Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Arsenal Do Like It Up 'Em After All

Saturday's match against Hull was one of the hardest Arsenal will face in the title run-in and I was very relieved that they came away with the three points.

Trips up north are always difficult, especially at this time of year, but the pitch was a joke. I've seen ploughed fields which would have been more playable.

The match officials were pretty bad too. First there was the penalty. How the assistant referee (who was perfectly in line with Arsenal's back four and even had the rugby 22 metre line conveniently placed to help him) could fail to spot that Vennegoor of Hesselink was well offside is beyond me, and it seemed clear that the Dutchman deliberately played for the penalty by throwing himself in front of Sol Campbell, knowing that Campbell would have no choice to run into him. For me, not a penalty.

Overall, I also thought the referee was far too lenient with Hull's players, who had obviously been given the usual instructions to 'get in their faces', 'let them know you're there' or whatever other euphemism you prefer for kick them off the pitch. Dawson and Fegan in particular were guilty of some very bad tackles in the first half. In fact, Fegan was given three 'final warnings' by the referee but somehow ended the match without a booking to his name. At one point he had Bacary Sagna in a headlock - the referee saw the incident and gave Arsenal a freekick, but still did refused to book the Hull player.

Both George Boeteng's bookings were both worthy of a straight red card in their own right. For the first one he deliberately poked Nicki B. in the eye twice off the ball and for the second he damn nearly snapped poor Sagna in half with his thigh-high tackle.

So, a note to Arsenal's future opponents: The don't-like-it-up-'em mentality doesn't work any more. Hull have tried it, as have Wigan, Sunderland, Bolton, Blackburn, Stoke, Birmingham, Man Utd and others. The only ones of those matches that we've lost were Man Utd (and I thought in the first match we were a bit unlucky) and Sunderland (which I put down to a very bad day at the office by Arsenal after a European match rather than any tactical genius by Sunderland).

Can opposition managers please now try something different? It doesn't work anymore and it results in both Arsenal and your own players being put at unneccessary risk of injury.

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