Dramatic scenes at the Emirates yesterday as Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners over Burnley, despite being down to 10 men. Arsenal won thanks to a 97th minute offside high boot panenka penalty by Alexis Sanchez. And that sentence pretty much sums Arsenal up at the moment.
Arsenal started the season with five center mids and going into the next game against Southampton will be offering a lottery for fans to come down from the stands and pair with Coquelin. Elneny is in Africa, Xhaka is somewhere in outer space, Cazorla is in the doctor’s office, and that leaves just Coquelin and Ramsey in the midfield. A less than ideal midfield pairing. What’s Wenger going to do? Play Coquelin as the line-breaking midfielder and Ramsey as the midfield center forward? That would almost certainly mean that Arsenal get steamrolled by Southampton and then by Chelsea in the next match.
The reason for this desperate midfield is simple: Granit Xhaka has shit for brains. Seriously. Like if we did an MRI of his head there would literally be a pile of Tottenham. How else can I explain the fact that he does this ridiculous scissors tackle in every match? He did it twice in the game yesterday against Burnley. Yeah, I thought the red card was harsh but if you run around doing scissors tackles you’re going to get a red card every once in a while.
The thing about that tackle is that he doesn’t need to do it. First, he’s not winning the ball. Second, he’s going to ground. The very best result he can hope for out of this shithousery is that his man dribbles past him. The most likely outcome is a foul and probably a yellow card. And the worst is that he breaks someone’s fucking leg. Xhaka needs to cut this shit out.
He is a talented midfielder. He’s got a range of passing unlike anyone I’ve seen at Arsenal since Arteta. But getting himself sent off two or three times a year, plus giving away two penalties, is hurting the team. His discipline is so bad that I’d be hesitant to start him at the moment.
Wenger doesn’t have a choice though. For the next four matches, Arsenal will play with Ramsey and Coquelin in midfield. Hopefully neither of them pick up and injury.
I’m not going to pretend to know how that duo will work. Will Ramsey play deeper, collect the ball from Mustafi, and be Arsenal’s organizing midfielder? Probably, because despite the strides Coquelin has made in his game, he’s not a refined passer. But that’s not Ramsey’s style. He’s much more prone to be the midfielder who arrives in the box. So, who knows how this will work out. Maybe Ramsey will shelve his forward tendencies and play deeper for the betterment of the team? I can only hope.
For me, the big problem with this match, though, is that referee Jon Moss made three huge errors and somehow three wrongs made a right. The first error, and let’s be fair – it wasn’t just Moss, his whole crew had a nightmare, was that no one called the foul on Mustafi by Gay. Gay clearly fouled Mustafi in the box. It should have been a penalty. But the linesman, who has Xhaka for brains, didn’t see it, despite being all of 10 yards away, staring straight at the action, and ostensibly being a trained referee.
That same linesman, however, also didn’t see Koscielny offside, but DID see him get kicked in the face and waved for that foul. That was also the same linesman who told Moss to send off Xhaka. Jon Moss, apparently spent his entire childhood staring at the sun because he didn’t see anything. I’m not sure he made a single call. I think that linesman made them all.
The officiating was infuriating. Early in the first half Defour lunged in on Giroud and nearly broke his leg. Moss called a foul but didn’t give a card. It was one of the worst tackles I’ve seen in years and somehow it didn’t get a card. It was a classic example of English referees allowing English players to be overly physical. And of course later in the day Xhaka is sent off because “he had both feet off the ground.” Surely if that’s the rule there should be multiple sendings off in every match. I’ve seen Man United’s Rojo get away with two-footed tackles twice this season. That Defour lunge had both feet off the ground. Players seem to have both feet off the ground all the time. What’s the actual rule here? Or is this one of those rules like “palming the basketball” which is only applied when the referee wants?
Too many of the rules in football require the referee to guess intent. A handball has to be intentional – though when a player falls over and grabs the ball to stop play, he’s almost never called for an intentional handball. A red card requires the referee to decide if there was “excessive force” in the tackle – which in the case of Xhaka’s tackle was clearly not “excessive” nor even really “force” since he didn’t touch his opponent. Offside is only offside if the player intends to play the ball – though we saw David Silva have a kick out at a cross and that wasn’t called offside, and yesterday Koscielny was about 60,000 leagues offside and that also wasn’t called. Those are only three examples. The list goes on, from “simulation” to obstruction, the laws of the game are applied in what looks like a random fashion.
And you know what? It doesn’t make the game interesting. After the City-Liverpool game, the press called it a “gripping” contest. It was anything but gripping. It was a travesty because two huge referee decisions decided the game. Meanwhile Manchester United seem to have had the offside rule suspended for their matches. The Arsenal match yesterday had three huge blunders. It’s ridiculous, by which I mean a target for ridicule. The Football Association needs to fire the governing body of officiating and hire a new crew before people stop watching English football. I’m serious. I stopped watching the NBA because the officiating looked like it was fixed. In fact, the officiating in the NBA was fixed. Officiating in the Premier League is starting to look like it is fixed. The stench of match fixing cannot get anywhere near English Football or people will not take it seriously.
As for the game, it’s great that Arsenal showed grit and courage and sticktoittiveness to overcome the officiating and win the contest. But Arsenal didn’t get a break from Chelsea and despite climbing into 2nd place are still 8 points off the leaders. Chelsea are looking 68% likely to be League champions this season and you can see why: Arsenal would not only need Chelsea to lose three of their remaining fixtures but also need to win every remaining match to win the League. It’s possible, of course, but implausible. And so it’s looking like a second League title for Cesc Fabregas is in the offing and that 3-3 draw against Bournemouth is looking like it killed Arsenal’s title hopes.
One game at a time.