and the collapsing of both legs, were simply not consistent with the amount of force exerted upon him by XXXXXXX and in exaggerating the effect of the contact made between himself and XXXXXXX, XXXXXX deceived the referee and this led to a penalty being awarded by the referee.”
That quote above is from the FA Commission on diving giving the reasons why they banned Oumar Niasse for a dive against Crystal Palace. Here are the facts of that case: there was contact, Niasse exaggerated contact, referee Taylor gave a penalty, he later said he would have given the penalty regardless of the dive.
What’s incredible is the similarity of this incident and the one with Hazard and Arsenal. Both incidents involved referee Anthony Taylor, both involve contact which according to the letter of the law should be considered a penalty, and both times the offensive player simulated injury to force the official to make the call.
In the Arsenal incident, the exaggeration is quite comical: Bellerin clearly kicks Hazard’s foot (you can see his foot move significantly, especially in the overhead angle) and Hazard then does almost exactly what Niasse did – both legs curl up, he arches his back, and he grabs his SHIN.
So, according to the report by the FA commission on diving, they should be banning Hazard any minute now.
Referee Anthony Taylor is going to get a ton of blame here and I don’t think that’s fair. The Laws of the game literally state that it’s up to the referee to decide if the contact was “careless”. I think it’s reasonable for the referee to say that a player kicking another player while trying to clear the ball, especially in that situation where the defender can see his opponent, is acting carelessly.
And the laws don’t even state that a player has to make contact for it to be a foul. A foul is even ATTEMPTING to kick an opponent carelessly, recklessly, etc. So, even if the contact is “minimal” as people like to say, the referee is still well within his rights to call that a foul.
So, it’s indisputable that Bellerin’s action was a foul and that the referee was right to award a penalty. But here’s the thing that we don’t know: is Taylor allowed to call Hazard for the dive at the same time? I’d be surprised if he is but I’d like to see the rule explained and for referees to be given the power to call things both as a dive and as a penalty.
Second, I think it’s funny how the cycles of Arsenal fandom repeat themselves every year. We are now in the part of every season where we complain about the referees. The other seasons of the post-Invincibles era Arsenal are :
1. The summer transfer window of dashed hopes
2. The post-summer transfer window reconciling of the books and head-holding over the massive holes in the squad
3. The early fall young player awe
4. The late fall complaining about how much money Arsenal DON’T have after the first major defeat of the season
5. The Winter of clarity: where we know that we are still, mathematically, in the title race but not really anywhere close because Wenger’s teams don’t play defense
6. The January transfer window of the Kallstrom
7. The late-winter losing the League Cup
8. The almost spring of saying “X player never really progressed”
9. The spring of getting kicked out of Europe
10. The late spring 4th Place Trophy Push
11. The early summer of lifting hopes and FA Cups
These are supposedly the FA’s rules on how to determine a diving offence:
1. Is there contact between the players involved? Simulation is more likely in cases where a player attempts to deceive the referee when no contact occurred between the players.
2. Is there fair/normal contact between the players, resulting in no offence being committed?
3. Is a player legitimately avoiding contact with his opponent to prevent injury?
4. Has the player initiated the contact between his opponent and himself in order to deceive the referee.
5. Does the player exaggerate the effect of a normal contact challenge in order to deceive the referee?