Tag Archives: penalty

Penalties, Referees and VAR – A Clean Slate Needed

The hullabaloo surrounding VAR and the correct way to implement the technology has perhaps overshadowed one of the more basic elements of match officiating.

The 2018 World Cup saw referees making basic errors that affected game results. In the biggest knockout competition on the globe, it is quite easy to reach the conclusion that the initial planning for this new method was undercooked a tad.

Still, maybe before the game runs, we should perfect our walking a little.

This is best exhibited by a little incident in our recent win over Watford in the Premiership.

Alexandre Lacazette picked up the ball in Watford’s box and darted forward, aiming to get a better, closer angle to shoot. He evaded his marker, but Christian Kabasele was on his right hand side and made an ugly attempt to stick a leg in. His distance was too far away to win the ball legitimately, unless he was related to Inspector Gadget. His upper leg connected with the side of Lacazette whilst on the move.

Freeze the moment.


Most players go down at the merest sniff of contact in the box. If these players are approached, they have mastered the art of simulation, so much so that referees have been duped on many occasions.

Their duplicitous actions earn a penalty, more often than not it is decisive in terms of result, and cheating is rewarded.

We so often hear the phrase, “there was contact so the striker was entitled to go down.”

This is an infuriating epidemic, and one that must be stymied, but how can this even begin when players know unless they go down and re-enact a Shakespearean tragedy, they won’t get a dime?

Back to the Watford incident. Lacazette was buffered to the side, and his centre of gravity was off. He gamely battled to not only regain his balance, but also fire off a shot – but the chance was gone. Kabasele’s illegal intervention was a timely one, and it meant Watford kept on an even keel.

The referee who failed to blow his whistle was Anthony Taylor – a name that is synonymous with erroneous moments for Gooners. Kabasele, at the moment of impact, threw his hands up in the air as if to signal that he didn’t touch him. It certainly worked, but for a professional referee to miss such contact is staggering.

We shouldn’t be surprised though.


In every single game, on multiple occasions, we see grappling, tugging, pulling – blatant fouls – going on in the seconds before a free-kick or corner. Every team is guilty of it, and yet there is no referee who upholds the rules in this regard.

So, to be objective, can we really hold serial divers up as enemies of the game, when they are fully aware that if they don’t go down in the box like they’ve stepped on a beartrap, then there is little to no chance of a penalty being awarded?

VAR is meant to the be the saviour of the game, one that will absolve all ills. Something that the ref isn’t sure of? He can canter off to check a wee monitor and then install justice.

The problem with this is – as we saw during the World Cup – if the referee hasn’t the firmest grip on the rules, then no matter how many angles or how slow the slo-mo is – then justice will still be a stranger.

So, diving will remain a big part of the game. As with every facet of our beautiful sport, there are a multitude of grey areas. Nothing is black and white.

Even diving has a reason behind it.

And it all stems from bad refereeing.

PGMOL needs to step in and rise to the standard that a multi-billion pound industry demands.

If we were to go into work and make the errors we moan about each week – how long before we’re clearing our desk?

Does contact constitute a penalty?

The recent match between tottenham and Liverpool illuminated an alarming facet of the modern game.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw, but only thanks to some erroneous decision making that was then judged by the majority of authority figures to in fact, be on the correct path.

The game swivelled on two late penalties – both for tottenham – and on close inspection, with the aid of slo-mo technology and a myriad of angles, we can surely all see that both spot-kicks were incorrectly given.

Since when does contact constitute a penalty?

We can forgive the referee, Jon Moss, for giving them. In the speed of the game, some things take on entirely different views and mistakes are commonplace. If VAR was in place though, then neither would’ve been given, right?

Jon Moss was in conversation with his fourth official for the final penalty – when Virgil Van Dijk ‘collided’ with Erik Lamela – and after a lengthy discussion, he judged that the Dutchman had brought down the Argentine winger. Moss even asked the fourth official for the use of VAR – even though the technology wasn’t available for this game.

If Moss was so unsure that he needed the benefit of a TV replay, surely he shouldn’t have given it?

Jurgen Klopp raged after the game, the German coach was obviously convinced his side had bagged the points after Mohamed Salah had scored in extra time to put Liverpool 2-1 up.

Mark Clattenburg was asked in the days afterward regarding the awarding of both spot kicks and said that both were incorrectly awarded – but he was in the minority.

Harry Kane, when asked by BBC Sport about the award of the first penalty, when he went over Lorus Karius’s dive, said “I felt contact so I went down. I’m not going to jump out of the way because it’s football.”

Dejan Lovren was incensed about the penalty, and Van Dijk was quite candid, saying that Kane dived.

The second penalty, Jurgen Klopp said of Lamela;

“The softest touch in the whole game decided the game. Lamela was already on the way down.”

The PGMOL, Jermaine Jenas, former referee Dermot Gallagher and a host of other supposedly respected voices in the game all branded the penalties correct.

What does the actual law state for a penalty though?

‘If a player commits a direct free-kick offence in the penalty area, then a penalty is awarded.’

What constitutes a direct free-kick offence?

‘A direct free-kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following in a careless, reckless manner or using excessive force


jumps at

kicks or attempts to kick


strikes or attempts to strike

tackles or challenges

trips or attempts to trip.

Did either incident involve any of the above? Does any of the above mention that contact constitutes an automatic spot kick?


Raheem Sterling, Ashley Young, Delle Ali, Harry Kane, Ander Herrerra are all serial offenders, using a trailing leg or their forward impetus to sway the referees into a decision. Even our own players aren’t above simulating to earn an advantage – Welbeck vs AC Milan anyone?

Contact is going to be made in the game, and when a corner is swung in, players clamber over each other to gain leverage, yet no spot kicks are given. Harry Kane used Laurent Koscielny to climb and score the winner in the recent North London Derby, yet he wasn’t pulled up for this.

There are instances when players are unfairly penalised for not going down under a tackle, as the referee believes it isn’t a foul as the player hasn’t fallen to the ground like he’s been shot.

It is this that has led to players feeling justified in going to ground when they feel any form of contact. Why should their team lose out?

The game has changed, but it’s on dangerous footing. The current decision making is inconsistent and it can lead to massive errors.

Errors that can hardly have bigger ramifications with the financial rewards in the game.

VAR needs to be the impartial factor we all know it could be, but if match officials believe that contact constitutes a penalty, then what hope is there?

Arsenal 2-0 Hull City: 5 Key Points From the Win.

Regardless of the performance, Arsenal have returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Marco Silva’s resurgent Hull City.

The game was scrappy and the Gunners toiled for the three points, but the win was the only thing that mattered, especially with Bayern Munich looming closely next week.

After back to back losses to Watford and Chelsea, the league table made depressing viewing. With Chelsea off in the distance, the hunting pack were either getting their noses in front of us, or breathing down our necks. Points were needed and Arsenal duly obliged.

The team did not alter much from last week’s defeat against Chelsea, with only one change. Kieran Gibbs came in for Nacho Monreal on the left of defence, but the rest of the team were given the chance for redemption, or part absolvement.

The first half was a messy affair, but there was no shortage of effort. Arsenal were at least haring around the pitch, when chasing for possession or trying to conjure an opening. Hull City are a much more formidable outfit than a month or so ago, and they were not content to sit back and soak up pressure. Oumar Niasse was testing the relaible Koscielny, and his header which Petr Cech saved well from was the first opening of note.

Arsenal tested Eldin Jakupovic in the Tigers goal immediately, but it wasn’t until the 34th minute that the Gunners’ slowly upped pressure would tell.

Kieran Gibbs had popped up in the opposition box, and his shot was blocked. The ricochet went unclaimed in the six yard box, where the quickest ro react was of course Alexis. He stabbed toward goal, but Jakupovic managed to parry the effort. Alexis had chosen to follow up his effort and the combination of Jakupovic’s save and Alexis’s forward momentum saw the ball hit the Chilean’s hand. There was little he could do, but the ball went over the line and he wheeled away to celebrate.

Referee Mark Clattenburg consulted with his linesman as he was unsure what had happened amidst Hull protests, but the goal was given. According to Football Association law, a deliberate handball is when;

‘There must be movement of the hand towards the ball.’ Also, ‘the distance between the ball and hand must be considered.’

So, according to the letter of the law – it was not a deliberate handball. That is that cleared up then.

Arsenal pressed for a second, but the half time whistle blew and we had a lead to protect.

The second half saw some handbags between Theo Walcott and Harry Maguire, where Theo was mystifyingly booked, and the pressure was rising quickly from the home team. It would be Hull that would go closest next though.

Lazar Markovic was chasing a flick on, and the ball was in the air. He slowed to chest it down, and Kieran Gibbs was his sole marker. He shouldered Markovic to the ground, and he was booked for the challenge. The Tigers players wanted a red card, but Clattenburg produced a yellow. Perhaps a little fortunate for Gibbs, but there was a fair distance between Markovic and the goal.

Diomande for Hull had a header which he sent over, but Arsenal were looking to extend their advantage and they wrapped up the points when Alexis was sent racing clear. Eldin Jakupovic came out of his box to close him down and he was rounded. Alexis crossed into the box for Lucas and the Spaniards header was blocked on the line by Sam CLucas’s arm.

Red card for Clucas, and Alexis finished low under the Hull keeper from the spot to allow Arsenal to relax a little after Hull had huffed and puffed to gain an equaliser.

These are some keypoints from the game:

Coquelin on song

He has his detractors, but his display against a far larger opponent in N’Diaye. He tussled and never allowed the physical superiority to become a factor. He was a complete engine. In a tough game where the second balls are the decisive factor, a terrier like Coquelin will thrive. 

The Ox taking his chance

A run in the centre of the side, and The Ox is coming good. He still tries the elaborate when there is no need, but he helped at both ends of the pitch and if he continues to show this sort of form, he may just earn this spot for longer. He must start against Bayern. Great to see.

Ozil off-par

The German looked knackered, and he ran his socks off. He just has no discernible form to speak of. His touch is unusually errant, his passing is not laser-guided as he is capable of – and he is not making the difference. Maybe a bigger stage is what he needs, and with Bayern Munich our next opponents, it would be a great time to find his feet again. Dropping deep and getting more of the ball is great, but we want you in the danger zone Mesut.

Koscielny imperious

He was battered, but Koscielny does not falter. He is the French Terminator. He was excellent in the many aerial duels, and on a few occasions, his fantastic positioning was key to cutting out some dangerous low crosses. He will be far busier on Wednesday, but it is good to see at least one of our players at their peak.

Cech earned his clean sheet.

Petr Cech cleared the ball about ten times in this game, and there was no sign of last weeks calamitous effort that gifted Cesc Fabregas Chelsea’s third goal. He made two saves of note, and they were at key times of the game. They were good saves too, particularly the second, which was a smart low save from Niasse. He can still move, regardless of the doommongers who say he is finished. 

There was a lot more going on, such as Iwobi looking busy and Bellerin showing no ill-effects from his injury last week. The five points above hopefully paint the picture of the game a little clearer. 

The game transpired to be a tale of two handballs, and even though there was a slice of luck involved, be under no illusion that we deserved the win.

So, onward to the Allianz Arena. We are back to winning ways, but this Euro tie is a distinct step up, so we must rise to the occasion.

Today was simply a job done that top clubs do every week. 

Arsenal 2-1 Burnley: 5 Key Points 

The last ten minutes saw two penalties awarded and Arsenal snatch victory from the jaws of embarrassment with an Alexis penalty.

Arsenal looked to have scraped past a battling Burnley thanks to Shkodran Mustafi’s first goal in an Arsenal shirt, but a 93rd minute penalty from Andre Gray gave Burnley a share of the spoils.

Burnley turned up to The Emirates with an appalling away record – 1 point from 27 – and a gameplan to frustrate the home team. It worked a treat, as a combination of stifling tactics and some questionable refereeing saw Arsenal nearly drop valuable points that no one could foresee.

The first half was an exercise in frustration as there was a premium on clear cut chances, and Burnley looked to hit on the break. Both teams flattered to deceive, but 74% of Arsenal possession tells its own story.

The second half was a typical Arsenal half. Firstly, in the 59th minute, Mustafi scored his first Arsenal goal via a corner, and the script was going according to plan.

Less than ten minutes later, Granit Xhaka saw red for a typically full-on challenge on Steven Defour – and this was where the game changed. From there, Burnley looked to bombard the Gunners aerially, but it looked like they were going to hold on.

Laurent Koscielny and Mustafi were both nursing injuries but dragged them selves through the minutes, but in the 3rd minute of seven stoppage time minutes – Jon Moss blew up for  a Burnley penalty.

Andre Gray converted and it looked to all that Chelsea would see all of their rivals drop points. The Arsenal spirit finally flickered though, and they snatched an unlikely winner.

Ben Mee gave away a penalty only three minutes after Burnley had grabbed an equaliser, and Alexis was the hero, as he scored to take Arsenal to second.

Arsene Wenger was sent off late on as he remonstrated with assistant referee Anthony Taylor, and this will be under the spotlight in the media for days to come. 

There was a lot to take in, but here are 5 key points from the game:
Xhaka needs to alter technique

The Swiss star had a past littered with red cards before joining, and now he has two sendings off in his first season. It is great to see him gung-ho, but it is clearly not working in the Premiership. He needs to. Hänge how he retrieves the ball, as he almost cost us.
Jon Moss strikes again.

Xhaka’s  two red cards? Both given by Jon Moss. Who was the assistant ref? Anthony Taylor. Xhaka can have little excuse, but Moss gave a chequered display with his decisions. He was a huge factor in this game.
Ramsey on fire

The Welshman was a decisive role at both ends of the pitch, and he looks to be improving with every match. Long may it continue.
Alexis back to the centre please

We are better with the Chilean as striker. Such is his prowess that he is effective anywhere, but his strike rate tells its own story. We looked stilted and we nearly paid the price. 
Alexis in defence

His chasing and tackling in the pressure-packed last twenty minutes was one of the biggest reasons why we held on. He was brilliant in aiding our beleaguered defenders, and his appetite for the ball is a delightful asset.
Phew! What a relief. I’d love to hear what you all think. It’s quite clear we were not at our best, but we won and that is the ultimate goal. An improvement will be necessary! 

The Invincibles, The ’99 Treble and 2 Missed Penalties….

Many recent films have touched upon the hypothesis regarding choice and the huge ramifications it can have on not only a life – but all across the globe.

In dystopian epic The Matrix Reloaded, Keanu Reeves’s mono-syllabic character Neo summed it up perfectly when in his signature monotone delivery, he uttered, “the problem is choice.”

Choice changes every path we take. The choice you made to grab some cereal before rushing to work changes your whole day, from the train you take to the people you meet. Choice is a chaotic animal that lords above every facet of your life. 

In amongst the unruly though, certain phenomenon occur. These anomalies crop up in the form of parallels and correlations, and most of these fly past our vision with nary a batted eyelid. Perhaps this is because the minutiae of day to day routine isn’t enough to shake us from our reverie, but I think it is due to the occasion not being grand enough. If it were to happen on a scale so large that millions were affected, then we would all see it and gasp with wonder, no?

The place? Villa Park, April 1999, and Old Trafford in September of 2003. 

Both games featured the same teams – Arsenal and Manchester United. 

Both games saw red cards.

Both games hinged dramatically on a penalty.

Both penalties were taken by Dutchmen.

Both spot-kicks were missed. 

Both incidents occurred in the dying embers of the games.

In 1999, it was injury time in the FA Cup Semi-Final replay between the Gunners and United. The first leg saw both sides unable to break the deadlock, but the replay saw David Beckham crack the resolute Arsenal defence with a 25yrd curler that left the outstretched Seaman with no chance. Not to be undone, Dennis Bergkamp restored parity with a long range shot that nicked a deflection and saw its way past Schmeichel. Plenty of chances later, but both outfits were so evenly matched that it was always going to go the wire.

No one told Phill Neville though. Ray Parlour received the ball just outside the box and took on Neville, and as Parlour darted past him, a swinging leg took down the Romford Pele, to win a penalty that would surely see Arsenal into a second final in two years.

In 1999, Bergkamp was one of the finest players in the stratosphere, never mind the Premier League. As he stepped up to the spot, confidence was high that this would make the net bulge and give Wenger’s men the victory that both teams had fought so valiantly for.

Peter Schmeichel, bedecked in brilliant green, stood between Arsenal and progress. Little did he know though, that the save he was about to make would also be the foundation from which United would go on to achieve an unrivalled set of silverware.

Bergkamp hit it to Schmeichel’s left, and that was the direction that the Dane had guessed. Minutes later and Arsenal had been left with the bill as Ryan Giggs, chest rug and all, rewrote the match – and history.

To Old Trafford in September 2003. 

Arsenal had finished runners up cruelly the previous season, and the team had started the season convincingly. No matter how well they had been playing though, a visit to the home of United was always the toughest venue – and the game both sets of players looked forward to.

This game had chances as did the cup game in ’99, but there was no goals scored. Where there was a dearth of goals, there was ample aggro. United’s goal-getting frontman Ruud Van Nistelrooy was no stranger to histrionics, and his playacting and gamesmanship was irking the Gunners. 

It all came to the boil when Van Nistelrooy clambered all over Patrick Vieira for a header, and ended up rolling off of the Frenchmans shoulders, sending Vieira tumbling. No free-kick from the referee, but Vieira wanted to dish out his own brand of justice, and a petulant flick of the leg went in the direction of the Dutchman.

The leg was at least a metre away from touching him, but Van Nistelrooy’s reaction provoked the referee to send of Vieira. A tumultuous gathering of players venting aggression and a few minutes later, order resumed.

The game went on and in the last minutes of the match, a ball came into the box. Martin Keown was marking Diego Forlan tightly, and both men went down to the floor. The referee instantly blew for a penalty, and it was panto villain Van Nistelrooy who stepped up.

The tension was palpable, and the Dutchman must’ve felt it too, as he smacked the ball hard against the crossbar. Some say the woodwork still wobbles to this day…..

Take a second to think about what was at stake for a single kick of the ball. 

The Treble of ’99, and the Invincible season. 

Both would never have occurred if it was a different penalty taker, if the chosen men had instead aimed for a different area of the goal. What about if the referee had refused to point to the spot in each game?

From such little decisions, massive consequences happen. 

It beggars belief how many tangents can be visualised with every alternate choice, and if string theory is indeed true – then in each parallel universe we would have both Dutchmen celebrating, taking, not taking, and missing the penalties. That in turn leads to different winners of each trophy and the lustrous gold Premiership trophy never being made.

All because Dennis Bergkamp chose to kick his penalty to the right, and Van Nistelrooy high in the goal.

You see? 

The problem is choice……

Watford 1-3 Arsenal: 5 Things We Learned

Mission accomplished.

This game was billed as a must win at a ridiculously early stage of the season, but with the early pacesetters 5pts ahead before kickoff, the gap could not be allowed to stretch.

So this meant that a win at Vicarage Road was vital, but with Watford playing so well against Chelsea one week previously, it was evident it wouldn’t be a cakewalk – even if Arsenal’s Premier League record against the Hornets is unblemished in the last 7games.

So, a vital victory, but what can we take from the game, other than maximum points? Here are some facts that were underlined during the game:
Xhaka is up to speed:

We had enjoyed mere whiffs of his class in his appearances thus far, but the Swiss battler put on a show for the travelling fans in this game. Full of running, tackles on point, and speedy, efficient distribution. Exactly what was advertised when we purchased him.

Alexis on fire

He may consider a new piece of equipment at the gym as a holiday, but Sanchez seems to be nearing full throttle after yet another action packed summer with Chile. He scored one, assisted another and earned the penalty after giving Nordin Amrabat a torrid time. Wonderful to witness.

We have missed Özil & Santi

Özil scored on his return, with a header that looked effortless. It wasn’t the finish that should draw the plaudits though. His run into the box was exquisite, and no defender was aware of his presence. The German ninja is so adept with his spacial awareness, that it allowed him a header unchallenged. Santi was the perfect foil for Xhaka, always a willing outlet to relieve pressure, and we look so much more capable with both of these men in the side.

Cech isn’t finished

People who doubted one of the finest keepers the League has ever seen, should feel fickle and foolish. The stopper was responsible for keeping the pressure off his team, as he stopped Watford grabbing a second goal which would’ve meant for a tense last section of the game. The becapped Czech will do it again this season too, and earn us his fair share of points.

Holding can be scarily good

Again, the 20yr old, in only his 3rd PL app, showed resilience beyond his years. He may yet be ousted by the incoming Mustafi, but if he is this good at 20, just imagine where he could be at 28? The sky is the limit.
Watford gave a good account of themselves, and if Cech wasn’t on form, or if the finishing was a little less errant, then they could have snatched a late draw – but that would have been undeserved. 

The first half showing from our team was welcome for two reasons. One, they showed that the intricate passing, and dynamic movement which is meant to be our forte, is still within our grasp when we need it. Secondly, it was great to see us finally go at a team in the first half, rather than be reactionary and leave it until the last 30mins.

There is still work to do, but we all know what we are capable of, and it was great to see us fizzing the ball around. First victory of the season, we are up and running. 

The Lonely Walk

Sixty seconds.

In sixty seconds, you could be heralded as a hero, adored by millions. Your face will be etched permanently in memory, your name will be sung like legends in folk songs.

Or you could be forever synonymous with failure. When you are as close as you stand to glory – so bright you cannot comprehend its vision – to sink from this lofty position would result in a fall from grace so swift, you would always carry the mental scars.

You stand in the centre circle.  It is your turn.

Continue reading The Lonely Walk

The Importance of the Skippers Armband

Memories of your favourite footballing moments normally involve a triumphant derby or a victorious team with a Cup held aloft. I give you permission to activate nostalgia. Cast your mind back to your own favourite. As I type I’m now at Wembley and the team have climbed the stairs to finally get their hands on the Cup. Our Captain, mouth agape in a grimace of joy, has the Cup in his hands and it looks like he never wants to give it back,

The Captain Holds the Cup
The Captain Holds the Cup
The Captain of the team reaps the glory in the bad times and suffers the worst of the wrath in the leaner of times. Under duress, the Captain must deliver words of inspiration and give looks of pure conviction. He must be the man that does not wilt under the most blazing of fires. As the flames lick lasciviously at his flesh, he must stand firm and set an example to the younger of his squadron. They must look up to him, want to play harder for him.

Continue reading The Importance of the Skippers Armband