Hazard’s pain Niasse

FA Cup Preview: Forest v. Arsenal

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

(holds breath)

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?



  1. You’re of course entitled to your opinion Tim, but personally, I’m not a big fan of how you’ll complain about horrible decisions with the rest of us and talk about how there needs to be changes to how games are allowed to be refereed or ‘interpreted’, until it suits your argument to throw us all under the bus as being happily complicit in all those horrible decisions when it goes our way, and how we’ve almost no real right to complain about poor decisions because of an incident that happened almost a decade ago.

    Speaking of the Eduardo ‘dive’, something that’s certainly worth mentioning about that is how it lead to a ‘kick cheating out of football’ campaign in the tabloids and the hounding of a player who’d only recently come back from an almost career ending assault on the pitch that left his leg hanging off.

    I can’t think of a similar ‘outcry’ before or since, at least not one with the same level of condemnation and public scrutiny.

    It’s almost like there’s a different rule for Arsenal 🙂

    And if there always was that level of scrutiny I’d be fine with it, I’d welcome it as long as its not just targeted at one team or one player.

    Sure we’re all often hypocrites when it comes down to a lot of these decisions, but it’s almost out of a sad depressing necessity at this stage where hoping for fairness, transparency or any kind of meaningful accountability in the game and in the games themselves seems practically pointless.

    If we all have to keep our mouths shut about dodgy calls because we didn’t round on Eduardo almost a decade ago, I don’t see that benefiting anybody but those who’d rather watch us at each others throats than actually strive to make the game fairer, more understandable and more transparent.

    1. The fact that we even remember a penalty decision from that long ago, in a game and tie Arsenal probably would’ve won anyway, speaks volumes about how that incident was trumpeted in a way countless other similar incidents since then have not.

  2. Better reason to remember Armand Traore:

    He was caught taking a knuckle duster into the NLD at Shite hart lane when he was still with the youth team.

  3. Slightly off-topic, but Arsene Wenger received a THREE match touchline ban for irate comments about a contentious penalty. Three marches. You’d think he kicked someone’s leg and broke it. Or a water bottle.

    It’s laughable. We should all stand by Arsene on this one. The ban starts with the Forest game.

    OK, so the he’s going top get sacked in the summer. And he’s not supposed to sound off about 4 points lost, arguably, to contentious refereeing calls? The man’s human.

    Oh, one more thing. Wengt through a number of English papers in London today, and the degree of scorn thrown at Wenger on this is unreal. If you can, get your hands on Oliver Kay’s column in the Times (it’s behind a paywall)

    1. I don’t think anyone would receive a three match ban for a comment about a single call no matter how strongly warded.

      Regardless the language he used when talking to Dean face to face , in his public comments he suggested in no uncertain terms Pgmo’s open bias and inability to get with the times of modern game (the “dark ages “comment).

      Arsenal may fail to make the top four by a handful of points and while I don’t think this will ultimately cost Wenger his job, I can certainly understand why it’s important to him and Arsenal that they don’t.

      Also , why I agree Arsenal don’t get some of the calls other top teams might get, Wenger has very little credibility to successfully make that case .

      Here’s what he said after Mustafi/Rodriguez incident:
      “It’s the kind of decision that’s difficult . If he doesn’t give the advantage and they miss the penalty, people will reproach”

      What are the chances he calls the same challenge on Arsenal player a “difficult decision”? Zero.

  4. The problem I have with the Hazard penalty is that referees are basically telling players to dive otherwise they won’t get it. Quite a few times this season, some players have been fouled inside the area and have stayed on their feet or have quickly got back on their feet. The referee didn’t blow the whistle and the player ended up missing the target or losing possession. How can a referee play advantage in that kind of situation? Why the referee doesn’t have the guts to award a penalty for a foul even though the player was honest enough to stay on his feet? With that kind of passivity, the referees are simply sending the wrong signals to the players, by rewarding play-acting and ignoring honesty.

    1. Yes exactly. The game is this way because the rules make it easy to award penalties and difficult to punish simulation.

  5. “So, it’s indisputable that Bellerin’s action was a foul and that the referee was right to award a penalty.”

    Um, no and no.

    I wrote several long, detailed, careful replies in the last comments thread refuting these very claims, to which you didn’t respond. I know I get terribly longwinded, so I truly take no offense if literally no one reads my long comments. It would be the height of hubristic delusion to think one is owed an audience in the comments section of a sports blog.

    However, since the reasons you give for saying the penalty is “indisputable” are ones I already addressed earlier, maybe it’s worth going over them again briefly here (don’t worry, I won’t cut and paste those earlier comments!):

    1. You say: “The Laws of the game literally state that it’s up to the referee to decide if the contact was ‘careless’.”

    That it’s “up to the referee” is irrelevant. After all, in one way of looking at it, literally EVERY CALL that the ref makes is up to the referee’s discretion, in the sense that he has final authority on interpreting the laws of the game (only in very rare occasions can he even be overruled after the fact). Of course that doesn’t make him immune from error, since it’s not like he can just make things up at will: he’s given extensive guidelines to follow, and there are obviously reasonable and unreasonable ways of interpreting and administering those guidelines. So likewise in this case, Taylor has the guidelines of “careless, reckless” etc.
    The fact that the laws explicitly say it’s up to what the ref considers “careless” doesn’t change a thing (rather it’s one of many examples of the laws being poorly written), because, again, if the ref couldn’t be judged, by reasonable observers, to have gotten a call wrong in this regard, that would mean literally ANYTHING the ref judges careless *should* be considered as such, simply in virtue of the fact that he judges it to be so, which is absurd.
    So, just because it’s “up to the ref” doesn’t prevent us from rightly thinking “he was wrong to consider that careless”.

    2. You say, “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.”

    First off, it is eminently possible for someone to be both “reasonable” and dead wrong. So even if we grant that Taylor’s assessment was, by some standard or other, reasonable, it doesn’t follow that thinking the correct call was to not give a penalty is “indisputably” wrong, as you claim.

    Second, is it really true that a defender is careless just in virtue of making contact with an opponent he can see while trying to clear the ball? What on earth do we mean by “careless” here??? The term is crazy ambiguous. Even within the context of a football match, there are many things we might mean by careless. E.g. arguably Chambers was being a careless defender in the first half when he let Morata run in on goal behind him, but he wasn’t careless in a sense relevant to Taylor’s assessment of when a foul has occurred.
    So, likewise, we might complain as Arsenal fans that Bellerin was being careless in his defending in the penalty incident, but that may not be careless in the relevant sense of the laws, which surely has to do more with whether Bellerin took reasonable precautions to avoid kicking his opponent, a matter which strikes me as very open to dispute (after all, if you never swung your foot in any situation where there was a not-infinitesimal chance you might make contact with an opponent, you wouldn’t last one game in the EPL!). The ball was there to be won; Hazard was just quicker in his reactions than Hector (which isn’t to deny that a smarter defender may have avoided going in altogether in that context).

    3. You say: “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.”

    But obviously Bellerin didn’t attempt to kick Hazard. Not even a little bit. He attempted to kick the ball. So this consideration is irrelevant.


    1. That was a penalty. You write post so long why don’t you go start your own blog. Jesus. Bellerin fouled him and Hazard embellished. Give the penalty and Hazard a yellow. Done.

  6. (end of first half rant)


    Wonderful young player, who in the first half showed great skill — that he is intelligent and can play — and is a good ball-winner.

    But he’s no left back, and for Forest’s second goal, should never have allowed the winger to get a step on him for the cross.

    Arsene, please stop playing AMN at left back. The evidence of the past week or so that coaches have worked out that he’s a weak link, defensively, on the left.

    We absolutely go to piece when crosses come into the box. Lose our sh1t in a way that’s shocking. As said before, we also disdain full bodied shot blocking. Elneny may have daintily dangled a leg in Lehigh’s direction for that second (and quite superb) shot.

    Been impressed with the kid Brereton at CF. He has real threat, and has made Ospina and Per really work.

  7. Let me say in advance of some of the anticipated commentary here that the quality of our play and defending is a separate issue from the standard of refereeing, which is breathtakingly bad.

    Henry Winter is already at it, talking about the second pen not being John Moss’ finest moment. A career in politics beckons for old man Winter.

  8. We’ve become a real penalty magnet lately. The first tonight looked fair enough, Holding did trip the Forest player (albeit quite accidentally), but for the second Debuchey won the ball in tackling Traore, but still brought him down. So probably correct call by Moss. The contentious issue was did the penalty taker play the ball a second time when he slipped while taking the kick? It certainly looked like it to me, and a free kick should have been awarded to Arsenal.
    So we won’t be doing a cup triple now.

  9. Anyone blaming ref for this Arsenal loss needs to have a serious talk with themselves or perhaps join the good folks on Untold Arsenal.

    Every Forest goal was a consequence of Arsenal player mistake/ failure to do their job.

    A wall and defensive line that allows Lichaj to pitch up right in front of the keeper for a free header.
    AMN woeful one on one defending skills- something I talked about before and not anything that has to do with him bombing forwards for swats of plays( sorry Tim), followed by keystone cops defending for Lichaj’s second.
    Holding losing his head and composure just before he concedes the pen.
    Mertesacker unnecessarily giving the ball away in the area with his way worth pass to Walcott when Debuchy was the better option,
    and finally Debuchy bringing down Traore for the second pen.

    The only mistake of any consequence made by officials was the double touch pen that needed to be retaken, and you could only be sure of that upon a replay.

    1. Oh ffs, Tom.

      Saying that ref ballsed up key calls is not the same as blaming him for the loss. 3-2 with 7 minutes plus added time is a different game altogether, your preconceived view notwithstanding.

      Is it too much to hope/expect good calls from the ref AND STILL CONCEDE that we defended like crap. Don’t you ever do grey?

        1. Sure I do “grey”
          Nelson won the free kick for Arsenal equalizer by what some may call diving, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of doubt.

      1. If you’ve ever megged someone standing right in front of you , one of the first instincts is to go down if you can’t see a clear path past them, especially when there is some contact from the defender.
        So no , I wouldn’t be too harsh on him, or the ref who gave the foul probably for obstruction.

  10. Tom, I doubt that anyone (other than the scurrilous blog you mention) would blame Moss for this defeat. He made the correct calls in awarding the pens, and before giving the goal for the second (double kick pen) first checked with assistant & fourth official, so other that a possible penalty for us (Welbeck held down), I thought he had a decent enough match. As you say there are those who would disagree….

  11. Tom, you’re right about the Nelson dive. I didn’t mention it because I thought people might get all protective of him (being so young), but it was blatant wasn’t it? Something else that the ‘scurrilous blog’ won’t mention.

    1. Scurrilous means to “defame or spread scandalous claims.” I had to look it up, but it’s easy, you just highlight and right click. But, now I know it doesn’t apply in that context. Untold is not scurrilous because it’s not defaming, but you might be called scurrilous depending on how you frame Untold.

      1. They certainly defame Amy Lawrence with boring regularity, although I may be understating the situation by calling them scurrilous. Unfortunately I’m reluctant to actually name them due to recent accusation of having an issue, which I suppose is true; I detest the blogger, his partner and the myopic acolytes.

  12. I will make not attempt at being objective towards the referee. I do not (any longer) feel the need to buttress my junks by trying to prove that I see the situation any better than anyone else. It was a game of football, it was mad, and now it’s over. I’ll leave the rules for others to interpret, I’m just going to yell at the referee when he calls something dubious against Arsenal and I’ll be happy with that.

    I will point out, striving to stay on the solely “footballistic” path of analysis, that this was once again a makeshift back line and I really don’t care if you don’t think that matters because it flat out does matter. I am happy to stand in your way and offer “easy excuses” that are actually highly relevant facts.

    Finally, having embraced the fact that we did just play a game of football, I’ll point out there is another one this Wednesday which is far more meaningful.

    1. Well, yeah, of course it matters. But squad management and preparation is a basic requirement of the competition.

      1. Yes, they are. Assuming those things didn’t happen because of the result though is not a defensible stance.

        1. Well, what’s your point though? Wether those things were done badly or not at all is just difference that is besides the point. No one really rational is saying that Wenger has dementia and isn’t capable of not doing those things, it’s that he’s doing them badly or in a way that doesn’t reach the players anymore, that is the problem.

    2. Is it fair to say that only having four minutes of added time is a sure fire sign of refereeing incompetence? It took
      about that long for the second penalty to be taken and (wrongly) confirmed.

      I will leave the larger rant for another day but the running clock/extra time finger-in-the-air determination is insane. Those numbers have no bearing in what the actual stoppages were (same with the ManU game last month)

  13. Just reading this morning… Jonny Evans is a January target. Our defensive problems are about to be solved. Sell Sanchez, the Coq and Elneny, bring in Jonny Evans with the money earned. Top 4, here we come!

  14. It would be so Arsenal- like to sell Sanchez for about what they might need to pay to bring in Evans.

    I watched VVD debut for Liverpool v Everton in the FA cup and he probably barked out more instructions to his defenders in the first five minutes of the game than Arsenal defenders have among themselves for the entire season.

    The link of Guardiola Q and A’s you posted on the previous thread….., there was one bit that got my particular attention.
    Guardiola saying how he changed things up during a game because his assistant coach saw something he didn’t like .

    Right away I thought of Steve Bould and Wenger relationship and I tried to imagine the same scenario .
    I simply couldn’t .

    1. Nah, I’m amazed that strong personalities like Bould and now Lehmann show up and are somehow cowed into submission.

      I’m reading that Wenger says we’ll do business this January – how much you want to bet it will be 3:1 departures to incoming? Now that we’re out of the FA Cup, soon Carabao (because I don’t see us beating Chelsea over two legs), we have a surplus of players. The “dead wood” will be cleared out; Walcott, Coquelin, Elneny, Debuchy. The only thing keeping Mertesacker here is his status next year. Oh, and might as well get something now from City for Sanchez and Juve for Ozil. Recall Jenkinson to back up Bellerin, bring in Johnny Evans to make Mustafi’s departure less impactful in the summer.

      Question – would anyone do a trade, Ozil for Mkhitaryan in the next two weeks? Both the same age, Ozil is better, no question, but Mkhitarayan has three years left on his deal at Man U. Mourinho hates him and is playing him out of position on the wing, but he’s better as a #10. His form stinks, but he could be a good player. I’m just thinking with our new Dortmund alumni guy, perhaps…?

      1. Mourinho would rather biet his hand off than sanction it, but yeah, i’d do it in a heartbeat.

      2. Why do you assume Lehmann and Bould are cowed? Does Gazidis offer obligatory lobotomies to all who walk through the door? I think a better explanation is that they, like the boss, are doing their best but it’s simply not enough. Have you ever experienced that? That’s what they are probably going through but it’s all in the public eye. They are people, not magicians, and they can’t conjure better results by screaming more.

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