Arsenal are the most punished team in the Premier League since 2018/19

A few days ago Arsenal drew Crystal Palace 2-2 in the Premier League. It was a day of fond hellos for former Arsenal captain, and now Palace head coach, Patrick Vieira. Vieira was Arsenal’s midfield general during the Invincibles era. An uncompromising player who always gave as much as he got and never shied away from a physical challenge. Despite the record number of red cards Vieira wasn’t a dirty player, he wasn’t the kind of player who would choke a man like “Big Dunc”, instead he was often carded and punished for retaliation rather than as the instigator. He was the teammate you wanted, the guy who wouldn’t let other players kick you off the pitch and if he needed to he would cross the line into red card territory.

Perhaps his most infamous red card was at Upton Park in 1999. He was banned for 6 matches and fined a record £45,000 for spitting at Neil Ruddock (4 matches for spitting, and 2 matches for allegedly touching a police officer in the tunnel) though that’s only half the story. Ruddock had spent the entire match intentionally winding Vieira up. Not just with hard tackles, but with insults about his mother, about France, and racial abuse, according to Vieira in an interview in 2003.

These days, I suspect Neil Ruddock would have been the one to get the six-match ban. And the referees would have intervened long before tempers boiled over to the point where Vieira lost it and spit on Ruddock.

Or at least we all hope that’s what would happen. But I’m not too sure anymore.

In the opening match of this 2021/22 season, Arsenal faced off against newcomers Brentford. In that match there were two controversial calls: one when Balogun was kicked so hard that he spun around before falling over (no pen was given) and the other when Leno was pinned, had his arms pinned, on a corner as Brentford scored a 2nd goal.

Against Chelsea in the very next match, Arsenal looked quite a mess and seemed to have no answers for Chelsea in the first half. But Bukayo Saka wasn’t ready to quit and drove into the 18 yard box, Reece James went to stop him and got none of the ball, all of the man, and it looked a nailed on penalty. VAR and the referee said no. We were told that referees aren’t going to award penalties for slight contact anymore. Ok. But that wasn’t slight and Saka wasn’t “looking for it” nor did he “go down easily”. It was just a foul. Still, no pen.

Then, against Man City, Xhaka lost his rag and went in two-footed and got a red card. It looked like he won the ball but two-footed is often going to be a red card.

Against Burnley, there were the usual antics by big tough Englishmen: Barnes getting a yellow for slapping Tierney in the face, Westwood pretending to kick Smith Rowe, and the usual stuff where an English forward falls over at the slightest touch to win his team a free kick. “Being Clever” they call it. But Arsenal didn’t let the intimidation tactics work, they banded together as a team and shoved the Burnley players off Tierney when they tried to “help” him up.

Against Spurs both teams pushed the referee for calls. Hojbjerg tried to con a penalty after Xhaka won an inch-perfect tackle to stop an attack – you could say “we got away with that one”. Arsenal’s Gabriel called for a pen when he went down easily. Regulon pretended to get hit in the face. Spurs wanted a pen for a tackle by Ben White on Kane, which looked about the same level of contact that Gabriel wanted a penalty for. And Xhaka hit Ndombele in the face, got no card. I guess if you wanted consistency, at least the referee gave that, refusing to make hardly any calls.

Against Brighton and Hove Albion both teams wanted penalties late, neither were given.

Against Villa, Arsenal’s Lacazette was perhaps lucky to stay on after a nasty tackle on Douglas Luiz. The Villa man showed his bloody sock to the ref. That same ref waved off a pen for Arsenal, however, toward the end of the first half, which was overturned by VAR. Yay, we won one! Ings tried to dive in the box to win a pen in the second half and really should have been booked for simulation.

Of course refereeing decisions are almost entirely subjective. Even offside, which most folks think of as a hard and fast law, has subjective elements to it (was the offside player interfering with play?). Since they are subjective and because I’m invested in my team (and usually I hate the other team!) it’s nearly impossible for me as a fan to watch a game and NOT think that the calls are going against us.

And because of the subjective nature of the laws of the game, most of the calls in a football match have some degree where you could earnestly say – an outsider with no interest in the outcome – that the referee got the call mostly right. And another person watching the same match, with the same dispassionate interest, could see the exact same action and say that the referee got it mostly wrong. And both would be right.

However, there were two calls against Arsenal this season which seemed so obvious that it’s hard to say that a dispassionate observer would see what happened and NOT think the ref got it wrong.

The first was against Leicester, in Arsenal’s last match before this article was published.

Arsenal have a 2-0 lead and are playing counter-attacking football. The Gunners pump a long pass up to their fleet-footed-forward, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his defender – Jonny Evans – knowing that he couldn’t win the ball in the air and that Auba was going to beat him in a footrace, threw the Arsenal man to the ground. Evans was the last man, if he doesn’t foul Auba, Auba’s clear through on goal.

In two other matches that weekend, we saw this exact same action, from nearly the exact same distance, both awarded a red card. It’s a pretty easy call, too. It’s not nearly as subjective as some others. But mysteriously, the VAR and the referee on the pitch decided it was just a yellow card. “Too far from goal” we were told, however I’ve seen that given as a red card (for former Arsenal CB Laurent Koscielny) way further back on the pitch. And it’s undeniable that Auba would have been through and past Evans, with none of the other defenders able to catch him. So, if I were to assign a percentage of those calls that would normally get a red card, I’d put it in the high 90s.

And the other foul that wasn’t red-carded was in the Palace match. James McArthur and Bukayo Saka were challenging for a loose ball. Saka has his back turned to the Palace MFer and easily clears the ball off the volley. McArthur then mysteriously kicks Saka’s standing leg, fully, like he was taking a shot, but instead of kicking the ball, it was a human being’s leg. You might say “well he didn’t mean it” but he’s looking right at Saka’s leg when he kicks. And besides which, intent should have only been used to up the severity of the ban, not to rescind the ban. Because what McArthur did was reckless and with blatant disregard for the safety of his opponent. It should have been a red card and just to underline how mush: you know that it’s a bad call when varied Arsenal haters, like Jamie Carragher, are saying it should have been a red card.

Let’s throw out all the other complaints for a second and just focus on those two. Even if we were to give them a low-ish percentage chance that they would normally have been red cards, what would that look like? 70%? 60%? If we use the same logic as expected goals, that’s somewhere between 1.4 and 1.2 expected red cards. And I tend to believe that both of those things were higher percentage chances than that.

You could say Arsenal were unlucky and I guess that’s fair. But how unlucky have we been over the last three season? Well, we have been the most unlucky side in the Premier League.

I went on FBREF and looked at penalties awarded for and against each club and red cards awarded for (meaning they got to play against 10-men) and against each club from 2018/19-this season. Why did I stop there? Because for some reason the 2017/18 season data for red cards was missing.

I removed the yo-yo teams that keep dropping into the Championship and only kept the data from the teams that have played every season in the Premier League since then and the results are a bit surprising to me.

Arsenal are the most penalized team in both penalties awarded differential (we have given away 6 more pens than we have won over the last three+ seasons) and in red card differential (we have been given 8 more red cards than our opponents over the same three years).

A lot of folks will look at this data and say that there’s a conspiracy. I find that hard to believe and perhaps that’s just wishful thinking on my part. We do know that Mike Dean, for example, has been found by other data scientists to have had an unusual record in Arsenal matches. What’s even more odd is that as soon as Wenger left Arsenal, Dean resumed awarding Arsenal penalties. Before Wenger left, Dean awarded Arsenal just three penalties in 18 years. Since Wenger left, he’s already awarded Arsenal 4. Wenger famously told Dean to his face that he thought he was dishonest.

If there’s a conspiracy, I would suggest that Arsenal take it to the courts. They employ dozens of top quality data scientists at Arsenal, surely they would be able to prove something, if something were going on. Or at the very least forward on evidence to the police or someone else. The gambling industry would be very keen to know if there were referees out there on the take or throwing games. That for me is the biggest evidence that there’s no conspiracy, because if there were the bookies would have already known about it. Though I admit that’s a logical fallacy, so let’s just say it seems unlikely that the bookies are aware of a conspiracy against one club, one of the biggest clubs, in the Premier League, and are just letting business carry on as usual.

The other suggestion is that Arsenal have had the most calamitous defenders in the League over that period. I agree that between Mustafi, David Luiz, and Granit Xhaka, Arsenal have had quite a few slapstick defenders. But the worst in the League? I do think this is part of the problem but not the whole story. Our defenders almost never seem to get away with fouls, whereas other players seem to get the benefit of the doubt. According to the Premier League site, Jonny Evans has 3 red cards in 329 appearances. David Luiz had 4 red cards in 213 appearances, three of them in his last 53 apps for Arsenal. It often feels like Arsenal players are punished to the fullest extent of the law, nearly every time, while others are shown leniency.

The other suggestion we see a lot is that referees have a north-south bias-hatred. Almost all of the refs in the League are from the north and we do see a lot of southern/London-based teams in the bottom of the above table (West Ham, Arsenal, Spurs, Brighton, Southampton). But we also see two very London teams at the top of the table: Chelsea and Palace.

And there’s a suggestion that certain teams just play a certain way, which causes the referees to award more penalties in their favor. I think what people mean here is counter-attacking football. There is something to that. Man U definitely have won a ton of pens over the last three years through their countering. Leicester are another side which has “very clever” Jamie Vardy diving for pens. And Crystal Palace definitely have Zaha who is a penalty and red card threat. Meanwhile, Wolves have more red cards against than any other side and that could partly be down to Adama Traore and their countering style.

Personally, I think Arsenal’s poor record here is down to a number of things:

  • we have had some of the most calamitous defenders in the League
  • our defenders rarely seem to get away with fouls, perhaps because of some implicit bias against us
  • some of the referees seem to have actively disliked Arsenal in the past
  • there might be a little something to the north-south dislike/bias thing
  • Arsenal haven’t really played good attacking football for the last three years and it might be true that open field tackles on counters tend to be punished more harshly than a tangle of players in the box crashing into each other. Though again, why Jonny Evans wasn’t red carded is a huge mystery.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. There can be multiple reasons why Arsenal have been so harshly punished. But whatever reasons you assign it, it’s definitely true that Arsenal have had more calls go against us than any team in the League over the last three seasons. And it makes sense that so many Arsenal supporters feel that the referees aren’t treating them fairly.



  1. Brilliant. Always seemed this way but I hate to be “the refs robbed us” guy. Glad to see data backs the eye test.

    This of course doesn’t include the PK’s/red cards NOT awarded. That would take some doing, but there seem to be so many of those against us. A lot of teams would complain this way, I suspect, but the Auba and Saka red card examples you point out here are particularly egregious. Maybe this gets some notice and refs get a little talking to. Thanks for another great piece, Tim.

  2. In a low scoring sport such as football the officiating is incredibly important. A single goal changes the entire match, but even more subtle things like yellow cards and the way fouls are called influences a game drastically.

    It would be interesting to see the total numbers of penalties awarded in addition to the delta. One additional hypothesis I have is that we have not had so many players who carry the ball into the penalty box and thus could draw fouls there.

  3. I have a theory (which I think I shared with you on Twitter a while back) that because Arsenal are seen as a soft team, any aggression from them is treated more harshly than the rough-em-up approach taken by teams that are recognized as being physical (Burnley springs instantly to mind). This perception is further compounding because, when we get fouled, our reactions are also downplayed, because we’re soft. It’s absurdist.

    1. I’m inclined to agree with you, Mani, especially on the downplaying of our reactions.

      @ Tim, your David Luiz stats surprise me. I’m sure I already considered him a walking red card before he joined us, so were they all in cup matches / Europe for Chelsea then?

      1. According to Transfermarkt (which might not be the most reliable source of information) he has a total of 4 red cards in his entire career. FBREF backs that data up, again across all competitions, 4 reds.

        Though it’s also possible that he started picking up reds late in his career, his first red card was in 2017/18 right before he joined Arsenal. Maybe he was alreqdy in decline.

    2. One hundred percent. Which is why Burnley and previously Bolton got away with so much.

  4. This is excellent, and proves empirically, what we all feel has Gooners. It’s only missing Andrew from Arseblog’s “If-That-Was-Xhaka, ITWX” scale rating.

    Discussing the Arsenal history of penalties, inevitably brings Vieira into the discussion but Tim assesses him fairly, I think. He does crack the Premiere League Top 10 ( but he is a distant 7th from top. And I am always comforted by my absolute certainty that he could still, today, totally kick Roy Keane’s a$s!

    He deserves some praise for whatever managerial chops he had this week with that incredible result against Man City. We could not have done that.

  5. Why stop at 2018? The suspicions of bias or conspiracy go way further back than that, a decade at least. Keep going and I think those numbers will only be magnified.

  6. Some really interesting things here.
    1. If it were just that big teams get the decisions, then Man City would be top of that list (since it’s only since 2018). But they’re not. Why? It suggests the ‘old’ power structures (i.e. the stereotypes and identities rather than actual success) are in place: Man Utd at the top, Arsenal at the bottom.
    2. But if so, why are Liverpool below Chelsea, Palace, Leicester? Vardy single-handedly puts Leicester up a few places probably, and maybe similarly Zaha at palace (haven’t looked at the stats, just a guess). If this was based on bias and power structures, why aren’t Pool higher?
    3. Spurs so low is a bit of a surprise too, but maybe that’s me speaking as an Arsenal fan.
    4. I would not expect Arsenal to be so high, certianly not pen differential. Brainfart defenders mixed with attackers who never seem to run at people would rule that out. And the whole soft team getting penalized thing. But dead bottom for me is disappointing and suggests more.
    5. Ultimately, Man Utd is absolutely the story here. Especially since this is only based on 3 years of data! Just wild.
    6. Wolves’s red card differential is a curious one. How do you explain that?

  7. We should give Untold an honorable mention right? No matter what you take of them.

    They used to have this ridiculously detailed ref reports on the entire match where they do play-by-play action.

    1. Will second your motion. While our host has done the digital version forensically? Untold Arsenal– has for several years– been painstakingly tracking the same data in an analog manner.

      To my eye– both Tim’s and UA’s conclusions run quite parallel to the other.

  8. The site Untold Arsenal did a comprehensive review of referee decisions in Arsenal matches some time back.

    You may want to visit them, Tim.

    Yes, it bears out, statistically, the “eye-test” guy.

  9. Another reason I would add to the list is Wenger. It’s perhaps hard to appreciate from over the pond the extent to which the establishment resented this intellectual Frenchman coming over here and transforming our national game. He was considered as an outsider for his entire career by the closed shop of English football administrators, chairmen, owners, managers, journalists and, yes PGMOL and the refs.

    This is easy to see in contrast to the way that deference was paid to a bully like Ferguson – a very successful and talented bully, but one of the leading insiders. Remember Ferguson’s complaint that Wenger wouldn’t come and have a glass of wine after the game? Wenger was just different, and many hated him for it.

    Things are a bit different now and that’s a good thing.

    By the way, for those interested in Saliba, this is a decent article in the Telegraph:

    I still feel that it does that thing where is lays out pretty clearly the whole story and all the reasons why Saliba hasn’t played for us yet, but still characterises it as “curious”. I know others here would agree.

    1. Just read Arseblog this morning and that’s pretty much where I am too. I understand anxiety about Saliba but not when it tips over into conspiracy.

      1. Read that too– and had a chuckle.
        Almost verbatim the passage I’d posted last week in one reply to Claude. Right down to the mention of AFC loan manager Ben Knapper being with Edu at the PSG v. OM match.

        Some wacky conjecture– eh?

    2. Ferguson’s “bullying” bordered on match fixing (something I long suspected of him). I remember toward the end of his tenure, someone did an analysis of ref decisions that went against him and who he called out in his post-match interviews. Almost every ref that gave a call against him, landed up dropping down a league for several games. Demotions line that, cost the refs money so rather than risk his ire, were biased toward his team’s.

      Perfect example being THAT van Nistelrooy penalty miss after he had hacked down one of our players in the lead up to that situation.

      Wenger’s teams during that period won despite the refs, not because of the refs in Fergie’s case.

    3. Of course it’ll be curious to inquiring minds that he hasn’t played a minute of football for Mikel Arteta in 2 years (not counting the 1st year loan-back, which Mikel is not responsible for). Not even a pre-season friendly. Inactive Aug 20 – Jan 21 at Arsenal, walks into Nice XI and plays good enough football to earn Olympic and U-21 calls-up. He played himself into to form we said he required, demonstrating the match sharpness we said he needed. Then what? MA says he’ll get his chance last summer, instantly shipped out, and playing France senior squad level football for Marseilles.

      I think they pretty much made the case for it being curious, Greg. You just don’t want to see it. One does not have to be a conspiracist to conclude that something is off there.

      btw, Shard if you’re reading this, watch Mikel’s newcon a week ago when asked about Saliba’s performance against Messi and co and tell me what you think. I want to see if your analysis correlates to mine.

      There’s this concept in management study called the Balanced Scorecard. I think it’s important that we apply it all leaders, including those of the football clubs we support. Otherwise we’ll find ourselves dug in, regardless.

    1. I don’t think Conte can fix things quickly. He doesn’t have the personnel. And we’ll see if Levy is willing to give him money to do so.
      People are saying he’ll do it just because he’s a “winner”. But that’s pretty much what everyone said about Mourinho as well.

  10. Conte doesnt like joining problem clubs with a season already underway. He does not like to risk failure with problematic turnaround. He likes sure thinggs, but was prepared to make an exception for Man U. So taking the Spurs role is interesting. Fabrizio Romano says he was waiting for OGS to get sacked to be offered Man U, but OGS bought himself some time by biffing (checks notes)… Spurs. Oh football.

  11. The most one sided refereeing job I ever saw in the PL was by none other than Mike Riley at OT to end Wenger’s 49 game unbeaten run.

    Wenger criticized Riley heavily after the game, then Riley became the head of PGMOL and the rest as the say is history.

    I don’t believe in conspiracies but I do believe in people holding grudges, having agendas, and people in power acting certain way to reward or punish actions of others that may or may not further their agendas.
    Mike Riley is a person in power and the PL refs are just like all other ordinary people trying to get ahead in life.

    Rarely, if ever do you get two almost identical plays like the Auba/Evans and Zaha/Laporte play within a few hours of each other being adjudged two different ways, but it gives you another window into how Arsenal have been treated for a long time.

  12. Well written, nuanced piece. It certainly felt for a long time as if the refs had something against Arsenal. They’re football fans too…. they must have felt, in line with the general talk of the time about Wenger’s team, that Arsenal “didn’t like it up them.” In other words, the fancy pants continental didn’t really understand “the English way” of playing football. Reporters — even Gary Lineker on MOTD — could barely conceal their support for Allardyce’s Bolton against Arsenal. When Shawcross broke Ramsey’s leg, an awful lot of the reporting and talk after focused on Shawcross bring distraught, not being that type of player, and how Ramsey shouldn’t have snubbed his efforts at offering an apology.

    The reporters — who deserve a lot of blame — switched from saying that Arsenal were too dirty (Vieira, Petit), to saying we were too soft (Reyes etc), without missing a beat. They started a red card count for Wenger, but we had nothing to compare it to, because they didn’t do it for anyone else.

    But you yourself, Tim, helped to disabuse me of the notion that the inconsistencies were deliberate. You made a good case for Luiz’ “accidental contact” running across the back of Wolves’ Willian Jose being anything but accidental. Yes, he picked up more reds later, for us, but was the example I cited because he lost recovery speed late in his career? And you’re fair… you always point out, in post-match pieces, where the Arsenal player was in the wrong..

    Conclusion? It’s hard during the early Wenger era to completely rule out bias (Dean punishing Wenger for kicking his own water bottle was a disgrace), but the safest takeaway seems to be that EPL refs are just flippin awful. And they’re being led by an ex-ref, Riley, who was terrible in his time.

    Modern football commentary now has refs giving their take on decisions. And with the exception of Mark Clattenburg, they almost always take the side of the ref, irrespective of what the video shows.

    1. English refs are not very good. Very few English refs make it into the Euros or World Cup. It may have been the last World Cup where not one was picked to officiate.

  13. Very reasonable analysis. I do not believe that there is a ‘conspiracy’ or that referees are corrupt.

    I do believe that there is a subliminal bias amongst officials based on the general love for certain clubs, reinforced by the media and an historical dislike of Arsenal. We have always been hated, right back to the ‘30’s when we were the ‘Bank of England ‘ club.

    I have always liked being unpopular with other clubs supporters. Bring it on!

    I dislike and distrust the FA and PGMOL. They are incompetent at best and subject to outside and personal prejudice and preference. VAR, incidentally, serves to reinforce that.

  14. Blimey Tim. I posted here previously about ref bias against the AFC and you commented something like any1 who thinks refs are against arsenal are paranoid. As a precious poster said the 49 v utd was the most blatant display of bias against us ever ( go YouTube the 7-10min highlights) utterly shocking and disgusting. Both nevs and daughter loving scholes targeted Reyes(RIP) Gary even admitted it later. Rvn tried to end coles career but nothing. You go back in time ( im sure other clubs can say the same) but AFC havw been treated far harshly than other teams. Final case in point 2003 v Bolton they kicked all kind of s*** out of us and we end the game with 9 bcos even though we’d put on 3 subs it still didn’t quench their hunger for gunner blood. (And that 2 2 virtuality ended our season)

  15. I’d just like to add a little more detail to the Vieira story, I may have done this one before on here. Patrick’s near the half way line when something happened involving himself and he is protesting to the Ref and West Ham players with furious passion, Neil Ruddock comes belting over from CB at FULL WADDLE screaming obscenities at which point Petit grabs Vieira by the arms from behind and clutches on as Vieira was likely to be swinging for that mug. Being as physically restricted as he was Vieira vented his anger by spitting at Ruddock, it landed on his shirt, the scumbag then wiped it onto his face, spun the ref around and pointed to it.
    The Evening Standard gave Neil Ruddock half a page to slag Vieira and the dirty foreigners the following day.
    I also like to give an opinion on the betting firms and why they would be involved in the ‘conspiracy’.
    It was a very good year for them when Leicester had their moment, very good since I’m quite sure and they have had to splash some of that cash to support the broadcasters.
    It’s not at all a stretch for me to be convinced of a conspiracy against Arsenal, I had a ticket for Wenger’s first dozen years and could, I believe, see it at every match.
    The team with the most broken bones in premier league history. Do we a chart or a data resource of some such to back that up or do those of us that watch and remember just know?

    1. 1. Spitting is inexcusable. All times, all circumstances.

      2. I don’t care where the ball of phlegm landed, Patrick got what he deserved.

      3. Patrick Vieira and Cesc Fabregas are my favourite Arsenal footballers of all time.

      4. No 3 does not change my view of 1 and 2

      1. I am aware that some find spitting more inexcusable than breaking legs for example. I’d much rather be spat at than having one of my legs snapped or an ankle smashed, as any manual worker like myself would. I’d much rather see Vieira branded a dirty foreigner than to have seen him smash somebody up and concede that he’s not the ultimate football warrior that can overcome any obstacles or barriers and win 3 titles all within the spirit than a dirty bullying coward that hurts players with impunity.
        You’re favourite player??? You could see what he went through and HIS actions are inexcusable, that sounds like paranoia, seeing only effect and not cause?

        1. “I’d much rather be spat at than having one of my legs snapped or an ankle smashed”

          That’s the daddy of false equivalencies.

          The sum total of no one has argued that spitting is worse than breaking someone’s legs.

          1. Sum total of no one has argued that spitting is worse than breaking legs.
            Evening Standard gives Neil Ruddock half a page to blah blah blah spitting filthy foreigners.
            The British media narrative on those characters responsible for breaking Arsenal limbs, not that sort of player and these things happen in football. They completely play down the incident with no acknowledgement of the sheer violence involved.
            It’s like spitting is worse than violent thuggery here man!
            Maybe you feel that Vieira deserves his dirty tag, I feel / saw him as the noblest of warriors in a field of shit sometimes. His career tailed off dramatically as a performer once he left, he’d given it all for those titles and was very lucky to have walked out as I’d personally witnessed many INEXCUSABLE and unpunished assaults on him that may have been the complete end of lesser legs.

          2. Davsta, I see no contradiction between being a huge fan of Vieira’s (to the extent that he’s my joint favourite gunner of all time) and deploring his spitting at someone. I actually agree with you about the British media’s hypocrisies… I speak to that in a comment above; and as an ex-hack, I’ve spoken about it a lot on 7am. But irrespective of the provocation that Big Pat received, the ref was right to send him off for spitting at Ruddock.

            You illustrate a tendency that some of us supporters have. Because we support an individual, we feel that we have to go all-in on support of everything they say and do. Even players we like — and coaches/managers — act badly.

      2. when i was in washington, i played in a sunday league down in olympia, the state capitol. after playing, i’d often stay and watch the first half of the next game while doing a recovery stretch. about 20 minutes into the game, the referee gives a player a red card but i did’t see why. i go to the guy, dirty stringy hair and covered in jailhouse tattoos, asking him why he’d been sent off. he told me he spit on a guy. i paused for about ten seconds and said in awe, “you spit on a guy? dude, if you spit on me, i’d beat your ass!” i then went on for the next several minutes following this guy, trying to provoke him to say something so that i could knock his ass out. my whole team was gone and his team was there so it could have ended badly for me but i didn’t care. unfortunately, he wouldn’t respond to my taunts.

        need i say i condone some violence? give me a break, i was a warfighter. many of my brothers ride around with stickers on their trucks that say “give war a chance”. those guys are savages…and i’m retired. however, some people need their asses kicked.

        i agree with claudeivan that spitting is 100% unacceptable. it repulses me. i watched two of my favorite players of all time, vieira and totti, both spit at people and think they deserved to be sent off for being nasty mf’rs…and not midfielders. on the flip side, vieira got a bad rap. he got a 6-match ban while others broke legs and only got a 3-match ban. the demonization directed at vieira for being this “big, black, savage menace to english football” was plain to see and it was disgraceful. there are levels to the behaviors that are acceptable. spitting is unacceptable but breaking someone’s leg by using poor (and banned) tackling technique and then saying it was an accident is deplorable. there’s a reason certain challenges are illegal.

        1. speaking of bad english referees, did anyone see the red card mike oliver gave to mats hummels yesterday? the player (a brazilian kid i quite like) stepped on mats hummels’ leg but the oliver still saw fit to send him off. ridiculous!

  16. i think i mentioned to you guys that a young man i used to coach told me aaron ramsdale was his favorite goal keeper. mind you, he told me this 3-years ago, when ramsdale was at bournemouth. watching the game on saturday, i watched ramsdale do a punt i don’t recall seeing him do before. however, i saw this kid i coached do it a ton of times. in fact, i remember berating him a bit during halftime one game because he was getting it wrong and i knew he could distribute the ball more accurately utilizing a more conventional technique; kid’s distribution was top notch. with that, i challenged him to develop that touch working on his own but the game wasn’t the best time to be trying it out. senior year in high school and he shows up to play club ball, absolutely nailing these punts consistently at 60 meters. i looked at him amazed and said, “you actually developed that touch?” he replied, “you told me to, coach”. right on!

    the unique thing about this touch is, unless you’re familiar with it, defenders don’t see it coming. the ball is hit almost with the outside of the foot and can travel really far without going very high in the air. the ball ramsdale played to aubameyang only rose about 4 feet off the ground but travelled about 40 yards. likewise, aubameyang sucks with high balls so this was ideal for him and jonny evans didn’t have a chance. this ramsdale kid is special.

    i talked to elijah, the keeper i coached, and he says the guys he plays with in college all marvel at this punt but they can’t do it. he’s such a great kid; super-talented and loves to work.

    1. Yes. I call it the exocet punt. He can hit a back to goal forward to feet, and the forward does not have to engage in an aerial duel he can lose. It is very hard for a defence pressing upfield to re-set against that.

      His big attribute as a distributor is that he doesn’t dither in possession. He’s quick and decisive. Pressers can’t get set, and they could get caught out on the counter. I used to get terribly stressed watching Xhaka and Leno slowly passing at around at the back.

      Aaron can play it short to a defender, a bit longer to Partey, wide to Tomi, or long and flat to Laca on the hold-up.

      1. Those fractions of a second Ramsdale reclaims with his decision-making– are advantages our attackers find available upfield.

        Consider how often these last 7 matches we’ve seen ESR galloping through the middle third, ball at his feet. That can’t happen when our transition is just marginally slower.

        Until Ramsdale’s emergence we’d conceded that aspect from the whistle. Maybe a little love to Lokonga too– his athleticism freeing up teammates in his radius to perform closer to their peak– than to cover defensively as first priority.

  17. No place in the just announced England squad for ESR or Ben White. Unlucky, both. ESR has insane competition, though.

    Josh, tell us more about Jude Bellingham of Dortmund. He looks special.

    1. Ben White has been decent going forward but his defending has been poor. Not surprised he was dropped by England.

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