Arsene Wenger’s ‘conspiracy’ talk is hiding flaws in Arsenal side

Author: JOHNATHAN WILSONSat, 2018-01-06 17:43ID: 1515257182408176300LONDON: Managers under pressure become increasingly desperate. After drawing two games in a week to drop to sixth in the table, Arsene Wenger finally finished blaming referees and turned his gaze on the media.
“The referees get away with you, with the English press always, no matter what they do,” he said.
This was bizarre. Wenger appeared to be hinting at a conspiracy by referees, or at least mass ineptitude on the part of referees, abetted by the press’ reluctance to talk about it. Specifically he seemed rattled by the fact that not only had two (well, one, in truth) controversial penalty decisions gone against his side, but the fact that Tottenham’s opener the previous night had been offside. “You have watched the game last night,” he said. “You couldn’t read a line about it today.” Every single match report mentioned it.
The idea that we should discuss refereeing decisions even more than we do now is abhorrent. Refereeing stories are easy. Journalists love writing them. You ask one manager what he thinks about the penalty/ red card/ offside decision, then you ask the other. There is instant controversy. Twitter whips itself into a lather. The comments section overflows. There is traffic. There is buzz. And nothing changes. Nobody learns anything. There is nothing more boring than discussions about refereeing decisions.
Take the two most recent incidents to which Wenger was referring. At West Brom, Calum Chambers was penalized after Kieran Gibbs’ cross struck his arm which was raised, away from but in front of his body. Was it intentional? Almost certainly not. Was the arm in an unnatural position? No. Had it not been there the ball would have hit Chambers’ chest. Do I think it should have been a penalty? No, but I understand why the referee Mike Dean did. From his angle, he saw the arm away
from the body and presumably — we do not know because referees are forbidden to explain such things — thought it was out to the side. So it was unfortunate but hardly a scandal.
Wenger’s more specific rage was directed Anthony Taylor for the penalty he awarded Chelsea after Hector Bellerin had kicked Eden Hazard’s heel. Here, it was hard to see any ambiguity. One player had kicked another in the penalty area. It was a slightly unusual incident in that players rarely kick the bottom of one another’s boots, but he did kick him: Penalty.
From what I can glean from social media, it seems I am in the majority in both cases: the one at West Brom should not have been given; the one against Chelsea should. But it hardly matters. Most Arsenal fans will be certain both decisions were wrong; most West Brom and Chelsea fans will be sure the penalties their sides got were correct. Nobody ever yields in such disagreements; nobody’s mind is ever changed by what
phone-ins and social media companies laughably call “the debate” around them.
Sane people retreat from any discussion, and the stage is left for the spittle-flecked zealots to rant away into an increasingly weary darkness.
This is the modern world, in football as it is in politics. Far more productive would be to acknowledge that there are grey areas and that referees, being just as human as Wenger’s defenders, occasionally make mistakes.
“He saw what he wanted to see,” Wenger said of Dean after the West Brom game, a comment that has, understandably, brought an FA charge.
To allege conspiracy not merely impugns Dean — who may be a little over-fond of the limelight but whom nobody has ever seriously accused of corruption — but undermines the integrity of the game as a whole.
More than that, it makes Wenger look foolish. If there were a
conspiracy, why did Jack Wilshere escape a second yellow card for a clear dive on Wednesday? Against Tottenham, it may be remembered, Mike Dean allowed two Arsenal goals that were marginally offside, the first of them coming from a free-kick that probably shouldn’t have been given.
Arsenal are struggling this season, playing fitfully and reliant on two players who are out of contract in June. There is no conspiracy; there is just a team that, once again, seems to lack the mental capacity to apply itself consistently.
Main category: SportsTags: footballsoccerArsenalArsene WengerEPLPremier leaguerelated_nodes: Wenger banned for three games over ref commentsWenger rules out Sanchez and Ozil exits in JanuarySaudi Arabia’s referee’s chief cool on Video Assistant Referees

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